Friday, April 25, 2008

The gift of honesty

Encouraging students to seek help

By Jon Pace
Guest Columnist

My name is Jon Pace, and I have a problem with alcohol.

I am a college kid just like you. I eat in the caf and enjoy Chartwells’ version of food. I like to hang with people in the plaza on a warm spring day and talk, toss a ball around, or play Frisbee. I am looking forward to summer like every student and graduation like every senior.

Yet this article is not just about me: it is about everyone. We all have our own issues to deal with, big or small. Maybe your problem is eating too much, or too little. Maybe you struggle with grades. Maybe you have drug or alcohol problems. Maybe you are depressed.

Take my problem of alcohol, though. Who knows someone who is the first person at a party and has to chug their first few beers before everyone else has one? Or someone who has to drink to even talk at parties? Or someone who has to drink to dance with someone, to feel attractive? Well I was every one of those rolled into one. What I needed was an intervention. I hope that this article can help you think about what direction your life is heading, learn about yourself, and make healthy changes.

There are two things that I have learned through my alcohol problem that I would like to share with you in hopes that you can learn from them as well.

First, I have learned that it is okay to have problems. Everyone has them. It is what you do about them that is the important thing. In the past, I used avoidance and drinking to deal with my issues. Drinking made me disconnect from my feelings, which worked for a while. But it stopped working. I deal with issues differently now: I exercise, talk, read, get better sleep, and treat myself better.

I also learned about honesty in all aspects of life, which led me to ask for help, to live healthier, and to have a better sense of well-being. Honesty has led me to speak more openly with people I care about, even though this can be one of the most difficult things in the world. I am not perfect at it, and I work at it constantly, just like I work at other aspects of my life. Instead of bottling things up, though, I talk with people when I have an issue with them.

My hope is that after reading this article, you will take an honest, open look at yourself and your life. Again, I’m not saying that your problem is with alcohol (although research has shown that 25 percent of college kids meet the criteria for alcohol dependence). Also, I feel the need to emphasize that I know this is very hard to do! It is hard to admit when things are going wrong and hard to see what you can do differently. But when you have a support network of friends and family, you can change your life for the better, little by little.

If you notice something that you want to change, do yourself a favor and do something about it. You have friends, family, RAs, the Wellness Center, and Campus Safety. You have your teachers and coaches. Start to write your thoughts down on paper in a journal if you don’t feel comfortable talking to people yet. But I urge you to do something. If you want, contact me and we will talk.

You may be asking yourself why I am telling you this. I want to let you know you are not alone. I want to show you that things are not as hopeless as they may seem. I want to show you that people care and that real people like you and me have changed before. So can you.

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