“Honestly looking in the mirror is a necessary bitch.” That’s what one AA member said at a meeting I attended this past summer. But, we don’t have to be full-blown alcoholics or addicts to take this advice.
College is a time of experimentation. Whether it be scoping out career paths, defining your sexuality or implementing new lifestyle choices, these are vital years for self-growth. One inquiry you might consider is a period of sobriety. Is it easy to sip a soda while your friend sips a beer next to you? Do you find it difficult to say no when offered a drink? Are you able to refrain from smoking weed for a week? Can you make it through finals without Adderall?
I’m hesitant to sound over-evangelical and hypocritical as I write this. For full disclosure, I’ve never been able to make it a full month sober. I’ve seriously given AA a shot three times over the last three years. Obviously, it’s an extremely personal and sensitive topic. Those few weeks I’ve been able to stay sober weren’t easy in the slightest. You, however, might not have to put forth much effort at all. I’m predisposed to alcoholism and addiction. It runs on both sides of my family. You may be able to simply make the decision. Others, like me, have to put in the hard work. No matter where you lie on the spectrum, it’s worth finding out.
Those few weeks I managed to achieve some form of extended sobriety were some of the most rewarding of my life. I went three weeks without a hangover, without having to figure out what happened last night, without waking up in crises. I didn’t allow my emotions to dictate my actions. I made genuine connections rather than drunken conversation. Most rewarding of all, though, I found confidence. I was happy with myself. I wasn’t plagued with anxiety or shame at whatever happened the night before. Eventually, I was excited to wake up in the mornings and go about my day. As cliché as it sounds, I was high on life.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” I finally found some sliver of peace within my sobriety. Friends who aren’t nearly as bad-off as I am have decided, at various times, to take a break themselves. They all reported similar feelings of pride and tranquility. They said even getting through the week without a hangover was preferable to spending money at the bar.
Whether you think you have a problem or not, take a look in the mirror. Honestly assess and challenge yourself. See if you can get through a set period of time without a drink, a joint or a pill. Think of it as an exercise of self-awareness. What do you really have to lose? Well, if you’re like me, it’s easy to lose everything. If you aren’t like me, you may just miss out on catching a buzz.
James Smith is a 22-year-old mass communication senior from Grand Coteau, Louisiana.