The Problem With The Way Many Teens Look at College

From my own personal experience, I went through high school “practicing” for the college experience I saw in movies like Animal House, Old School, and the like. I honestly thought I needed to be “good” at drinking in order to keep up with the festivities I saw in these movies, and if I kept up then I’d have a ton of friends and all the girls I could ever desire; this didn’t exactly pan out the way I imagined it would. Smoking pot before class, taking Adderall to study, and drinking every day after class was routine for the first year; I believed the lies I told myself – that I paid more attention, focused, and relaxed more by using these drugs. The sad part was that was the goal – that I wanted to get my stuff done enough so I could party and relax. This pursuit of the party, led me off the path of a higher education and onto the path of hard drug use, which inevitably led to my expulsion and my bottom. Over time, class become more and more of a chore, and drugs became more and more of a priority; it didn’t happen over-night in my experience, it happened over the course of a few years. In these years I progressed from Adderall to meth, from pot to heroin, and from alcohol to hallucinogens; the party was what I was pursuing, so I might as well pursue it full force I thought. The thing is, that I believed the lies I told myself, smoking meth made me get work done faster, shooting up afterwards seemed like a reasonable reward, and hallucinating on the weekend was the best party available. Its odd to look back on my own thinking from that time and think, “how crazy? I can’t believe that I thought that was ok.” The craziest part may have been that I thought I was choosing to do the things I was doing, and it wasn’t until I got sober that I realized I had no control at all.

Now, being a senior in college with over 2 years of sobriety, I see that the drugs and alcohol only made my experience worse. Pursuing an actual education, which is what I should have been doing all along, is much more fulfilling and with all the newfound “free time” I don’t waste on chasing a high, I’m able to balance a full time position and a full course load as a private university. Being removed from it, but still around the “scene of the crime”, I see and have seen and experienced first-hand the impact drugs have on a college campus, and how they held myself, and the others around me in the same rut, back from an education that may positively effect the amount of success we will see in our lives.

Among the problems I’ve experienced, alcohol and drug abuse accounts for a large portion of deaths for ages 15-24, it accounts for almost half of college drop outs and academic failure, and it accounts for 95% of violence around college campuses. Furthermore, in my personal opinion I believe it holds students back from an education that would allow them to pursue the path of their dreams and remain competitive in the global work force.

There’s a plague of belief surrounding the use of substances like Adderall, by thinking that it makes you better than you would be without it. Psychologists use a term “cognitive dissonance”, which means that you recall information better under similar circumstances and conditions; therefore, using drugs like Adderall to study means that you’d have to continue to take them to test, and even continue to take them to recall the information full force if you plan to use it later. I personally diagnosed ADD & ADHD and thought prescription drugs like Adderall would be the quick fix to my inability to focus; the fact is, Adderall didn’t actually help at all, and meditating consistently over a the course of the past 2 years has actually given me the tools to sustain focus and flow for an extended period of time naturally and consistently. Activities like yoga and healthy eating habits has made this skill even better, and I don’t think of myself as someone who struggles with the ability to focus anymore which further allows me to curb my enthusiasm for substances like Adderall for a quick fix for this (now non-existent) issue.

The notion that alcohol and drugs helped me make friends is false. I made friends for the night or had people to party with, sure, but these relationships haven’t and didn’t sustain for any extended period of time. These relationships even got progressively darker and progressively more toxic as time went on; I stopped hanging around the people I cared about and only hung out with the people that would co-sign the negative things I was doing. The relationships became centered around the drugs I was doing or even the amount I drank, and I don’t think its much of a coincidence to have found out that most of the people I drank multiple nights a week with in high school have ended up in the program of AA; that’s who we hang out with, the people who have the same tendencies as we do. This is why this foundation for relationship building and making ultimately holds students back, it takes us away from networking with and making relationships with the right people that could ultimately better our future. Now, being a senior applying for grad school and needing letters of recommendation, I realized that I didn’t make the relationships I needed to make with my professors the first 4 years of college and have been scrambling to do that with only a few months left to go. I didn’t allow myself to show up for my life in a way that attracted successful people to me, and at the end of the day I wasn’t attracted to them either while I was drinking.

In short, the idea that college and substance abuse go hand in hand is a misconception that ultimately holds back the person who believes it to be true. College shouldn’t be about just simply passing your classes and partying as often as possible, because at the end of the day it’s a stepping-stone for many to enter the work force. The education system has it’s flaws, and there is in fact a shortage of students who get jobs directly after college, but maybe this isn’t as directly correlated as many may think. Perhaps, the reason students don’t get jobs in the field of their study directly after graduation is that they dedicated their time in college towards things that are unproductive, like partying and smoking weed. Unfortunately, there’s not enough evidence to support this hypothesis, but one of the many advantages of being at a good university are networking possibilities.

I didn’t network when I was getting high and partying in college; I finished class, then went home to smoke and/or drink. It’s not like there aren’t job fairs and community activities on campuses, I know there are plenty on mine, I just chose to abstain from them because the party seemed more important. I thought the uppers work help me get my homework done faster, but the goal wasn’t to sustain or know the information, it was just to pass so I could go home and do my thing with my friends. I think the students who partake in the negative activities I did my first time around are partly to blame, and whether or not we’ve been conditioned to behave this way, ultimately the responsibility falls on the students to rise above the things that may suppress their chances of success.

The things I believed are false; pot, alcohol, Adderall and other uppers did not improve the quality of my education, nor do I believe that they improve the quality of anyone else’s. I can’t put “that party I had freshman year” or “that crazy thing we did sophomore summer” on a resume, and I can’t brag about my ability to cut corners or the habit of using uppers to stay up all night to cram, in a job interview. To think smoking pot was a way to bond with my peers is a notion that I told myself in order to cosign my own defects, and to think that I needed alcohol and a one night stand to have a “college experience” is a notion that led me down a very slippery slope, inevitably to my own demise.

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