Editor's Note: The name of this author is withheld to protect their identity.
I woke up in an unfamiliar place still drunk from the night before. Confused, I looked around and saw that I was lying in a hospital bed in the hallway of a hospital near my school, while a girl cried in a room across the hall. I listened as the nurses discussed her rape kit and her BAC. When she was taken in, she had a BAC of 0.21. When I came in, I had a BAC of 0.32. Just for a frame of reference, 0.35 is comatose, and 0.4 is dead. I was severely worse off than she was, and yet she was the one who was attacked.
I have had to deal with the legal and school related consequences since the incident. I was placed on deferred suspension, meaning if I violate the school’s code of conduct one more time I will be suspended immediately, without a trial or any hesitation. For my underage drinking citation, I had to attend a court hearing to see if I qualified for a program that would allow me to attend 12 hours of drinking classes, and would end with my record being expunged. I qualified on a conditional basis. Due to the fact that my BAC was so high, I was considered a risk of recurrence, so I had to seek out a certified professional to assess my drinking behavior before qualifying for the program.
Despite my harsh punishments, I still acknowledge every day that I was the lucky one in the hospital that morning. I am still paying for my mistakes, but that poor girl who had less to drink than me will be paying for someone else’s mistake for her entire life.
When in a college environment, occasional binge drinking is sadly inevitable for some students. College is all about pushing the limits, and many people choose to push their drinking limits. Knowing that you can safely handle three shots does not mean that you should go for four or five one night, just to see if that is your new limit. Just because you had a light pre-game does not mean you should compensate by overdoing it at the party.
Having a bad day does not give you an excuse to go overboard just because you need to “blow off some steam.” On that same note, finishing an exam week or having a birthday also does not give you permission to go overboard, even if your friends insist that it is just “celebrating.”
Drinking, especially when underage, is always going to be risky, whether you have two shots or eight. Students need to realize that party culture on campus is not a right, though it is often tolerated if students remain safe. I know, for instance, at my school the police were given more funding to monitor the party scene after a time of increased hospitalizations and calls requesting medical amnesty. The school and the police force are looking out for the safety of the students; they are not trying to destroy the students’ outlet for fun.
When choosing to drink in college, it is essential to do so in a responsible way. My friends and I have made agreements since my incident to prevent any of my friends from experiencing what I experienced, or worse, experiencing what the other girl in the hospital with me that morning experienced. Here are some pro tips to ensure you are drinking responsibly:
1. Eat a substantial meal before drinking.
2. Decide in advance how much you are going to drink.
3. Drink across an extended period of time; do not cram all of your drinking into one hour.
4. Pour your own drinks. You want to know exactly what you are drinking and how much you are drinking.
5. If you are feeling it after the pregame, do not drink at the party.
6. Do not leave the party with someone without consulting your friends, they need to know where you are, they need to determine if you are too drunk to be making a sound decision and they need to know where you are going.
7. Do not leave the party with someone you’ve only met while you were intoxicated, you do not really know that person.
8. If you wind up in a situation you do not want to be in, do not feel bad calling your friends. I guarantee they will leave even the best party to come help you.
Prior to my hospitalization, my friends and I genuinely believed we were invincible. We had dodged mass citations and we drank as much as we pleased without facing any severe consequences. Unfortunately, I proved to my friends and myself that we are in fact not invincible. I am here now to tell you that unfortunately, neither are you.
We sadly cannot outsmart the alcohol. Alcohol has a mind of its own. One amount can have seemingly little effect on you one night, and the next night it could cause you to throw up. An important thing to remember is that your “tolerance” does not affect your BAC. Just because you can down eight shots and still be walking does not mean that your BAC is lower than your friend, who is the same height and weight as you, who passed out after eight shots.
I was only taken to the hospital because a cop had seen me stumble on the street and breathalyzed me. My friends believed I was fine because I had been walking and talking all night. I have absolutely no recollection of the incident. I remember nothing past the pregame that night. I do not remember speaking with law enforcement. I do not remember being hauled away in a cop car. I do not remember arriving at the hospital. I woke up in a place I did not recognize, still drunk from the night before, confused and not given any information from the hospital staff about what had happened to me.
It is sad, disappointing and terrifying to wake up that way, and yet I knew that I was the lucky one that night. I would likely have been an easier person to attack due to my absurd level of intoxication, and yet I remained safe. I guess my best pieces of advice are to be mindful about the amount that you are drinking and to not stray from your friends, because having friends by my side that night was the only thing that stood between me and the other girl in the hospital that morning.
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