Sunday, October 19, 2008

Know Any Problem Drinkers?

Your buddy, the "problem drinker"
from The Apathy Myth: A Blog for America's Student Leaders - T.J. Sullivan

You know that friend I'm talking about. He is incapable of having fun unless he's wasted – but he's wasted a lot, so he always seems to be having fun. He's larger than life most nights and always the center of attention. Loud, laughing, grinning. In the eye of every hurricane.

Everything about him says "drunk": his Facebook picture, the stories about him, the bottles and cans littering his living space. He's funny, or good looking, or sarcastic: so people love him and hand him more drinks. Girls love him, except the ones who mistakenly fall for him.

His drinking always ends up creating drama, or at least entertaining stories. He's always eager to tell the stories because they make him special and entertaining. He leaves out the less cool parts, like the puking, missed classes, or the damage to his car he caused driving through the Taco Bell drive-thru drunk at 3 a.m.

He never actually "goes to bed." He passes out most nights and nods off on the others. Deliberate decisions are few. He frequently has no idea where his car is.

He ends up making out with anybody who will have him. The sex is probably sloppy and disappointing, and it's never safe. You don't actually know that, but it's a safe assumption.

He frequently has scrapes, bruises and blood-shot eyes. There's that story of the night he slept outside on the lawn. His skin has seen more Sharpie than soap. Maybe he's gotten into trouble with the law. Fights, verbal confrontations. While he was drinking, he said and did things that damaged friendships and romantic relationships that showed some promise, followed up by apologies to people who would listen and dismissal of those who wouldn't.

There was that period of about two weeks when he told everyone he had given up drinking. He made a really big deal of making sure everyone saw and heard about the new page he was turning. But, it didn't last long. Some event (a birthday, a campus event, a big party) came up, and everything went back to normal.

During the day, he's like a weakened vampire. You try to talk to him, but he really doesn't want any accountability. You try to positively influence him. Maybe you joke and ask him why he's always such a mess. But, you're met with apologies, excuses, promises, avoidance, or defensiveness.

You begin to wonder if he's headed for a lifetime of hurt and shame. We know that the drunken fun is just a college thing for most people, but we fear it's not the case for him. Maybe this guy is an actual alcoholic, or maybe he's not. In any case, problem drinkers don't usually reform on graduation day. After school, this guy is going to lose a job, get a DUI, endlessly usher a parade of low-life through his bedroom.

The guy everyone thought was fun is going to end up being enormously pathetic. He's the guy who will come back to Homecoming and be exactly the same drunk he was when he was an undergrad.

A problem drinker is a person who experiences problems when he drinks. Plain and simple. Most of us have a friend who is one. A car driving 100 mph, headed for a cliff. Impossible to stop or steer.
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