Hot Topic Tuesday: Binge Drinking

Tomorrow we're spotlighting Mindi Scott's debut novel FREEFALL, about a guy, Seth McCoy, who was the last person to see his best friend, Isaac, alive, and the first to find him dead. "It was just another night, just another party, just another time when Isaac drank too much and passed out on the lawn. Only this time, Isaac didn't wake up."

I can't imagine being Seth, can you? The guilt you would feel over something like that would be horrible.

I think there's still this idea out there that as long as you're not driving, alcohol isn't really that harmful. And yet, almost every year, at least one story will hit the news about a teen drinking himself to death. And it probably happens a lot more than we hear about.

Underaged drinking was huge in the town where I went to high school. It's just what kids did. Every weekend it was all about finding out who was having a party. And if no one was having one, kids went to one of the well-known spots and made one.

I'm pretty sure none of us viewed alcohol as something dangerous. And yet, it can be, right? In more ways than one. There can be other ramifications too - like, I wonder how many teen pregnancies happen that wouldn't have otherwise happened if alcohol hadn't been involved.

Fortunately, I don't think I ever saw kids really binge drinking in high school. By binge drinking, I mean the kind of drinking you hear about where it's almost like an extreme sport - challenging each other to drink and drink and drink, until people are passing out. It sounds so scary to me!

Question of the day: I'm curious - Did you ever witness a scary episode of binge drinking when you were in high school or college? Did it change your feelings about drinking and/or parties?


Lydia Sharp said...

I didn't party when I was a teen, but I do remember a friend of a friend who had a terrible drinking problem sophomore year. So much of a problem, in fact, that she called my friend's house while I was there only about an hour after school had let out for the day... and she was totally smashed.

It scared the crap out of me, to put it mildly.

Our mutual friend actually called the cops because the girl was home alone drinking herself stupid in the middle of a weekday afternoon at the age of 15. Even someone as naive as I was at that age knew that she was being an idiot. I'm sure it stemmed from some deeper inner trauma that she didn't know how to deal with, but still. Scary stuff.

Jami said...

My group of friends and I often drank on the weekends. They weren't usually "parties", but we would all hang out at someone's house and drink what we could snag off of our parents without them knowing.

We always took bets to see who would throw up first, and whoever did was "cool" for it. No one ever got hurt that I can remember, but looking back as an adult, I can see it could have happened. Like you said, I think we thought we were safe because no one was driving.

My God, I hope none of my family happen to stumble on this blog post today. lol

Ashley @ Book Labyrinth said...

I think my life has been pretty sheltered, which is good and bad. I've never "partied" (the verb sense of the word), and I've never really been around people who do... sometimes I think I'm quite judgmental about the people who party and/or drink. I just think there's such a fine line between having a drink, having a good time versus making really bad decisions.

Maura said...

I drank a lot in high school, as did most of my group of friends. We were very responsible as far as driving is concerned, and we were never stupid enough to challenge each other to drink so much that we'd pass out, but we definitely drank a LOT. Drinking games were big, and because of the nature of the games we would often end up drinking a lot very quickly.

I'm going to take the possibly controversial stand that we in the US have an attitude toward drinking that encourages unhealthy binge drinking behavior. Because alcohol was forbidden, when we had our hands on it, we drank everything we had, and we drank it quickly so as not to get caught with it.

In contrast, when I'd visit my teenage cousins in Ireland, they never showed the kind of compulsions to drink so much. They could go to clubs at 18, and many were able to get in earlier, and have a beer or two no big deal. There was no sneaking into basements and chugging everything in sight.

