College. We’re adults now. We’ve heard a thing or two about the birds and the bees. It’s a time when many people begin to have sexual experiences. Whether or not it’s your first time, sex should be an enjoyable and consensual experience.
But then there’s drunk sex. In college you learn you might like alcohol; you might like to have sex. So is it a good idea to put the two together? The truth is, a lot of people are having drunk sex. It happens. People get drunk, have sex, and they might even think it’s consensual.
You’re at a bar and having a few drinks when you notice someone. They’re having a drink too. You two hit it off right away and your flirt game is better than ever. What are the odds? One thing leads to another and you end up back at their place.
Now it’s morning.
Do you remember asking for consent, or did you wake up and not even think about it?
Alcohol affects everyone differently. There is no way for you to tell if another person may be too intoxicated to give consent. They may wake up in the morning and realize that they were taken advantage of while under the influence, regardless of what you thought in the moment. Again, if alcohol is involved, there is NO WAY for you to tell if a person is capable of giving consent.
The news headlines blare: “Fraternity Guy Takes Advantage of Drunk College Girl.”
Maybe it seems unlikely to you that this can happen. You’re a “good guy” who doesn’t want to take advantage of anyone. The reality is, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 1 in 5 college aged women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college.
The best way to avoid sexually assaulting someone is to obtain consent. Each state legally defines consent in its own way. While this may seem confusing, RAIIN.org explains the three main components each state uses to define consent: freely given consent, affirmative consent, and capacity to consent. Our focus today is a person’s capacity to give consent. In many states, if a person has consumed any alcohol whatsoever, they legally DO NOT have the capacity to give consent.
You may ask: “So even if they said yes, verbally, enthusiastically, and we were both drunk, this can be considered rape? So every time I had drunk sex, I risked committing a sexual assault?”
Women are often taught ways to avoid being raped: Stay with friends, pour your own drinks, carry pepper spray, etc., but as a man, a fraternity man, what should we be taught? A good first step is opening the discussion on what consent is, and how and when to obtain it. Understand the fact that consent isn’t just a onetime question, but a continuous conversation. Realize that any amount of alcohol negates consent. Educate your members on effective bystander intervention and the role brothers can take to prevent sexual assault throughout the entire community. It is our Sacred Purpose to prevent sexual assaults, because even one is too many.
When you ask for consent, you respect the answer. Period.
If you’re having trouble understanding consent, here’s a helpful video:
PJ Ricketson, Field Executive
Addiction doesn’t always start in a back alley. Addiction often starts in the medicine cabinet of your own home. Addiction is an indiscriminate, chronic disease that can dismantle whole communities given the chance. You can come from a suburban bubble, rural town, culturally diverse neighborhood, single parent household, all the privilege in the world, or none; addiction knows no bounds.
This topic has been on my mind lately after realizing drug overdoses now take more lives every year than traffic accidents. I have been struggling with how to write a compelling post on a topic I have no direct experience with. I do not personally suffer from drug addiction and to be completely honest, I couldn’t recall anyone in my immediate circle who is. That’s the weird thing about addiction though, it hides in plain sight. Your parents, siblings, neighbors, fraternity brothers, classmates, colleagues, and friends could all be struggling to live with their addiction and you would never know it by looking at them. This made the gears in my brain begin to rotate.
I’ve heard it said before that college is a dangerous place. Dangerous because it is the place you go where your beliefs are tested, your opinions are scrutinized, and any preconceived notion about how other people live is often shattered. You meet people from higher and lower socio-economic standing, different races, different religions and, different expectations of what college is supposed to be.
I met a student named Bob once. I was in a position to help Bob get into college. He wasn’t a traditional aged prospective student, but somehow Bob’s application ended up on my desk. When we sat down to talk face to face I could tell there was something he was struggling with but from a professional standpoint, I was not the person he needed to speak with. Then the topic of housing came up. Bob opened up, explaining he was recently released from a substance abuse recovery center and was unsure of the best housing option for him.
People often ask what motivates me and my answer is consistent; I want to feel like I’m helpful.
In this moment, I knew Bob needed my help. He didn’t need my help to combat his addictions (I am severely underqualified to help in that regard) but what I could do was be empathetic and point him in the right direction. At this point in his recovery he was ready to tackle college again. I never asked Bob about his past or his recovery but I knew what was ahead of him. An often precarious place, college can harbor temptations and resources an addict would need to relapse. College is an easy place to experience a setback. College is a dangerous place.
