Alcohol’s Negative Effect on the Heart

Plant in a jar filled with water and a fish.

But You Look So Healthy!:  Perceptions of Bodily and Planetary Health (And A Little Bit About Alcohol’s Negative Effect on the Heart)

I will admit it: there’s a part of me that misses high school health class. Even though our developing bodies were sweaty, pimply alien things, it was refreshing to admit we even HAVE bodies! So much of the time now, I exist behind a computer screen: it’s easy to forget we’re humans!

At PVPA, the performing arts charter school in Western Mass, I remember playing a game called fish bowl: we would write down questions we had for the opposite gender, and then those would be anonymously asked. It was squirmy and funny and gross, but there was something magical about it. In health class, our bodies were something to be explored—we had to stay aware and in communication with them, because lurking somewhere in the future was our PERIOD! Or an ERECTION! And you had to be ready.

Effects of alcohol - love me, fuck me.

Now at a ripe 21, I yearn to reconnect with my body. The pressures of post grad quickly approaching have often led me to abuse my body rather than nurture it. Abuse can come in many forms: lying around all day in front of a screen, not eating, binge-eating sugary sweets, and, if the day’s been dark enough, binge drinking.

Although it still boggles my mind that humanity has progressed so far that we pay institutions to encourage us to do physical labor, exercise and ‘healthy’ food have been commodified by the Gods of gentrification and the 1%. Not everyone has the money or time for gym memberships and local organic food (not that organic food is necessarily ‘healthy’). When true self-nurture seems out of grasp, short-term, hedonistic abuse is scarily convenient. But so often this abuse is cloaked in the myth of ‘treat yourself’ culture. With apocalyptic anxiety hiding in our sheets, instant gratification cannot come quickly enough. Feeling shitty? Eat a pint of ice cream. Mad at your friends? Stay inside and binge-watch Netflix. Work draining your soul? Get drunk. Get so fucking drunk.

But no one would look at me and call me unhealthy. My doctor doesn’t even shame me for my poor eating habits. And why is that? Because it doesn’t obviously show. I’m stick thin, so I don’t get shamed for how I treat my body. Although apparently, it’s perfectly acceptable to shame fat people for their ‘choices’ (don’t get me started about how nutrition’s been distorted and put profits above the health of humanity). In a similar way to how alcoholics are perceived, how well someone is able to HIDE their problem determines its severity. Not the actual state of the problem (there are strong parallels to climate change here as well, but once again, you don’t want to get me started on that either).

Toxic waste hurting our planet.

But our planet and our physical bodies can only take abuse for so long without repercussions. I was just reading the other day about how even moderate drinking can lead to and exacerbate pre-existing heart conditions. Just as I was reading about how in a century the tropical regions will be inhospitable to life. Certain corporations, neoliberals, and other apathetic entities have been contributing to our cultural blindness


Healthy food can be and is cheap (check out Leanne Browns’ cookbook Good and Cheap).

Alcohol treatment centers are all over the place, and can give you the tools to help yourself!

There are brilliant people all over the world devising plans for agriculture, transportation, and city planning to bring down the world’s carbon footprint to save millions of future lives.

Health, sobriety, and carbon-neutrality are attainable. We have the tools to help ourselves in these scary, scary times. Maybe we can use some of that health class spirit: some of that beginner’s magic may help us along.



Alcohol Addiction: Is Alcohol A Drug?

Samples of the drug, marijuana.

After election day this year, everyone I personally knew was extremely distraught. I knew people of color who didn’t feel safe leaving their homes on that day. I knew women who were catcalled even more. I knew people who were afraid of religious persecution being condoned by the President himself. But up in Massachusetts, there was a small group saying: “But hey, 420 though.”

Yes, marijuana had been legalized in California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts this past November. More than half of the country has legalized marijuana in some form. I am reminded of the midnight lectures, courtesy of my stoner friends, professing the plethora of benefits weed has to offer us. I voted in favor of legalization because of its medicinal benefits and, more importantly, I didn’t want to see any more people of color go to prison for weed possession. Even with the spread of legalization, I would like to see states go further and release people who committed nonviolent drug crimes.

But there are so many questions that marijuana legalization brings to the surface: Does the government have a right to determine what someone puts into their body? How do drugs and other crime intersect? Is enforcing expensive drug laws worth the cost? What constitutes a ‘drug’?

The questions we ask ourselves about the effects of marijuana and our culture’s relationship to it illuminate the nature of other drugs our culture takes for granted: alcohol.

