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Freshman Drinking: Handling Yourself Around a Handle

Fall is the time of year when college freshmen start their ascent into the final leg of their education. As thousands of teenagers flock to dorm rooms during the fall months, they are met with temptations not found in their previous, parent-filled lives. From beer to wine, and whiskey to tequila, this time of year is a drunk time of year, a time when people slur, stagger, and stumble: it’s a time of year that’s called “Fall” for a reason.

Now I drank in college, I drank a lot in college: I’m pretty sure my liver regenerated itself four times by the end of my freshman year alone. From Peach Schnapps mixed with 7-Up to Wild Berry Vodka straight out of the bottle (complete with, oh yes, a paper bag), from bottles of champagne to the finest box of wine we could afford, I drank like a fish, only to often wake up feeling like I’d been gutted. But, for as much as I drank, I was pretty lucky.

While nothing truly horrible ever happened to me during my college drinking days, I had friends who weren’t as fortunate. I knew people who had DUI’s, and people who’d lost credit cards at the bars, only to find them with a 500 dollar tab added on. I knew people who had their stomachs pumped and others who fell victim to really terrible things, things like sexual assault and suicide attempts. I knew people who became statistics, the thing no college freshman thinks they will ever become.

The sole blame for this isn’t just drinking, not every finger can be pointed at alcohol – with a bottle of Southern Comfort begging for mercy as it’s poured down the sink – but alcohol is a huge factor in a lot of the poor decisions made by college freshmen. While universities attempt to stop this by summonsing the local SWAT team to issue underage consumption tickets and implementing the concept of a “dry” campus, drinking in college will never be stopped: it’s college, drunk happens.

But, not all drinking has to result in a lesson resembling an After-School special; not all drinking has to lead to a poor choice. If college freshmen are armed with the knowledge of what they are getting into, they are more prepared to stay away from getting into distress.

Don’t Drink Too Much
Like I said, I’ve been there. I’ve been at the point where I know I have had plenty to drink, but the thought of “just one more” seems like the world’s greatest thought, like sliced bread or Wal-Mart. Though it may have always seemed like an ingenious thought, it never was.

If you know you’ve had enough, don’t drink anymore. You might be worried that you aren’t drunk enough and that your buzz will soon evade you leaving you (gasp!) sober, but it won’t. Once you’re drunk, you will stay that way for a while. Drinking more will only result in your introduction to hangover Hell. And, it will cause you to miss out on one of the best parts of drinking: the socializing it involves; you can’t be very social if you are passed out or puking in a toilet.

Don’t Spend all Your Money on Alcohol
By the time we get to college, we are all realistic enough to know that money doesn’t grow on trees. But lucky for us, it does grow on Mom and Dad. While getting money out of your parents may seem like a rather simple feat – particularly when you threaten to place them in a terrible nursing home once they get older – if you question for monetary compensation too frequently, using it as means to finance your drinking habits, they will catch on as to why, implementing their own form of prohibition in the process.

Don’t drink with such frequency that you end up spending every dime you have on liquor. Instead, place yourself on an alcohol budget, only spending a certain amount of money per week on beer and wine. And, drink cheaply. There are plenty of excellent bottles of wine that you can buy for under ten dollars.

If you are shrewd enough to get into the bars, bring cash, not credit cards. While I often took my credit card to the bars, merrily skipping and holding hands with my VISA, it resulted in extreme bar tabs and my insistence on buying everyone in the tavern a round of shots.

Be Self Protective
Being self-protective while drinking doesn’t mean you have to rock in the corner and hiss at anyone who approaches. It simply means to be smart. Drinking has a way of erasing reservations, making everything from dancing on the table to running naked in the streets seem like a excellent thought. But, if you go into drinking with a small defense, you are more likely to play it safe.

First of all, get your own drinks. In the age of roofies, it’s no longer safe for anyone, not even men, to allow a weirder or an acquaintance to fetch them a drink. Secondly, drink with friends. People out to take advantage of a drunken freshman are much more likely to prey on someone who is alone, rather than someone surrounded by a pack of friends. Keep these friends close, always go in pairs when going anywhere, yes even when going to the bathroom, and always know your surroundings, know where the nearest fire exit is located and know how to not find yourself in a deserted alley.

If you are certain your inhibitions will be low and are fully aware that you might engage in some less than stellar choice making, come prepared. When you’re drunk, you are likely to sleep with someone that you wouldn’t even hug when sober. So, carry a condom with you: if you’re going to have drunk sex, make sure it’s drunk protected sex.

Don’t Drink and Drive
Drinking and Driving is a costly affair: an average DUI in today’s day and age costs 10,000 dollars. But, there are ways to make driving drunk much more costly: it can cost you your life or the life of someone else.

Driving drunk is simple to do; many people who get behind the wheel intoxicated are completely convinced that they aren’t too drunk to drive. But, if you get pulled over and are found to be over the limit, it doesn’t matter how convinced you are of your sobriety: you will still be arrested. The best way to avoid drinking and driving is to simply go out drinking without a car.

One of the benefits to being a college freshman is that you are usually forced to live on campus. While this might seem like a disadvantage – in the form of shared rooms and communal bathrooms – the excellent part about it is that everything is within walking distance. If you’re going out drinking, don’t even give yourself the chance to drive, just walk to the party and then stumble back home.

Drinking as a college freshman is nearly a rite of passage: college freshmen of yore have done it, college freshmen in the present do it, and college freshmen of the future will do it. No matter how many college campuses try to use prohibition-like tactics, college and drinking will always go hand in hand, like a yin and yang for young adulthood.

While drinking is fun and entertaining, it can get out of control, particularly for the inexperienced underclassman. Sadly each fall we hear of a news tale or two about a freshman who unwittingly drank themselves into an alcohol-induced coma, only to never wake up. But, understanding alcohol, and understanding your own personal limits can make this kind of tragedy avoidable. Learning ahead of time how to handle yourself around booze can save you money, can save you distress, and can save your life.

Jennifer Jordan is the senior editor at

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