This is a big week (at least in education) on college campuses. The third week in October is traditionally National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week (NCAAW), and every year about 1,000 campuses will conduct awareness campaigns and educational programs.
Get ready to hear a lot of facts. (some of them even true).
Some of the facts will be meant to alarm you and shake you out of apathy, to let you know if you don’t make healthy choices some bad things can happen. Things like:
- After a heavy night of drinking, your ability to think abstractly can be impaired for up to 30 days (not good for college students).
- About 1/3 of all college students say they have done something they regretted because of their drinking in the last 12 months
- Approximately 160,000 first-year college students will drop out of school this year or not come back next year and alcohol or other drug issues will be one of the major reasons.
And indeed these facts should make us stand up and take notice – because what college student in their right mind would want them to happen?
Some of the facts will take on the opposite tactic – to remind you that most of us are pretty healthy when it comes to our choices, or to point out that there are misperceptions about what is really happening campus. So, we will hear things like:
- 70% of college students have not had more than 5 drinks on any given night in the last two weeks.
- 82% of college students either always or almost always have a designated driver as part of their social plan.
- Nearly 40% of college students report not having a drink in the last month – even though the perception on campuses is that number is only 7%
I love these sets of facts, both kinds, because personally, I want to know some of the risks I might be facing and I want to know what is really happening around me. But here’s the deal on facts. You can usual find radically different “right answers’ to the same question depending on who you listen to (and what their agenda is).
Which is why what comes next is my favorite fact for NCAAW. Because it is undeniably true.
You are responsible for your own health and happiness.
It’s a fact. You. Not your parents, not your teachers, not your friends. You. YOU are responsible for making the decision whether or not you will choose to drink. If you do choose to drink, YOU are the one who has to set limits for yourself that your body can handle. YOU are the one who has to take steps to protect yourself, from making sure you have a safe ride home to not mixing alcohol with other drugs or medications, to avoiding drinking game or dares that might make you drink more than is safe.
Now, if you are smart, you will get a little help in the matter. Learn the information you need to make good decisions. Surround yourself with the kind of friends who are going to respect and support your decisions. Know there are places you can go on campus if you need a little help being strong in your decisions or if things have happened in the past tat are getting in the way of your current happiness.
So, this NCAAW, celebrate the fact that you are strong enough and smart enough to get what you want out of your life. And then go for it. And don’t let anything, certainly not something like poor decisions in your social life or peer pressure, get in the way of you getting it.
David Hellstrom has been a associated with The BACCHUS Network in various capacities over the last 20+ years, working with college students on health and leadership issues. In addition to his work with BACCHUS, David is an adjunct faculty member with the Leadership Minor at the University of Minnesota and also speaks on the topics of health and leadership through his association with CAMPUSPEAK.