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Can You Be an Alcoholic in College?

Some college students drink up to four days a week, but rarely do they ever recognize to have an alcohol problem.

by Jack Burris


Photo by Alexandra Luneil

Sometime during my sophomore year of college, I came to the conclusion that I could be an alcoholic. It was after a night out for one of my friends' birthday. I woke up on someone else's couch, wearing nothing but my underwear. I couldn't remember anything from the night before, but this wasn't unfamiliar to me. It happened usually between two to three times a week, and while it makes me cringe to think about it now, back then it felt normal. Other people did it, some of my friends did it, and I did it. There was no shot I was an alcoholic–college is just like that.

As a result of my alcoholism, there were reckless choices. I did the classic table-breaking and roof jumping, but there was a time I almost burnt my house down. Yup, everyone sobered up pretty quickly once the neighbors began to run out to the street. The party was over.

The first person to call me an alcoholic was my uncle. He's a terrible man who prides himself in being sober for almost two weeks. Still, I hate him. And the fact that he said to me, dead serious, "You're just like me when I was in college" freaked me out.

I guess everyone has a wake up call. For me, it was being compared to the worst man I've ever met. And don't get me wrong–I don't hate him for being in recovery or relapsing all the time, I hate him because he never wanted to change, even though he knew he was hurting the people he loved.

I didn't want to be that person.

The reality was that as a college student, giving up alcohol was not a choice. I went out to bars, house parties, and clubs at least twice a week. In the past, not going out just meant drinking with my housemates in our basement, getting even more wasted and doing stupid shit that destroyed our house. We ended up having to pay twice our security deposit because everything was punched, burnt, or destroyed by us.

After doing research, I realized that there wasn't a stand measurement or a Buzzfeed quiz that would tell me I was an alcoholic. Alcoholism is defined less by the amount of drinking you do and more on the dependence you show toward alcohol. I'm embarrassed to admit that I was pretty dependent before I realized I was an alcoholic.

I couldn't drink casually either. If my friend group went out to dinner, I would pound about nine beers and stumble out of the door by the time dinner was over. The more I drank, the less people wanted to be around me.

Aside from my uncle's comparison, there was another moment that made me realize how deep I'd fallen.

I liked a guy, who is my now boyfriend. We met each other through friends and we hit it off super fast. We always hung out at school because he was two years younger than me, and still lived in the dorms. When I was with him I was sober, and he rarely got to see the side of me that liked to binge drink. He wasn't a huge party person, so he never met my drunk persona until later on.

One day, I woke up in his room with a bottle of vodka in my hand. He was extremely mad at me for some reason, and when he realized I was awake, he went off.

Some people say the most severe consequence of alcoholism is the damage to your health, but after that morning, I realized that the worst part of alcohol is the pain you inflict on others.

We broke up that day.

He didn't think he could continue to go out with a guy who became so different when he drank. I cried for two weeks straight. I'd finally found a guy I actually liked and that would put up with all my shit, and I'd ruined it because I couldn't stay sober.

Before you give him shit for overreacting, I did and said some pretty nasty things that night. Things that I'm not proud, and that for personal reasons, I won't disclose. The important thing is that I fucked up one of the few things in my life that was actually worth it.

I'd like to tell you that after that moment, everything was better–but that's not the truth. During the two weeks I spent crying, I also drank more than I ever had. I skipped class and would sleep all day so I could go out at night. It was a dark time I hate revisiting.

Before the end of the semester, I bumped into this guy in the library. I thought I'd see resentment in his eyes, but there was none.

"I'm worried about you, Jack," he said to me. "I want to be mad at you, but right now, you need a friend."

Asshole me thought it would be the perfect chance to get close to him again, but I never thought I'd end up sobering up.

It's been three years since my last drink.

I don't have anything against alcohol, and I feel like I could drink if I wanted to. But in my situation, I was spiraling down a hole with no return, masked by the same excuse that a lot of people use: "It's just college, everyone does it."

My relationship has only grown stronger, and so have my friendships. I have more energy, self-confidence, and feel healthier than I've ever had.

Only to think that three years ago, I'd had to be absolutely hammered to tell someone a personal story like this.


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