Let’s be clear: alcohol is a drug. A drug is defined as a chemical substance that affects the processes of the mind or body. The idea of a ‘substance’ can become habituating or addictive is one associative definition. Alcohol is a depressant, which means that it slows vital functions. But even though it’s classified as a depressant, the effect is determined by how much is consumed. Most often it’s used as a stimulant, which can occur after just drinking a few beers.

As a youngin, I was far more frightened at the prospect of marijuana than of liquor. My mom drank like a fish and it was a part of my household. My parents would let me drink in high school, and were very lax about the whole thing. Drinking was almost like a right of passage: an inevitability.

But, because of its illegality, marijuana wasn’t a part of that at all. As early D.A.R.E. programs informed us, marijuana was the gateway drug to heroin, cocaine and all the other drugs plaguing our beloved child stars.

Even though alcoholism takes five more lives each year than every other drug combined. These deaths can be specifically associated with diseases associated with alcoholism, (including Fatty Liver Disease, Alcoholic Cirrhosis, and Alcohol Hepatitis), drunk driving or other accidents involving impaired motor control. I hate to be that guy, but I’ll say it: ‘nobody ever died from weed.’ Binge-drinking on the other hand, alcohol-poisoning, liver disease: basically, you can’t say the same for alcohol. Every day in America, another 27 people die as a result of drunk driving crashes.

Man drinking alcohol in a glass.

Alcohol is glamorized in our culture, consumed by every socially acclimated Tom, Dick and Harry, to the most divine celebrities of Hollywood, whereas weed and other harder drugs are reserved for people undeserving of our respect (hippies, drug addicts, etc). This can be dangerous because although some people can control their alcohol intake, some people cannot stop after one drink, and can have no way of knowing until it is too late. Think of your freshman year, and go back to your first party. Even if you have a safe and healthy relationship with alcohol, it can be difficult to resist the peer pressure to drink, especially when alcohol comes with a guarantee to relieve social inhibitions. Most Americans will try alcohol in their lifetimes and continue to drink. This probably isn’t surprising, but this sets it apart from all other drugs.

I want to end this with saying that although I don’t think it would be helpful for alcohol to criminalized, I want to encourage everyone to question the cultural ‘inevitability’ of alcohol. How can we become more mindful of how and why we regulate drugs to inform more educated drug regulation?






Ignoring Teen Mental Health

Statue of Plato representing mental health.

Mental Health: The Artistic and Moral Failure of 13 Reasons Why

Let’s begin with the power of stories. I’m gonna take us WAY back, and take a look at Plato’s Republic. In Republic, Plato paints a picture of an ideal society. In it, he attacks the concept ‘mimesis’. Mimesis roughly translates to imitation, meaning any kind of art when a writer or performer pretends to be someone else. This extends to fiction, poetry, theater, film, anything with characters and a narrative basically. According to Plato, you couldn’t have any of this in a perfect society, because to tell a good story, you have to include characters that do bad things or have unfavorable qualities. So in order to perform or write about characters like this, the artist has to explore or realize those unfavorable qualities within themselves.

Not only was he saying life imitates art, he was saying stories have the power to influence. Basically, Plato was saying art, particularly bad art, is dangerous.

13 Reasons Why is a perfect example of what Plato was talking about when he was shitting on mimesis.

The Sorrows of Young Werther book cover.

Ever heard of the Werther Effect? The Werther Effect occurs when there’s a spike in suicide rates that resemble or are inspired by suicides that are widely depicted in the film, fiction, or other media. A vulnerable person, without access to the proper resources, will be triggered by the narrative, and emulate that character’s suicide, creating what’s known as a ‘suicide contagion’. We’re already seeing this happen with suicide clusters in Colorado and California. So before you jump to defend the artists’ freedom to create whatever they want, consider the goals of their show, and remember that art is powerful.

Trigger Warning: I’m going into this assuming you’ve watched or read a synopsis of the show. Spoilers ahead, obviously.

Let’s talk about the transfer of mediums.

13 Reasons Why Book Cover

13 Reasons Why was originally a book written by Jay Asher. Producer Selena Gomez, playwright Brian Yorkey, and director Tom McCarthy picked up the novel to adapt into a television series.

The major differences:

In the novel, Clay listens to each tape in one night, and the rape and suicide sequences are far less graphic. For the purposes of the show (which Selena Gomez made very clear was to educate teens about suicide), Clay listened to the tapes over the course of a week or so, expanding the narrative to fit neatly into 13 episodes. Aesthetically pleasing, sure, but it does nothing for the show other than extending the torture.