After a few meetings with Bob over the course of a summer, we worked together to get his paperwork in line so he could begin course work in the fall. Once he was enrolled, our paths did not cross again for a number of years. My purpose in Bob’s life was served and I was able to yield whatever power I had to get him started in the right direction. Knowing my own college experience and knowing the landscape of universities today, I would often think about what he was up to. Was he still abstaining from whatever he was recovering from? Did he give in? Did he find a group? Is he even enrolled? All of the thoughts would come in random bursts, but as we all know, life comes at you pretty fast. In the interim from our last encounter Bob was not part of my thought process any longer. Other students with other challenges came through my door and I did my job to help them navigate their way to begin a college career. It wasn’t until an all staff meeting, years later, did Bob reappear in my life.
Bob’s name was on the agenda in the spot we normally reserve for campus professionals. They would come to tell us about new initiatives their department had coming up or to ask for our assistance during an all campus event. When I walked into the meeting, Bob was in the front of the room in a suit and tie (a far cry from his camo shorts, backwards hat and flip flops I was accustomed to seeing him in). Bob was ready and waiting to present on a Collegiate Recovery Program he and a few other students in recovery were launching on our campus.
He lived his life, as I then found out, actively abusing mind altering substances for 10 years before he sought treatment. I sat and listed to an impassioned man discuss the systemic biases the general public and some universities hold in regards to recovering students. He outlined their plan to help students in recovery feel wanted on a large campus and engage them in ways that would not interfere with their long-term recovery. Their group had the backing from campus administration and were in the talks of acquiring a wing of a residence hall specifically for recovering students. His purpose for coming to our meeting was to get the word out. He knew my department was considered the front porch to the university. Having this knowledge in our back pockets could lead other students to them and could possibly move students closer to recovery.
As he spoke I wondered if he remembered who I was. There had to have been at least twenty more impactful people in his life since we had met. I could point out a few when he was discussing who he had partnered with on campus. After taking questions he addressed the group but looked in my direction and said “thank you”. As Bob was walked out he headed in my direction and I stood up, really unsure of what I was going to say but before the words came out of my mouth, his intentions were clear:
“I remember you. I wouldn’t be here if you didn’t help. Thank you for believing in me.”
I know my small role in his life is not what kept him in long-term recovery but his acknowledgement is what keeps me grounded in the work I do. The small things I did to help a student get into college had become one of the turning points in his life. I was part of his long-term recovery. The magnitude of his appreciation was strongly felt by me and in that moment I knew what I did mattered. What we do as educators, administrators, friends, colleagues, brothers, and human beings matter.
Bob graduated last weekend with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. He did this while simultaneously winning national awards for his advocacy, being selected as one of the top 40 student leaders on his campus, becoming a certified Peer Recovery Specialist, and joining a fraternity.
This fall, Bob is on his way to an Ivy League school to work on a Master’s Degree in Social Work to continue in his pursuit to be an advocate for those like him, in long-term recovery.
Collegiate Recovery Programs are all across North America with many being on our host campuses. The mission of CRP is to meet the needs of this growing population of recovering young adults as they pursue their educations. Several colleges and universities have also developed collegiate recovery communities to help young adults in recovery maintain their abstinence while in school. The primary goal of these communities is to provide a safe haven for young adult students who are struggling to maintain their hard-won abstinence while surrounded by resources to enable their addictions.
For a full list of universities click here.
Need help with substance abuse? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.
“It was 4 years ago this month I was sexually assaulted.”
I finally said that out loud for the first time the other day and it felt like the floor beneath me had fallen out. Typing it was almost impossible, because now that I am writing it down, it makes it real, it makes that secret of my life public.
When I first thought about writing this piece I reflected on the fact that it was this month, April, 4 years prior that I encountered a person that would change my life. How unfortunate that this incident coincided with Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
For as long as I can remember I have always struggled with mental health issues. This grew out of a place where I knew I was different; Growing up gay in Texas was not exactly a walk in the park, and everyone around me seemed to know before I did. I lived in a “glass closet.” I was constantly trying to fit into a masculine mold that just was not authentic to who I was, often at odds with the rural community where I grew up. When I went to college I wanted to put my best foot forward, so I toned down my flamboyancy, adopted a new wardrobe and image, and decided to be what I thought everyone else wanted me to be. I joined Theta Chi after the recommendation of some friends, and found a group of men that quickly saw through this front and supported me as best as they could. My first year in college was everything I needed, and helped tremendously with my self-image. My second year was probably the worst, as I fell into a depressing spiral that almost drove me to end my own life. Thankfully a number of brothers and administrators intervened and I finally got the help I needed.
