Drinks on me

The night seems endless, the beer is cold as droplets go down my glass and hit the coaster below and the atmosphere at Riley’s is filled with laughter. Drunk men can be heard catcalling in one ear, and awful singing in the other. But there’s this numbness that takes over my body. Even though I tell myself I came out to see my friends, I actually came for that numbness. 

I believe I abused alcohol to deal with my mental health issues in the past few months. The realization hit me when my uncle made a comment to me.

“You’ve been drinking a lot.” 

At that moment, that statement hit me like a linebacker.

 I told him, “It’s just a college thing, and don’t worry.” 

In reality, it made me aware of what was going on and that changes needed to be made. 

My first experience with alcohol was around 16 years old, back in high school. I only drank a handful of times before college. I was a pothead in my later years of high school. 

Drinking was a party thing, and it never got to the point of being “shitfaced.” I wasn’t the biggest fan because of experiences I had with my dad.

I love my dad more than anything. I’m named after him, and to me, it’s an honor because he’s my hero. My dad was a legal immigrant whose first language isn’t English, and he overcame his hardships to be successful and give me everything he never had growing up in a lower income household. 

But sometimes, growing up, my dad would get drunk, and the verbal harassment turned me off of the idea of drinking.

Alcoholism and mental health issues reared their heads in my family history from both sides. Growing up, my mom’s parents got divorced due to my grandpa being an alcoholic. 

I’ve been in college for five years, and my consumption has increased with each passing year since I turned 21 back in April 2020, because now I have the ability to purchase alcohol whenever I want to. 

I’ve been grabbing the bottle when I’m stressed about my parents. My mom, an escrow officer, 54, and my father, an owner of a recycling center, 53, are aging, and the fear of losing them consumes me. 

The stress and anxiety that comes from figuring out who I am and what I want to do for a living increases pressure. I’ve also begun to drink more and events when I become socially uncomfortable around other people. 

But I’m just a member of this block of college students abusing alcohol. In 2019, before the pandemic, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of The Department of Health and Human Services, reported that “53 percent of full-time college students ages 18-22 drank alcohol in the past month and about 33 percent engaged in binge drinking during that time frame.”.”

In 2020, the Psychology of Addictive Behaviors Intentions and Motives to Experience Alcohol-Induced Blackout among Young Adults in College researchers learned several reasons why students consumed alcohol.

“Participants cited a range of reasons for drinking to the point of memory loss…entering into the coping stage (to deal with negative emotions or stress), enhancement (to improve positive mood or have fun), and social motives (to interact with others).”

Reaching out to my parents and other family members has helped me tremendously. My family wants the best for me, and I realized that they’re there for me, and I don’t need to drink. I can always call members of my family whenever I need support or guidance. 

Music also helps me with my mental health, whether I’m making it or listening to it. Other activities like writing, exercising and self-reflection help me to not use alcohol for my mental health.

Having friends that I can open up to is a blessing and has helped tremendously.

The university offers resources for students who deal with alcohol abuse. The WellCat Prevention goal is to “create a campus-wide, proactive approach to alcohol prevention, which will result in a healthier and safer campus for our students.” 

They offer these services via Zoom and Telephone. The Wellcat Prevention can be contacted at 530-898-6450 [email protected] 

Mario Ortiz can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter @realnameismario