Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

When we’re young, we don’t see it coming

Consumption serves as a method of forgetting our woes. It eliminates the boundaries that our encumbered minds would not allow us to circumvent. It allows us to become caricatures of ourselves and others, taking on an exciting lifestyle—or what appears to be so at the time—one we may never find in our grasp without a little boost of liquid confidence. There is something almost romantic about it—picturing oneself in the 1930s sharing a Rye High with Amory in a New York City bar. Whether it descends from the affiliation of alcohol and class in a Fitzgerald novel, or tackling the world via substance abuse and Jack Kerouac, alcohol is made to look appealing, and thus, it often is.

Most young people associate with a different tone of drinking, one inspired and quite likely perpetuated by popular media. College party drinking films have become iconic and apart of their own genre that for some strange reason seems to congregate under a genre of “comedy.” Though romanticized and regarded as comical, chronic drinking or overconsumption is hardly congruent with either of these characteristics. Alcohol abuse is something many of us, especially as students, are familiar with via a night of personal experience or navigating a friend’s experience with overconsumption. As media numbs our minds and justifies our drinking, it appears to be simultaneously blurring the line between justifiable and dangerous drinking habits.     Perhaps though there is a simplistic remedy: if we avoid being “that guy” now, we can prevent becoming “that guy” later in our lives; recognition of such habits could prevent, or at least minimize, the harmful effects of drinking that many are estimated to experience in the future.

Drinking is self-inflicting—creating challenges for the consumer. Though consumption and abuse of substances is a personal decision, its affects are widespread, negatively impacting family members and friends in a magnified manner. The number of people that are directly or indirectly affected by alcohol addiction is startling. Though the numbers are high, a stigma around the discussion of substance abuse alienates us from one another in sharing our experiences and uncovering a solution to the problem. The NIAAA estimates that that one in every thirteen adults, or about 14 million Americans, is an alcohol abuser. These numbers grossly increase when considering the communities of people indirectly affected by substance abuse.

The National Association for Children of Alcoholics reports that 43% of the U.S. adult population has been exposed to alcoholism in their families; one in five adult Americans grew up with an alcoholic in their home, and there are currently 26.8 million children living in households with an alcoholic at the present time. The association attributes alcoholism to children’s developmental issues, lower test scores, and also to increased violence in and out of the household. Child abuse proves to be most prevalent in homes where an adult exhibits alcohol addiction and alcoholism is a factor in over 50 percent of manslaughters, murders, and assaults, and plays a significant role in robberies and burglaries.

While these statistics are bewildering, they may also appear distant and detached if perhaps you were not affected by alcoholism as a child. Studies show, however, that alcohol addiction and abuse is running rampant in younger communities. CBS News reports that over half of U.S. alcoholics are young adults. Anyone walking around Amherst on a weekend evening can witness and perhaps even step in evidence of over consumption, abuse, and dependence on alcohol.

Alcoholism is a disease and, when coupled with an addict’s denial, proves to be a major issue to overcome. Websites whose intentions are to aid in overcoming alcoholism appear optimistic and encouraging, but there is nothing optimistic in witnessing and trying to aid someone you care about who suffers from alcoholism, yet lives in denial.

Family members and friends are often powerless in seeking treatment for a loved one with alcoholism. The state offers little in mandated treatment unless domestic violence or the physical harm of a minor is at stake. The effects of alcoholism in the home do not always leave behind evidence of physical scars. It is inadequate to define the point of intervention in regards to only physical trauma given how detrimental and widespread emotional damage is within these contexts. Family and friends cannot force an alcoholic into treatment facilities against their will and intervention programs seen in the media are not as realistic of options as we may hope. Though I believe more power should be in the hands of the vulnerable people affected by an abuser, this is considered to be an interferance with the constitutional rights of an abuser in denial. Opening up dialogue, eliminating the stigma of speaking about addiction and encouraging recognition and reflection of our own drinking habits now may help us to prevent these harmful scenarios from arising in the future.

Normalization of this behavior on college campuses is appalling. Sure, I like to drink on occasion, but having been affected by a loved one’s alcoholism as a child, I can be confident that I will never perpetuate a lifestyle of alcoholism as a student or an adult. Alcoholism is an issue we must not treat with negligence in the present; becoming comfortable with harmful habits develops a capacity to recreate these habits later in life. College is regarded as a time of our lives to work hard and then reward ourselves with wild times. When does this time come to an end? When does the validity of college drinking transcend into invalidated and dangerous drinking habits? Music artist Paul Baribeau has a particular quote that resonates with me: “I’ll never get to know my mom, because my mom is an alcoholic, and I bet when she was young, she never saw it coming.” This is a time to be introspective before we can’t remember another type of normal, because when we are young, we don’t see it coming before it’s too late.

Kimberly Ovitz is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected].

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    David Hunt '90Nov 8, 2011 at 10:33 am

    Back at my ZooMass days, I’d have conversations on Monday that went like this:

    Me: How was your weekend?

    Them: Great – I got hammered!

    Me: But what did you do?

    Them: I got hammered.

    Me: But what did you do while hammered?

    Them: I don’t know, I was hammered. But it must have been good.

    Me: Why?

    Them: Because I was hammered.

    I suspect part of the attraction for getting wasted so regularly comes because drinking has such a stigma – and hence is attractive to young adults attempting to break out on their own for the first time. Growing up, my parents would routinely let me sip their wine, try their cocktails… alcohol and its effects were never a mystery. Hence, I got hammered. Once. And never again.