Imagine walking into a room full of college students and asking for a show of hands from those who don’t drink or smoke. Chances are you won’t see a lot of them in the air. Certain practices go hand in hand with university – and smoking and drinking seem to be in the top three. Many of my closest friends have been doing one or both since high school, or have picked up the habit in recent years, which didn’t really make a difference to me. So, the inspiration for this didn’t rise out of contempt for smokers or drinkers, but out of an incident over the summer when I was met with either bemused stares or cynical amusement when a friend and I turned down alcohol. He’s always been a teetotaler and is used to this, but for me, it was a wholly new experience. Guys, the judgment thing works both ways, so if we’re not calling you out for drinking through the night, I don’t understand why you have to raise your eyebrows at someone who doesn’t.
I made the personal choice to never smoke and quit drinking because of health concerns. I try my hardest to eat right (though I don’t always succeed.. Who can resist chocolates?), but when it comes to a lot of people around me, you’d think I’ve committed a crime! I cannot emphasize this enough – it is no one’s business what goes into your body but yours.
Unless you are actively harming yourself, no one has a say in what you eat, drink or otherwise do to your body. The ironic part here is that in high school and college, there’s peer pressure exerted to try ‘just one drink’ or ‘just one smoke’ wherein your decision to respect your body is what’s seen as strange or even wrong. Even if you used to drink or smoke and you chose to quit, people (including your own friends) persuade you to go in the opposite direction. For me, this is especially hard because I just quit drinking a couple of months ago, and being offered alcohol literally every single weekend has tested my willpower to its absolute limit.
I’ve seen friends drink their ‘sorrows away’ and ride ‘their highs’ – but research shows that the incidence of depressive episodes in heavy drinkers is statistically higher. While most risks are associated with chronic and heavy drinking, there is also evidence to suggest that “drinking a lot on a single occasion slows your body’s ability to ward off infections – even up to 24 hours after getting drunk.“
We all get it: College is the time to try new experiences. It’s time to break out of the mold and achieve your independence; however, those experiences need not be limited to a cigarette or bottle of vodka. Some of us are built differently or have different preferences, and can enjoy a concert, a road trip or a night out just as much without the influence of alcohol. As long as no one’s preaching to you about how you need to quit, live and let live. Even if you don’t mean to be irritating, the attempts at persuasion may begin to get annoying after a while. Unless you want to be the cause of a lost temper or an annoyed friend, respect their position, just as they respect yours. The problem is not in your shot glass, it’s in the fact that you keep attempting to tell your friend to do something that they’d rather not indulge in.
I’m not expecting a huge shift in anyone’s attitude or thought processes, but there’s really something to be said for the concept of ‘live and let live.’ If we choose to follow that, we have less hassle, less drama, less cancer and liver disease (hopefully), and definitely less judgment. So here’s your parting thought for the day – don’t give in to the pressure if you don’t want to, and definitely don’t exert that pressure because.. life’s easier that way [for all of us].