Tips with Trish: How to measure a good time
By Tricia Borelli
I had a student in my office recently who told me that she went out for her birthday and had a “pretty good time.” When I asked how she evaluates or measures a good time, she responded with “No one got lost. No one got sick. And no one ended the night crying.” It got me thinking. Isn’t it interesting (or sad, rather) that we measure a good night or define a good time by the lack of something bad happening? It seems kind of backward to me.
After much thought and lots of conversations with students, I have come to an unfortunate conclusion. Some students are just drinking too much. While I don’t condone underage drinking, I know it happens. I may even have some personal experience with it. This “Tips with Trish” is not going to lecture you about it not happening. What I do want to address is how and why it happens. Then I will give you my two cents about preventing the above mentioned events. I may even encourage some ways to redefine a “good time.”
While some drinking has to do with trying new things and having fun, it sometimes has to do with dealing with fears and insecurities or just managing the discomfort of interacting with others. Alcohol has been said to bring anxiety down so that it is easier to socialize. Some people claim to need it to loosen up or “de-stress.” Others have been watching their peers and adults in their life do it for years and just want to join in thinking they are entitled to their turn.
While that was my quick take on why it happens, now let’s address the three above indicators that mark a good time.
- One way to prevent someone from getting lost is to STAY WITH YOUR PACK! Talk to your friends ahead of time about staying together, having a meeting place, or checking in before changing the plan. Go out with people you trust and look out for each other. It’s simple as that.
And along the lines of lost things, let’s briefly take a look at lost items while drinking an excess amount. I can’t tell you the number of times I hear students running up a tab when drinking too much and leaving their card at a bar never to see it again. Consider leaving your debit card at home. Take money out of the ATM before going out and keep spending to a limit. Make the decision about how much money to bring and how much to drink before you go out. Then stick to it!
As for not getting sick, keep in mind these things as healthy strategies for those who choose to drink:
- Drink slowly.
- Keep track of how many drinks you have.
- Space drinks out over time i.e. one every hour or two.
- Go to a party late or consider leaving early.
- Avoid mixing energy/caffeinated beverages with alcohol.
- Identify alternative activities to engage in besides solely partying.
- Again, leave your debit card at home.
- Avoid pre-partying or pre-gaming.
- If you are committed to drinking less, talk to a friend about your plan to change your drinking behavior and get their support so when you are out, they have your back.
Young adults have brains that are not fully developed yet. This makes it difficult to assess risks, plan ahead and see consequences clearly. Giving some thought to these things before going out is a great idea. Also, keep in mind that alcohol is a depressant. It slows down the brain and affects the body’s responses. You may take more risks and drink more than your body can keep up with and thus get sick when you thought you felt fine throughout the evening.
- Regarding how to end the night without crying, here are my thoughts. High risk drinking can be described as four drinks on occasion for women and five drinks on occasion for men, (SAS-C, 2018). Major effects from high risk drinking include, but are not limited to, possible brain damage or death, high probability of accidents, and criminal behavior. And just a reminder, criminal behavior includes being the perpetrator of sexual assault because remember, one cannot consent to sex when intoxicated.
Less severe but serious effects of drinking too much and ending up crying can include taking risks even when you “know better.” Some common ones I’ve seen in my office include being unfaithful to a significant other, fighting with a roommate, or getting in a physical altercation with someone over something stupid. See me if you want a longer list. Even though young adults are past puberty, you may still be going through hormonal changes which increases the capacity for strong emotions and impulsive behavior. These things can lead to decisions that have big consequences when you add drinking to the mix.
Bottom line, there are ways to have a good time without the above risks. Drink less. Be responsible. Be creative about ways to have fun so that you actually remember the fun. Go out with the plan to have a good time with the goal of being with friends and connecting with others. Hopefully evaluating a good evening will be dependent upon engaging with others in a positive way that you can recall the next day.