I tell you all of this because I think the context of who I am, my identities, and the way I navigated my own sexual assault matter. These pieces all impact one another.
Just a few weeks prior to the incident I had just turned 21 years old. I was in my third year of undergrad and thought I was invincible. Likely harboring a few alcoholic tendencies, I was going out every chance I got. Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, sometimes even on Sunday nights. It never negatively affected my grades, my involvement in co-curricular activities, or my friendships however, I was also drinking to nurse old wounds. After recently going through a break up with my first boyfriend, I was not in an emotional space that was healthy, and I was not willing or able to recognize it.
It was a Saturday night; I was out with my usual crowd by 9:30 p.m. (I had to take advantage of the cheap drink deals at the local college dive bar, 50 cents well drinks), and we found ourselves playing darts against a group of guys that we knew from intramural sports. Drink after drink, shot after shot, I likely had 10-15 drinks within a 3-hour period. I can remember every detail, the clothes I was wearing, the jeans, my shoes, even the way my hair was parted that night, but the last memory I have is being handed a drink by my eventual rapist.
From that point forward it is all a blur. A few images pop up every now and again of the room I was in, the apartment, things that were said, and the actual event itself. I remember saying, “No.” I remember crying. I can’t remember the whole event, just the memories of things that haunt me at the most inconvenient times (usually during a graphic scene in a movie, in the middle of a student staff training, or when I am in a particularly dark club). I woke up the next morning in my own apartment, sitting in the shower with all of my clothes still on. I did not move the rest of the day from my bed.
Feeling dirty, guilty, and helpless, I decided not to tell anyone for a while. The person who raped me was well-known on campus and I didn’t think anything would come of me reporting the information. I also felt like I had taken up a considerable amount of time from the student affairs administrators and the Greek life staff at the time, and I didn’t want to be a burden to them. Looking back, I regret not reporting the incident and wonder how things might have turned out had I decided to do so.
Additionally, I didn’t think anyone would believe me. I had internalized this message that gay men were inherently promiscuous, so this was likely my own fault. I had slept with this particular individual before and wondered whether or not I was asking for it.
“Did I consent? This is probably my fault; I was asking for it.
I shouldn’t have been so drunk and should have listened to my friends.
Some of my friends don’t believe me, why would anyone else?
What is my mom going to think? What about my dad?*
No one can know, I have things to do and don’t have time to be a victim.
It has been too long since then, I can’t report it now.”
*It should be noted that I did tell my parents this past week prior to this post becoming public, that is how long it took me to build up the courage to tell them this part of myself.
All of these thoughts ran through my head constantly (and sometimes still do). After a few months, I started to tell a few people, usually after getting drunk again and finally letting my guard down. However, it wasn’t until my senior year at my chapter’s senior night that I finally told my brothers. I was about to embark on the next journey in my life and it felt fitting to tell the group of men with whom I could be honest. I was met with compassionate reactions and hugs afterward; it was the perfect send off.
A few months later I went to graduate school in Vermont to become a higher education professional, and hopefully support students like myself that struggle with the same things. And while I thought I had finally dealt with all of my demons, we should know by now that it was just an illusion. Graduate school was difficult, and in the midst of grieving several deaths, I found it hard to survive.
It was not until my third semester in grad school that I decided to start seeing a counselor again. Here I was, an administrator referring students constantly to counseling services, constantly talking about how students should confront the deepest pieces of themselves, yet I was failing to take my own advice. If it wasn’t for my supervisor, friends in my cohort pushing me to receive counseling, and my faith in God, I’m not sure I would have finished my program. For me, going to church every Sunday, going through the sacraments, and finding peace in silence was instrumental in my recovery.
In retrospect, I think all of this means that we are never truly done dealing with our “crap.” It’s cyclical, and crops up every now and again. Even this past week as I was speaking with a student, I had to take a moment to process a traumatic piece of my past that was getting in the way of me being present. While I am in a better place of coping now, I know that I have a long road ahead of me.
