As many young people will know and believe, alcohol is a huge part of coming into a post-secondary environment. You turn 19, you’re able to buy legally, and you can go out to dance and drink until 4am without anyone telling you that you can’t. But what happens when that habit becomes unhealthy? And what benefits can young people enjoy when they cut back on alcohol consumption. I gave it a shot (or so to speak).
For one month, to honour the memory of friends that I have lost in accidents related to alcohol, I gave up drinking. It was the most rewarding and challenging month I think I have ever experienced. Mentally, I felt much stronger. My decisions were based solely on sober judgement and thought. After using alcohol as a coping mechanism while battling a depressive episode last year, it was clear now to see how much alcohol affected my mental health. Physically, I felt amazing. My workouts were actually paying off, and I felt much better without having that bloated or sluggish feeling after drinking. Socially, it was hard. I can be honest about that. It was difficult to go to an event where there was drinking involved, and not have a drink in my hand. However, I realized I could easily solve this problem by just carrying a water bottle or something of the sort. Not to mention how much money I saved and was able to spend on more fulfilling experiences. There was literally, in my opinion, no downfall to this experiment. And every time I felt the urge to drink, I remembered why I started. I had a goal, a reason, and support to keep me going.
What I learned most while doing this was realizing how many people around me were using alcohol as a coping mechanism rather than for recreational use. It brought to my attention that there were not a lot of warnings or proactive plans set in place to prepare students for the stress they may be under while attending school, and how to cope with that stress in a healthier way. I’m not saying that everyone should give up alcohol, but I do believe we need to take a look at the drinking habits of young people and really ask this: are they drinking to relax and have a good time? Or are they drowning their feelings in the bottom of a bottle?