My twentieth birthday party was a doozy; I barely remember a thing from that night. I was attending school at a small liberal arts college in my hometown, and I had a cheerleading scholarship. I was trying to juggle a rigorous pre-medical course load, college cheerleading, and a part-time job. A few of the girls on my squad were helping to throw me a “party” on the edge of campus; the host was a guy I had kinda started seeing. After a night of drinking, I woke up in a room that I had never seen before, wearing someone else’s clothes, with the urge to vomit, and feeling like I was rolling in a hamster wheel that I couldn’t get out of.
I know I had been having a rough few days leading up the party. I was trying to balance my schedule as best I could. I worked at the hospital, a doctor’s office, had cheerleading practice, games, and early morning science labs at school. I wanted it all; I needed the cheerleading scholarship to help pay my tuition and I needed my job to have spending money. It didn’t leave much time for a social life, something that I desperately wanted. I certainly didn’t have time to party much, and I felt like I needed a break. No one talked to me about the dangers of binge drinking, and why would they? I had made the President’s List and Dean’s List the two semesters prior. We lived in a “dry” county, so alcohol access was limited.
I thought the party would help me relax… I don’t remember much from that night, maybe the first hour or so. I didn’t drink often, so it didn’t take much for me to become intoxicated. I remember everyone cheering me on as I took a drink after drink playing beer pong. I briefly remembered dancing around the living room floor with another cheerleader. My next memory was waking up, and it is not a very pleasant memory.
The Grateful Dead poster hanging on the wall didn’t look even vaguely familiar, and I was too frightened to roll over. I knew someone was laying next me, and I was unsure of who it was. I was pretty sure I knew whose room I was in, but I didn’t know why. The clothes I was wearing belonged to a man much larger me. I didn’t remember what happened the night before, or how I found myself in that bed.
I breathed a sigh of relief as I noticed a familiar face peeking from under the covers on my way to the bathroom. It turned out to be my childhood best friend who was laying in the bed next to me. She had come to the party later in the evening, and had decided to keep an eye on me. She borrowed clothes from the guy who I was seeing, and made sure I found my way into a safe bed.
The story doesn’t end there. After hours of vomiting and nearly passing out in the shower, I ended up at the hospital getting IV fluids and phenergan. I was severely dehydrated from amount of alcohol I had consumed, and I likely suffered alcohol poisoning. My family was told I had a “stomach bug.”
Why am I talking about this now? If you watch the show Switched at Birth, the storyline will sound vaguely familiar, but with a very different outcome. One of the lead characters, Bay, recently found herself in a similar situation. She spent a night binge drinking after a stressful few weeks, and found herself sleeping in the bed of an ex boyfriend. Bay was too intoxicated to say “no,” but she wasn’t sober enough to say “yes” either; Bay had nonconsensual sex with her ex, who was also extremely intoxicated.
I realized that could have easily been me. I could have had nonconsensual sex without my knowledge, or something much worse.
There are so many consequences of binge drinking:
- Nonconsensual sex
- Unplanned pregnancy
- Death from alcohol poisoning
- Death from aspiration (if you vomit in your sleep there is a serious risk)
The story line on Switched at Birth has progressed. Their college learned about the incident and after an investigation, the young man was expelled from school. He was drunk, and she was drunk; Who is to truly to blame? Two lives were essentially ruined because of one night of binge drinking.
I look back on that night, and I’m grateful I had a good friend and in my great grandmother’s words “the good Lord” watching over me. I certainly never drank like that again, and I haven’t spoken about it much since. I have a few pieces of advice for my readers.
If you’re a young woman, you should realize the real dangers of binge drinking. If you plan on consuming alcohol you should do so safely and always have a sober buddy.
If you’re a parent, you should remember to talk to your sons and daughters about real dangers of drinking. It needs to be more than a conversation about why they shouldn’t drink, but instead a conversation about what happens if they do.
The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility is a great resource when talking to your children.
I hope you have the talk.