But here are some things that I have learned thus far:
1. It was not my fault. No matter the circumstances, what I experienced was real, and it was not my fault.
2. It happens to men, and as a man it is my responsibility to end gender-based violence in our culture.
3. Tell somebody, when you’re ready, but please report it. Don’t let this person get away with it.
4. Take care of yourself, in whatever way is meaningful for you. If this is religion, meditation, running,
working out, Netflix-binge, whatever it is… THAT’S GREAT. Don’t let alcohol or drugs become your coping mechanism.
This is my story. It’s messy and horrible, but it is a part of my journey. It is also why I do the work that I do. If you ever need a helping hand, or a brother to talk to, I’m here.
Sean Smallwood (Delta Phi/North Texas 2013)
email@example.com | Twitter: @SeanRSmallwood
Going off to college is like baiting your own fishing hook for the first time; It’s a rite of passage. You’ve been told by your father, his father, and maybe even his father about what to expect when you take those nervous first steps onto campus. They describe this utopia of free thought, open minds, flowing fountains of knowledge, etcetera, etcetera. All of these things sounded wonderful but one thing they warned me of was the dreaded Freshmen Fifteen.
Before I made this journey a reality I spent my first year out of high school working and saving money so I could have the ideal freshman year. No work, just school and fun. During this year I gave up soda, changed my diet, began to exercise more strategically and ended up losing 40lbs. I was ready to make a name for myself on campus. I knew fraternities were a thing but I hadn’t give it much thought until I found myself at a baseball game with a bunch of guys from Theta Chi Fraternity.
“I hope you’re ready for the best year of your life” felt like it was on repeat during the beginning of the recruitment process; almost like they practiced it over and over in the mirror. Even up to initiation, these words flowed from their mouths and into our ears and we were ready. Somewhere during the pledge process some of the older active members took me under their wing and began to show me the ropes. How to act during a social, what to do when you ask a girl to formal, how to properly handle a celebratory taunt when you score the winning touchdown during the IM all-campus championship and even how to handle the psychological damage of getting dunked on the next month during the IM all-campus championship; these guys knew how to conduct themselves. But something was off. We were being social, athletic, I was going to class but somehow the Freshmen Fifteen was gaining on me. Literally.
Flash Forward a year and I am living in the house and instead of just 15 lbs. I was now 30 lbs. heavier than when I started. My body was beginning to feel the effects of a year of abuse. I abused alcohol, food and apathy for anything that didn’t include drinking and chilling. I was quickly running out of money and the ladies who were giving me the time of day my first semester stopped texting. Something had to change.
When I told folks my plan to take year off drinking I was confronted with blank stares and confused responses. “This is college dude. No way you can last a year” was the refrain from the peanut gallery but I was determined to make this a reality. Brotherhood camp outs were tough, going out to the bars were even harder but something had to give. Some of my closest friends were enablers too. After all, “its college” was a mantra some of them lived by. But still, I knew I needed to make a change.
It wasn’t easy, and it had a sweeping effect on my social life, however, by the second semester of my junior year I had given up fast food too and was starting to see my hard work come to fruition. Eventually, I had the support of my chapter and brothers who wanted to tag along. We worked out at 6 a.m., ran 15 miles per week, and didn’t settle for a crunch wrap supreme after a night out. Yes, if you’ve been to Iota Beta, you know the struggle between healthy eating and late night Taco Bell runs(walks).
I had once again lost 40 lbs. and not only gained the respect of my fraternity brothers, but regained my self-respect. Defeating the Freshman Fifteen is possible and rewarding. Find a habit that gets you active and moving, and don’t be afraid to take a night off. We all go to college for an education but for some of us, the most useful educating comes from outside the classroom. Discovering and developing healthy habits will pay off when you leave school and free time is limited. Setting expectations, allowing flexibility and understanding how healthy living is a viable option for college and beyond is a great way to turn a habit into a lifestyle.
Check out this link for info on how to create a healthy routine.
Jordan Carter, Development Officer
When I went off to college everyone gave me advice.
My closest friends who had been there a year told me to meet as many people as possible my first month, because that is the narrow window in which strangers will actually welcome conversation. They told me the best routes to class, in order to avoid the clipboard people who only wanted to “ask you a couple questions” about something. I heard about the best burrito in town, the spots open till 4am, the strongest coffee on campus, and the best brunch spot.
My relatives all gave the same advice: go to class. Coming from an Italian family, with reunions of a 100 ‘aunts and uncles’ whom I’ve never met and are probably not even related to, I heard this advice a lot. My parents lectured me on the importance of money; something they still do. I read books and browsed the internet; no shred of wisdom would escape me. I got a lot of advice about college, but what was strange was no one ever said anything about rape or sexual assault.
