The Sacred Purpose Blog

The Sacred Purpose movement and our commitment to one another follows us everywhere, even on spring break. Spring break is a great time for students to relax, hang out with friends, and enjoy time off from school; but it has also become notorious for traveling to party spots and engaging in risky behaviors. It is a time when we as brothers must make good decisions and watch out for one another. We can have just as much fun being safe, and we lessen our chances of ending up in the hospital, jail, or worse.  Below are tips from other college students to help you make safe choices during spring break.

  • Tell your parents or other people at home where you are going, who you’ll be with, and when to expect you back. Let them know how to reach you if necessary. Stay in touch and let them know you’re okay. They will worry less and you will be safer. Hopefully you won’t be one of those who drop out of sight. But if you are, it’s important that someone knows where you were supposed to be and who was with you.
  • Use the buddy system. When you are in a bar or in a partying crowd, take care of each other. Don’t let yourselves get separated.
  • Don’t go anywhere with strangers. No exceptions. See number 2. If you meet up with people who want to show you the town or take you to their homes, don’t.  Have you seen the movie Hostel?!?!
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Take a moment to assess the scene and decide if it’s where you really want to be.
  • Know the local laws, especially if you are traveling outside the U.S.
  • Don’t drink to the point that you’re out of control. Don’t drink anything given to you by someone you don’t know.  Eat a meal before drinking.
  • Know the signs of alcohol poisoning.
  • Stay hydrated. Alcohol and sun are a bad mix that can result in dehydration and sun poisoning. Use sunscreen and drink plenty of water.
  • Be firm and clear about boundaries. Stay out of situations where your intentions about sex can be misunderstood.
  • Don’t have unprotected sex or do anything sexual that is against your own moral principles.
  • Trust your instinct—if it feels uncomfortable, don’t do it.  Spring break is much more enjoyable without regrets.
  • Don’t carry all your money. Keep your return ticket and some cash in the hotel safe so you are certain you can get home.
  • Don’t climb on balconies or railings. Ever!
  • Get your car checked out by a mechanic before leaving for a long trip.

And, yes, have fun!  Just use the good sense you were born with while you do it and you’ll go home with a nice tan and no regrets.  Look out for one another, brothers!

All leaders, including our undergraduate Vice Presidents of Health and Safety, must inspire others to take action they would not normally do on their own.  An outstanding presentation, whether in a chapter meeting or a board room, must be more than informational.  It must be transformational.  In his book The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, author Carmine Gallo lays out some steps you can follow to give talks like the founder of Apple:

 “Answer the one question that matters most”

And that question is, “Why should I care?”

 “Develop a messianic sense of purpose”

Where is your passion for this subject coming from?  Convey that.

“Introduce the antagonist”

What’s the problem that needs to be solved or the enemy to be overcome?

“Reveal the conquering hero”

What’s the solution to the problem?  What’s the new angle or development that will lead to victory?

“Plan in analog”

Don’t get stuck in PowerPoint from the start.  Play with ideas loosely on whiteboards or index cards.

“Create Twitter-like headlines

Be to the point in your copy.  People do not want to read, they want to hear a story.

 “Draw a roadmap”

Use a three-act structure so your audience feels the presentation is organized, with a beginning, middle, and end.

Although it can be common to laugh at others who are drunk or passed out, it can be a very dangerous situation. There is nothing funny about the aspiration of vomit leading to asphyxiation or the poisoning of the respiratory center in the brain, both of which can result in death.  The Sacred Purpose movement is about being there when people need it the most.  Do you know about the signs and dangers of alcohol poisoning?  When should you seek professional help for a friend?

 

Sadly, too many college students say they wish they would have sought medical treatment for a friend who drank too much.  Many end up feeling responsible for alcohol-related tragedies that could have easily been prevented.  Common myths about sobering up include drinking black coffee, taking a cold shower, or sleeping it off. But these are just myths, and they don’t work. The only thing that reverses the effects of alcohol is time—something you may not have if you are suffering from alcohol poisoning.  And many different factors affect the level of intoxication of an individual, so it’s difficult to gauge exactly how much is too much.  As brothers, we must know how alcohol affects the body and also be prepared when the situation calls for action.

 

What happens to your body when you get alcohol poisoning?

Alcohol depresses nerves that control involuntary actions such as breathing and the gag reflex (which prevents choking).  A fatal dose of alcohol will eventually stop these functions.  It is common for someone who drank excessive alcohol to vomit since alcohol is an irritant to the stomach. There is a very real danger of choking on vomit, which could cause death by asphyxiation in an unconscious person who has had too much to drink. You should also know that a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can continue to rise even while he or she is passed out. Even after a person stops drinking, alcohol in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. It is dangerous to assume the person will be fine by sleeping it off.