The "DON'T DO IT, YOU'LL DIE!" message just didn't go over well, and I wish we had been able to be educated on making responsible, conscious choices about drinking rather than told just not do to it, or - the real message - if we do, just don't get caught or drink and drive. For instance, no one ever talked to us about how drinking can become a crutch in social situations and how that can inhibit your personality growth. I was a "successful" teenage drinker in that I had a lot of fun, never drank and drove or was in a car with a drunk driver, never had a man take advantage of me sexually, and the drinking didn't hurt my grades. But when I found myself in my mid-20's HUGELY insecure and uncomfortable socializing with co-workers without the lubricant of alcohol, I realized that alcohol eased my teenage social anxiety so much that I never developed non-alcohol coping strategies. So there I was in my late 20's, but feeling like a middle schooler socially without booze. I think that's how dangerous dependencies develop, and I wish someone had talked to us about alcohol use more thoughtfully back then so that I could have been more conscious about the habits I was developing.

Lisa Schroeder said...

Lydia - that is scary!

Jami - I promise I won't tell your parents you stopped by.

Ashley - I think it's a fine line too, and one a lot of kids don't navigate well.

Maura - I've heard that idea a lot, about how different it is in other countries and maybe we could learn from them. That's really interesting about non-alcohol coping strategies.

Melissa Walker said...

I have to admit that I was a big binge drinker in college; all of my friends were. We were on campus, felt safe, didn't drive, etc.

But like Maura, I always needed alcohol to relax and have fun in my 20s... and I'm still easing out of that.

A reader once called me on my character drinking a lot, and I was like, "Uh oh! I didn't even notice her drinking..." Made me think.

E. Kristin Anderson said...

I didn't drink in high school and barely drank in college. Now as an "adult" I will sometimes have a glass of wine or something with friends at a social gathering, and am a considerable lightweight.

I knew kids in college who had drinking problems. I had to call an ambulance for my neighbor once whose friend mixed shots of vodka with prescription meds. My college had a no questions asked policy if you called an ambulance/campus safety when someone was in danger -- this kept kids from not calling out of fear of punishment. And of course there were kids that drank so much we wondered how they managed to pass their classes. And Freshmen who got into drinking games called "black liver," etc. I mean, the name of that game alone is scary!

I think you're right -- we don't often think of the dangers of drinking beyond making sure we have a designated driver. But there's so much more. I certainly hope I never have to call an ambulance for a friend again.

Anonymous said...

From the Irish perspective... binge drinking is a very big issue over here too. Oh so very much. :)

Mindi Scott said...

Binge drinking always seemed pretty normal to me when I was 16-21. I don't really know why, because most of the adults in my life didn't get that kind of drunk.

I remember people whom I'd hang out with sometimes egging others on to drink a bottle of Boone's, two bottles of Boone's. There would be all these people lined up for the bathroom, begging to be let in so they could puke. And drama, drama, drama all over the place.

It never scared me. It never seemed weird. It was kind of fun, even. Looking back on it now, though, it's a little bizarre. Mostly, I think that those people just didn't think there was anything better to do.

Micol Ostow said...

I'm with Melissa - I personally didn't drink at all in high school, but I made up for it in college. I'm a very all or nothing personality and my attitude to drinking was no exception. If I drank, I got DRUNK. And no matter how sick it made me, once I'd recovered, the memory faded and the next party was on the horizon.

My husband is very much a social drinker - the type who can have just one glass of wine with dinner and unwind. Like Melissa, I'm trying, now in my 30's, to emulate his relationship with alcohol and to move away from NEEDING it to relax or drinking beyond the mild buzz.

Claire Dawn said...

I went to a military college. So underaged drinking was a big no-no. But I was amazed that the minute ppl turned 21 they started drinking like their lives depended on it.

April Henry said...

I didn't really drink until I was a freshman in college, but I had no idea how to handle it and often drank far too much. I remember passing out in a field and being woken up by campus security. I thought I was being clever by telling them I was stargazing (only later did I realize it was a cloudy night). If some creep had come along and wanted to rape me, I would have been easy pickings.

Sarah Laurence said...

Great post and discussion! I've linked to this from my post on teen drinking.

Adeeva Afsheen said...

Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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