It would be safe to say, after a fall freshman semester full of freedom and fun, I was bored out of my mind at home over Christmas break. My high school group of friends all felt the same pain, so we decided we should do something fun together.
We planned a day of hanging out, which would be capped off by a concert that night. The days leading up to it, I became increasingly excited as we talked about logistics and timing. Of course, a lot of the conversation revolved around alcohol. Pregaming was part of our ritual whenever we went out. I admit, I was the alcohol ringleader, getting my friends pumped up about catching a buzz before going into the concert. One friend even offered up that his older brother was willing to buy us alcohol.
We were all a little nervous about using fake IDs at home. College bars and liquor stores were one thing, but we weren’t sure what we could get away with outside of our bubble. The last thing I wanted was to get my fake ID taken away. It takes forever to get a new one and it was the lifeline to fun at school. With all my planning, I made one crucial miscalculation; I did not realize the difference between being drunk in public at college and being drunk in public at home, or “in the real world” as I like to call it.
I would soon learn the difference is huge.
The day finally arrived and departure time for the concert quickly rolled around. Realizing we would not have much time to drink at home, we decided to sneak it into our lengthy cab ride to the venue. We smuggled our liquor and chasers into the cab and were set to go. At the time, the sight of traffic gave me a sense of joy, meaning more time to drink. However, I should’ve known, traffic, as always, would come back to bite me in the butt.
Our commute tolled in just short of an hour and a half for a usual 40 minute drive. Without traffic, I probably would not be writing about this today. In that 90 minutes, I consumed an entire fifth of vodka minus a sip or two I had given to a friend. A fifth of vodka and it was not even 6pm.
Despite all that traffic, we arrived a little early, so we met some other friends to tailgate before the event started. There, I drank a few more beers, not knowing that the effects of the vodka were about to demolish me.
The last hazy memory I have of the night was wandering to the edge of the woods to go to the bathroom.
I woke up with a bright light in my face, extremely intoxicated, irritated and confused. I had no idea what happened, where I was, how I got there, why I was there, or who was with me. I turned my head and saw probably the most disappointed mother in the world, sitting next to me. I completely sobered up for a moment as all of that disappointment rained down on me, without a word spoken.
Even through my mental haze I got the magnitude of the mistake I had made. It became clear that I was in a hospital and someone had called my parents but the details were not coming. Almost a year later, I vaguely remember lying in the hospital in the gown wondering where my clothes were. I asked the same questions over and over without getting answers because I was the only one who knew the answers to my own questions even though I could not remember. I scoured my phone to find any bit of helpful information, but found nothing. Somehow I had managed to relay all my medical information and had given someone the means to contact to my family, yet I remembered none of it.
Miraculously, all my belongings were in a plastic bag on a chair in my hospital room, undamaged with everything intact. I narrowly escaped an even bigger disaster as I opened my wallet to my find my State of Connecticut fake ID in its usual spot. The legal consequences of a confiscated ID were expensive and long-lasting.
I had dodged a bullet but I was sure that even my hypothetical family at my fake Connecticut address was disappointed in me.
The hospital released me after a 10-hour stay to sleep it off. They gave me no fluids or drugs through my IV, I literally just slept there. The line was put in as a precaution in case I needed it and to draw blood to check my blood alcohol levels.
I barely remember the car ride home except that I had on mismatched clothes because mine were ruined with dirt and vomit. Once I got home, I passed out again, only to wake up hours later to the most debilitating hangover ever.
As bad as I felt right then, the first few days following the incident were worse. My dad ignored me, barely looking at me when we were together. When he finally cooled off enough to talk to me, he took me downstairs and gave me a stern lecture, highlighted how dangerous the situation was, and his disappointment in my lack of judgement. In the end, he forgave me and told me he was proud of who I had become, but stressed that my display a few nights earlier was not an accurate representation of my potential.
Every time I looked at my mom, I got knots in my stomach and felt sick. I knew how worried she was, and her silent sadness was like a prison sentence. I had not only let myself down but I had let down the entire family. Even my siblings didn’t know what to say to me.
The mystery of it all tortured me for days and frightened me more than I admitted to anyone.
I surmised that I was discovered by event staff because the arena had called my parents. I was informed that I rode in two ambulances to two different hospitals, all without my recollection, which was pretty sobering.
These details sort of filled in over the coming days through friends and my parents. I had nothing to offer except the pictures on my phone which I took before I went off the rails. I realized I had to face reality, and take responsibility for what I had done. My parents kept repeating how dangerous the situation could’ve been, and how I was lucky to face no legal trouble.
In hindsight, the reckless habits I developed at school made a blow up inevitable. I thought back to a few times in particular during the semester that I was lucky to escape dangerous situations with no consequences. I’m glad my free fall happened at home where I had much better care than I would have had at school. Plus making that phone call to my parents would’ve been a nightmare.
I learned my lesson, and completely changed my habits when I arrived at school to begin second semester.
Alcohol on college campuses is easily accessible almost whenever you want it. If you aren’t strict with yourself, you’ll dig yourself a pretty deep hole like I did. However, this does not always mean academic trouble. I had an 8:05 AM class Monday and Wednesday, and an 8:30 Am on Tuesday, Thursday and only missed two classes total. Going to class hung over is possible, but ineffective because you’re not retaining much information which I found out at exam time.
My parents had a limited view of my reckless activity. Although they could see my bank account, often someone else paid and we used Venmo to settle up the next day. It was hard to see a pattern just from data they had access to. I did not set out to hide it; it was just another circumstance that delayed my comeuppance.
I’m not an alcoholic or an unusual case for a freshman looking to make friends and have fun. I thought I was handling everything so well in the moment, but when I look back I see that I was not.
To put it simply, you’re responsible for yourself in college. If you don’t keep yourself in line, nobody will. If you adopt bad habits, you’ll eventually pay for it, just like I did. And you might not get as lucky as I did, and land on your feet.
I got a do over and I am so grateful because I know not everyone does.
*The Author of this post wishes to remain anonymous