 

What are the critical signs of alcohol poisoning?

  • Mental confusion, stupor, coma, or person cannot be roused
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow breathing (fewer than eight breaths per minute)
  • Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature), bluish skin color, paleness

 

What can I do to protect my friends?

  • Know the danger signs
  • Do not wait for all symptoms to be present
  • Be aware that a person who has passed out may die
  • If there is any suspicion of an alcohol overdose, call 911 to get help.  Don’t try to guess the level of drunkenness.

 

What can happen if alcohol poisoning goes untreated?

  • Victim chokes on his or her own vomit
  • Breathing slows, becomes irregular, or stops
  • Heart beats irregularly or stops
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature)
  • Hypoglycemia (too little blood sugar) leads to seizures
  • Untreated severe dehydration from vomiting can cause seizures, permanent brain damage, or death. Even if the victim lives, an alcohol overdose can lead to irreversible brain damage

 

Dangers of binge drinking

Rapid binge drinking is especially dangerous because the victim can ingest a fatal dose before becoming unconscious.  Don’t be afraid to seek medical help for a friend who has had too much to drink. Don’t worry that your friend may become angry or embarrassed.  Remember, you cared enough to help.  Always be safe, not sorry.

 

Death:  1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes  

 

Injury:  599,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are unintentionally injured under the influence of alcohol

For additional information, go to http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/Default.aspx

 

I received this letter from Johnston Watkins who serves as the Vice President of Health and Safety at our Alpha Phi chapter at Alabama.  I am impressed by Johnston’s leadership and the chapter’s kind response to a very sad situation.  I appreciate Johnston’s empathy and courage.  He did the hard thing and it was a true gift to those in need.  This is truly living by the spirit of our Sacred Purpose movement.  Well done, Alpha Phi chapter.  Well done.

 Shawn,

I wanted to fill you in on an incident that happened while I was in Indianapolis for The Sacred Purpose Launch Event.  I am proud of my chapter brothers and how supportive they were during this situation.   I wanted you to hear about it.  The following is my account of what happened and how our chapter responded to the tragic incident.

 On Monday, January 13, I got a phone call from our chapter president, John Anderson, telling me that something terrible had happened within the Alabama Greek Community over the weekend. A senior brother of a well-respected fraternity on campus had committed suicide. I personally have never been in any situation like this so it took me a few seconds to comprehend the magnitude of the situation. I could not fathom something as horrible as a brother committing suicide happening within our chapter. Fresh out of the Sacred Purpose Launch Event, I was eager to share what I learned as the first Vice President of Health and Safety.  And, most importantly, I wanted to support the fraternity in need.

After that call, things started moving very quickly. Once I was finished with class for the day, I got the contact information of the chapter president of the fraternity. Because this was an obviously delicate situation, I debated the best approach when it came to talking to someone who I have never even met.  It is never easy bringing up a delicate subject to someone, especially not knowing them beforehand. I decided to just simply give him a call to offer our support, hoping he was not too overwhelmed to talk. When he answered I could immediately tell he was upset and stressed. I knew then and there it was our duty to show Theta Chi’s support for their fraternity. Surprisingly, we talked for a while about how his chapter is dealing with this tragedy and about the funeral arrangements. I told him to call if they needed anything.  I offered to listen if someone wanted to talk and even invited them to our house for dinner.  I told him that I was only a phone call away and that our entire chapter’s thoughts and prayers were with them. Their chapter president was extremely thankful for our support because we were one of the first groups on campus to reach out to them during their time of need.

That night, while our chapter was gathered for dinner, I stood up and told my brothers about what had happened. I told them that I spoke with their president and summarized our phone conversation.  After dinner, multiple brothers approached me asking if there was anything they can do to help. Our Treasurer, Andrew DeGenova, immediately told me to let him know the cost of sending flowers and the chapter would cover it. I was extremely impressed by the large number of brothers stepping up and wanting to help. Many of the guys had great ideas on what we could do for the fellow fraternity. The next day, Tuesday, January 14, I got together with Aunt Kathy, our housemother, to discuss flower arrangements for the funeral. Once we found the right floral arrangement, I gave our Treasurer a call and got approval. Since the funeral was out of state and on a school day, we were not able to attend, but the flowers we sent represented Theta Chi and our support to his family and brothers. The other fraternity was grateful not only for our thoughts and prayers, but also for the support we lent them in their time of need.