It was just like any other evening in college and I was sober driver for our group of friends. The party we were at was nothing special but nevertheless, we were there. While I was sipping my water and talking with my Fraternity brother about an upcoming brotherhood camping trip we were planning, we noticed a guy doing a very poor job of hitting on a girl. I began to say frivolously that the guy was so bad at flirting that he was putting her to sleep. Before I could finish my sentence I realized that the woman, who could barely stand, with her eyes fluttering open and shut, wasn’t okay. That night, my Fraternity brother and I said something.
We found this woman’s friend and distracted the guy hitting on her so that she could get home safely. He called us a lot of names that are best left unwritten, but it didn’t matter because we knew we did the right thing. Man code doesn’t matter when someone is in danger of being sexually assaulted.
To me this is what Sacred Purpose is about: the safety of our members and the rest of campus. Always asking for consent in our own encounters is vital to ending sexual assault and rape. The fraternity taught me how to be an active bystander by engaging in conversations regarding consent and sexual assault. I was taught to be open and honest with my fellow brothers about the issue and this helped tremendously. Being an active bystander and looking out for the safety of those around you is just one way to insure our campuses are safe. If only one person at every party were to act as an active bystander maybe this culture shift in our own community will happen sooner, rather than later.
If you want resources on bystander intervention, you can click Here and Here
William Maher, Field Executive
Two weeks ago, Seattle hip-hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (M&RL) unleashed their very powerful, political, raw, and unrepentant sophomore album titled “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made.” If hip-hop music isn’t your jam, just humor me for a moment. Allow yourself to see past the music and let the words transcend. Even though I’m not going to unpack the entire album for you, (follow me on Twitter if you want that realness) I do want to pull out some themes, which I believe are central to our Sacred Purpose.
Fact: Drug and alcohol use is pervasive on college campuses. However, research has shown heavy episodic drinking isn’t as prominent in Greek life as the media would like for you to believe.* Obviously, it is still an issue worth understanding and combating, but where do M&RL fit into this conversation? They are ultimately the reason you clicked on the post, right? Macklemore’s experience with alcohol and drug abuse is evident in multiple songs on this new album, but a few resonated with me, as I hope they will for you.
In their song “Kevin,” Macklemore begins the first verse by introducing the agony he feels when it comes to living with addiction and seeing the results. There are lyrics like, “I said peace at 5:30/the next time I saw him was in the hands of the pallbearer/ What if I never dropped him off there? / Blaming myself, in hysterics screaming, it’s not fair” and “He said he was gonna quit tomorrow/We’re all gonna quit tomorrow”. Both transport the listener into a world of drug addiction, then sucker-punch them to dig into their own experiences. It pushes the listener to reflect about the people in their own lives who have said those exact words and started down that path. If the listener is lucky, there is still a tomorrow.
In their song “St. Ides,” lyrics like “I can barely remember last night/Another morning swearing it’s the last time” glide into your thoughts and paint pictures of those nights you’ve had yourself. And when Macklemore recalls his first drink in the line “Used to steal my daddy’s Cabernet/Never thought it would turn into a rattlesnake”, it takes some of us to a place all too familiar. For Macklemore however, it was the beginning of an addiction he will battle for the rest of this life.
Sometimes we let our weekend persona get the best of us, but what we may not realize is how our actions affect our brothers who have addiction issues. When we go out and party Thursday night, but have that Friday class everyone said we would regret, we pry ourselves out of bed. But the brother who cannot stop himself, gets out of bed and pours another drink. When we have an exam in that 8:30 a.m. class everyone said we would regret, but there are guys drinking and playing FIFA in the brotherhood lounge, we hit the books then the bed. But the brother who cannot stop himself pours another drink. Or worse, another brother pours it for him.
But how do you distinguish the signs of addiction in a brother? Most addicts are adept at hiding the parts of themselves even they don’t want to recognize. Some signs of drug and alcohol addiction to look out for include:
• Self-destructive behavior
• Lack of restraint
• General discontent
• Frequently missing class or work
• Lack of energy and motivation
• Drastic changes in relationships with others
• Deceptive behavior
• Mood swings
If we can better educate ourselves to notice the signs of an addict, we may be able to save a brother’s life. Unfortunately for Macklemore, he was unable to reach his friend because he himself is living with an addiction. If Macklemore’s example doesn’t work for you, that’s fine. I encourage you to look for help, strength, and inspiration wherever you can, but it’s a damn good place to start.
