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I’m the kind of person who eats at 11:58 pm on Holy Thursday before the fast starts on Good Friday.
I’m the kind of person who leaves at 8:52 to go somewhere that I know is a textbook eight minute drive even though I know that inevitably I will hit every one of the six red lights.
I’m the person who will buy something for $9.89, but refuse to fork over $10 because it just seems like too much.
I’m also a person who thought she could be a partier on Saturday and a Sunday morning, front pew, singing loudly, donuts in the back afterwards girl.
In high school, and I was so proud of the fact that I had never been drunk. Instead of being ashamed when I talked to my peers, most of whom got drunk regularly, I proudly admitted it with an annoyingly superior attitude. I saw it as a personal victory—a testament to my own strength. I went off to college not really thinking about drinking, and assuming that I was God’s gift to my unsuspecting fellow classmates.
It turns out that after being with the same people in high school for four years, starting over and making new friends at college is scary and overwhelming. Not only that, but there is whole new level of coolness, and a whole new set of freedoms just waiting to be tested.
A Masked Double Life
I was scared, intimidated, and insecure. In my insecurity, I looked for the people who seemed to navigate through this strange college life with ease. That is how I found the partiers. For the first time in my life, I began to question everything I thought I knew about drinking and the party scene.
I was blessed to make some really amazing friends in my dorm and in class, but I also made a group of friends that I kept on the fringes of my life. Friends that I did not mention to my other friends. Friends that I drank with.
It’s funny how fast it happened, and it’s even funnier how I was convinced that I wasn’t leading a double life, although I clearly was. I would drink with my party friends on Friday night, and then wake up to meet one of my “good friends” for Mass, breakfast, and studying. I would always drink just to the point where I would start to feel guilty, and then I would stop. I would visualize the Confession line in my brain, and weigh each choice against whether or not it would land me in that line. If I saw myself approaching the point that I would need to go to Confession, I would stop drinking, because to me that meant that I was alright.
I became an expert at wearing every different kind of mask. I could have a meaningful conversation about living a virtuous life and turn around and skip class and verbally bash a professor with the guy who didn’t really care to be at college. I would join in recounting the drinking adventures of last night in the cafeteria, after making sure none of my “good” friends were around, of course. I got so good at pretending I should have declared it as my second major.
The Lie of a Good Time
It’s funny how the beer commercials, and the music videos, and even the girls giggling and stumbling around the dirty bathroom in the bar, putting on the sixth layer of mascara don’t tell you that the beer gut is a real thing. I had no idea how many calories were in beer, or how much those little, pink cocktails can blow up a waistline.
And don’t even get me started on whose bright idea it was to get Taco Bell at 4am. It wasn’t long before I was picking up other bad habits to compensate for the heath cost of going out. I would wake up the next morning after going out, drink 1-2 pots of coffee, pump vitamins, workout, eat some vegetables to hold myself over, and drink more coffee to ensure that I was awake enough for going out.
At this point in my life, I talked to God on the weekdays. I averted my eyes from the kind-eyed Jesus hanging on the cross above the altar in Mass. In the depths of my being, somewhere under the layers of the aftereffects of the alcohol and Taco Bell, I knew what I was doing was not okay. I knew that I was disappointing Him, so I tried to “do God a favor” and stand on the outskirts of His love. I would tell Him how profusely sorry I was, but run from His forgiving arms. I wasn’t strong enough to quit pretending and I wasn’t ready to ask for His help.
So it continued. I went to parties, drank, and flirted with drunk guys, pretending the affection meant something even though they wouldn’t remember it. I was still the cute little mom of the group, and it was always my friends’ mission to get me as drunk as possible.
I remember one such night when I agreed to play some drinking game that involved me chugging beer and then spinning around in the center of a large group of people. I remember beer spilling down my front, as I sputtered and coughed, trying to get the room to stop spinning. I remember the loud, drunken cheering, and the laughing faces, and trying to hold onto something, anything, to reground me. In that moment, I remember looking at those faces and thinking “How is this funny?”
And that’s when I never took a drink ever again.
Not really, but I did figure a few things out that night. I figured out that leading a double life is exhausting. I figured out that in my search for acceptance by everyone, I had no idea which of my many characters I actually was.
Going Home Again
I stopped visualizing the Confession line, and how far I was from it, and actually went to Confession. I didn’t know what to say, but I just knew that I needed to go home to the Father’s arms. You know the parable of the prodigal son? The son leaves his father and lives in every kind of filth (moral filth, yes, but there were also pigs. Eww), and he eventually realizes that he was wrong and returns to the Father. I too, needed to come home, and I knew I could only do it with God.
Little by little, I stopped being part of the drinking crowd. I no longer pretended that I was that girl whose life ambition is to beat all the guys at beer pong (seriously, it’s plastic cups, not the NBA, get over it). I finally acknowledged the fact that getting five hours of sleep and waking up hungover is horrible, and completely within my control to end. I started raising my eyes to the crucifix, and let myself be seen by my God who only wanted me to come back to Him.
If I could do it over, I would tell myself, that girl who went off to college and just desperately wanted to have it all … that you can’t. You can’t have both. In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says,
I would tell myself that drinking is not the pinnacle of all fun to be had in college. I would tell myself that “Shots shots shots shots shots shot” makes for a fun song but a terrible idea. I would tell myself that you have to take out another loan to pay off the bill if you “get drunk on the mini bar” and it causes the saaaaame hangover as a big bar. And I would tell myself that it doesn’t work to “blame it on the a-a-al-co-holllll”—I am morally responsible for my actions.But above all I would tell myself that I was made for more.
Take a minute and let this sink in:
Drinking didn’t make me happy. Drinking didn’t leave me feeling fulfilled. Drinking didn’t make me look back on my weekend and think “I am such a smart person who makes such good choices.” Don’t let alcohol or the desire to be accepted steal you away from the spectacular purpose for which you were created. Have life in Christ and you will have life abundantly.
Editor’s Note: To protect her good name, the author of this post has chosen to remain anonymous.