In life, sometimes it’s the little things people do that really stand out. My chapter and I were not looking for any form of praise by showing our support for this fraternity. We were not seeking gratification from the fraternity or the university. We all wanted to help because we knew it was the right thing to do. The fact that I had the opportunity to reach out as the Vice President of Health and Safety to another fraternity is a great feeling in itself. The hardest part of that whole situation was actually bringing up such a horrible subject to their president over the phone. No one wants to talk about a recent death, especially with someone you don’t even know. The approach I took was a friendly and understanding one. Having empathy for him and their fraternity helped their president feel comfortable enough to talk to me even though we just met. Through this incident, being there for the fraternity and extending a helping hand can be directly related to being Vice President of Health and Safety. Setting the bar high for this position is what I intend on doing throughout the year.  Hope to hear back from you soon.

Fraternally,

Johnston Watkins

Vice President of Health and Safety

Alpha Phi/Alabama

In the aftermath of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death, many experts say the heroin problem is now an epidemic in nearly every part of the country.  As brothers in Theta Chi, all of us must understand how heroin use is sweeping across the country, especially among high school and college students.  The Oscar Award winning actor was found dead in his New York City apartment over the weekend. Reports say he was found with a needle in his arm and bags of heroin discovered near his body.

“We can’t overshadow the fact that there is a public health crisis that is raging across this country. Scenarios like this are playing out in families and communities with alarming regularity and increased frequency,” Scott Hesseltine, operations director at the Hazelden Treatment Center in Minnesota, where almost half of the young patients are addicted to opiates, up from 10 percent 10 years ago.

“When parents and families hear celebrities overdosing on heroin, the story seems so far away from home, and people need to realize the story is actually in our homes and in our neighborhoods,” he said. “There are thousands of Americans right now abusing prescription medications and heroin,” he said, “and they desperately need to get help.”  Communities are seeing record numbers of people die from overdose.

And the path to heroin addiction often starts innocently, with a prescription for Percocet, Vicodin or other opiate-based medication.  The move from opiate addiction into full-blown heroin addiction can be very fast. Someone can start taking pain medicine for a toothache or sports injury and become addicted to the pain medication. Because of highly reinforcing nature of these drugs on the pleasure centers of the brain, it’s very easy for someone to slip into addiction.  When the medications are gone, some turn to heroin, which is cheaper and easier to get.

So what can we do in Theta Chi?  For starters, clean out your medicine cabinet.  “All of us save medication for a rainy day when we shouldn’t,” Hesseltine said.  “What I’ve seen is it starts with the medicine cabinet at home, whether it’s yours or a friend’s, where there’s easy access to these medicines,” he said. “From there very quickly, someone progresses into non-medical uses of these pills and what happens is they’re expensive, they’re hard to find, and heroin is a much cheaper, readily available alternative. What we’re seeing today is the purity of heroin is at unprecedented levels.”

Heroin is much more common than you may know.  In fact, 30 percent of high school seniors say it is easy to get. It can be snorted, smoked or injected intravenously.  Heroin has the potential to ruin lives due to its capacity to grip victims with strong talons.  Overcoming an active heroin addiction is nearly impossible to accomplish alone.  Once the full-blown addiction has evolved, heroin addiction becomes powerful in and of itself.  Inner turmoil results as the afflicted individual fights a constant battle between the addicted portion and the logical portion of their brain.

Heroin addiction can also start out recreationally by experimenting at a party.  An acquaintance introduces the young person to heroin after drinks and other drugs have been served.  Perhaps the experienced user demonstrates the way in which heroin is injected intravenously.  The new user becomes compelled to chase the euphoric “rush” for which he has just been introduced.  Heroin works by boosting feelings of happiness and well-being.  By artificially boosting dopamine levels, the brain loses the ability to create dopamine receptors on its own.  As a result, heroin is the only way users can feel happy.  The cycle of addiction has begun.

There are many different heroin addiction signs you may watch out for. 

Psychological and emotional signs and symptoms include:

·         A preoccupation with seeking, using and paying for heroin

·         A loss of interest in activities that were once of paramount importance to the individual

·         Withdrawal from social activities and family gatherings

·         Marked mood swings

·         Lashing out in violent or angry ways

·         Insomnia or excessive sleeping

 Physical warning signs indicative of a heroin addiction include:

·         Withdrawal symptoms, apparent during periods of heroin drug deficiency

·         An increased tolerance to heroin, requiring increasingly high doses in order to feel the same effects

·         Impaired motor coordination

·         “Nodding out” or symptoms of narcolepsy

·         Weight loss

·         Reduction in muscle tone and athletic drive

·         Dilated pupils

·         Pale, gaunt skin coloring

·         Decreased appetite

Theta Chi’s Sacred Purpose movement is an attitude and a promise.It is a promise to be there when our brothers need it most.  As brothers, we have a responsibility to say something and to do something if we believe a brother is struggling with addiction.  The cost of not saying or doing something could be the death of a dear friend. 

To learn more, click here or visit your campus counseling center.

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