Our Sacred Purpose is a reflection of our motto “the Assisting Hand”. Many will lend their hand to pull a brother out of an addiction. The question to ask is if you’ll have the strength to reach out yours for the help you need.
Follow this Link to find resources on how to get help or help others.
Posted on August 13th, 2014 in Alcohol
, Drug Abuse
, Fire and Life Safety
, Helping People
, Mental Health
| No Comments »
Two Theta Chi parents share how Sacred Purpose is making a difference at Gamma Lambda/Denver and the greater University of Denver community.
Phyllis Watwood serves as the Health and Safety Adviser for Gamma Lambda and is the mother of their Vice President of Health and Safety, Matt Watwood. She shares,
“…I did not want my son to join Theta Chi…I did not want him to join a fraternity. I thought that his time on campus would be better spent in other organizations. As so often happens when you look back on your path of life, you see that those choices that you made were the exact correct ones: Being that his dad passed away six months later and that he’s an only child, that brotherhood, that Fraternity, has helped Matt immensely. I’m sure…I’ll never know how much it has helped him.”
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!
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
- 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
College students, like many Americans overall, are sleeping less, and if you are like most students, chances are you are not getting enough sleep. The college years are notoriously sleep-deprived. On average, most college students get about 6 hours of sleep per night. Sleep impacts every aspect of our lives—our health, our performance, our memory, our safety, our relationships, our well-being, our longevity—everything. Indeed, sleep really matters! I am hoping we can change the attitude about sleep so it’s no longer viewed as a low priority or a necessary evil. Instead, I hope the men of Theta Chi will view sleep as foundation to our good health and our Sacred Purpose.
Data from a recent survey shows that 25 percent of students report sleep as being “traumatic or difficult to handle,” and students rank sleep problems second only to stress in factors that negatively impact academic performance. Poor sleep does more than hinder academic success; disruptions in sleep cause accidents, impair decision making, and exacerbate illness. As the esteemed University of Oxford scientist Russel Foster noted in his 2013 Ted Talk, “Sleep, in a single behavior, is the most important thing we do.”
Certainly for some students, undiagnosed sleep disorders are wreaking havoc on their lives, and clinical sleep assessments and treatments would be helpful. However, for the vast majority of students, what is robbing them of sleep is not a disorder, but instead a “perfect storm” of erratic scheduling, late night electronics use, energy drinks, stress, over-scheduling, and procrastination.
It’s well documented that sleep deprived students perform significantly worse than students who regularly get a good night’s sleep. REM sleep is particularly important for consolidating newly learned information, and a large proportion of REM sleep occurs towards the end of the night. So studying most of the night for a test, and then sleeping only a few hours, decreases your ability to remember new information.
Establishing a Sleep Ritual
Individuals regularly getting high quality sleep often have a sleep ritual that allows for 8-9 hours of sleep each night. A sleep ritual is a routine that helps the mind and body wind down at the end of the day in preparation for a good night’s sleep. In evaluating your sleep, does your sleep ritual include the following?
- Maintain a regular bed and wake time schedule including weekends. Sleeping more than 1-2 hours more on the weekend can wreak havoc on your circadian rhythms, so a regular wake schedule is important.
- Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as reading a book or listening to soothing music.
- Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool.
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
- Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime.
- Exercise regularly. It is best to complete your workout at least 2 hours before bedtime, as exercising before you sleep can leave your body too energized to relax.
- Avoid long naps of more than 30 minutes that can throw off your sleep cycle.
- Avoid caffeine (e.g. coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate) 3-4 hours before bedtime. It can keep you awake.
- Avoid nicotine (e.g. cigarettes, tobacco products). Used close to bedtime, it can lead to poor sleep.
- Avoid alcohol close to bedtime. Alcohol can make you feel tired because it is a depressant and has sedative qualities, but drinking alcohol can interrupt sleep and interfere with the quality of your sleep. It can also magnify the effects of sleep deprivation
What can you do with this information?
- Use it as a personal guide for improved overall health and academic performance
- Share it with your chapter brothers at the next chapter meeting
- Invite a local sleep expert to speak to your chapter
- Sponsor an event that highlights the importance of sleep for your Greek community or your entire campus community.
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