It’s rising action includes gratuitous and exploitative rape scenes, which makes it nearly impossible for sexual assault victims to watch without being triggered. Its climax is Hannah’s suicide, and although in the book she swallows pills, the creative team of the show deemed it necessary for Hannah to slit her wrists. Reading about these sequences is different: you can put it down at any time, and you’re meant to pace yourself. But watching a series has a different set of rules. Sure, you can pause and take breaks, but let’s be honest, with Netflix in particular, shows are designed to be binged. Even with the trigger warnings in the beginning, if all of your friends are watching it, is a teenager really gonna heed the trigger warning?

The hit series about teen suicide has another gaping problem: it never mentions mental health or depression. This show, and its protagonist, puts all the responsibility on the environment: on the school itself. And I swear, if I hear ‘We all killed Hannah Baker’ one more fucking time, I’m going to eat a chinchilla. There are lots of reasons why people commit suicide, but it’s always a combination of the person’s mental state AND their environment. If we follow the logic that a toxic environment alone causes suicide, then everyone in the school would’ve killed themselves. This doesn’t happen. But because mental health isn’t addressed, the show perpetuates the idea that people commit suicide for attention.

I want to be perfectly clear: it’s understandable to blame yourself when a person takes their own life—chaos theory, the butterfly effect, all these theories make sense. But these theories don’t place blame on any single individual, and to do so is extremely dangerous. Even though all of the students could’ve, and should’ve, treated Hannah better, none of their singular efforts could’ve saved her.

Cray Jenson in the dark.

Which brings me to all of the bullshit that is Clay Jensen.

Watching the series through Clay’s eyes, on the one hand, is satisfying: it’s refreshing to see a young white man give a shit about girls who were assaulted, to have the shit kicked out of him to get a confession out of a rapist.

On the other hand, his character sports an imperialist, white savior complex, which is fully realized once we get to his tape. In the school that’s filled with backstabbers and secrets, Clay Jensen is pure; he merely wanted to love Hannah. In the aftermath of her death, he is her vengeful angel, punishing those who mistreated her. All of this mildly troubling rhetoric climaxes in the final episode in his conversation with Mr. Porter:

“I cost a girl her life because I was afraid to love her.”

I almost threw my computer across a room.


I don’t know how to put it any clearer than this. The whole premise of the show, that these people were the ‘reasons’ she killed herself, culminates in this problematic and harmful notion that suicide isn’t related to mental health.

Hannah’s classmates did some horrible things, but they would’ve been horrible if she didn’t kill herself. But within the context of this series, her death and the tapes were the only way to bring justice and truth to light. This is the way the show romanticizes suicide: when the protagonist achieves poetic justice by way of her suicide, it can inspire vulnerable teens to commit the same act.

The creative team of this show had good intentions: they wanted to create a dialogue. They wanted to shed light on teen suicide and give students and their parents the tools to talk about slut shaming, bullying, sexual assault, and substance abuse. But they ignored the advice of mental health professionals, they made it impossible for sexual assault victims or suicidal populations to view their show without being triggered: they realized Plato’s fear. I hope Netflix discontinues the series and takes the down the first season. I hope we all begin acknowledging the danger of bad art.

Taking a Mindfulness Quiz: Grinches and Self Care

The Grinch needs a mindfulness quiz.

With millennials taking the cake for the most stressed generation, practices like yoga, meditation, and self-care, in general, are becoming increasingly commodified. Going to spas, meditation retreats and weekly or even daily yoga classes become trendier by the day, and the idea that mindfulness is only for the wealthy and the white seeps deeper into our consciousness. And if you’re like me, you wouldn’t touch this faux-enlightened, gentrified, culturally-appropriative, capitalist garbage with a thirty-nine and a half foot pole.

Understand, I’m no stranger to the artsy, new age hippies. I go to theater school, and over the past four years, have basically whittled my skills down to rolling around on the floor and out-of-context vocal exercises. BUT learning mindfulness was an essential component of my training and HAS helped me in my everyday life deal with anxiety, depression and stressful situations.

So today I am here to demystify mindfulness and spread it to the masses! Despite how cult-y yoga and meditation can appear, you don’t need to be a trust fund or a floating embodiment of positivity to learn and practice mindfulness. You can be a Grinch and still practice awareness, presence, and self-compassion.

What is this mindfulness thing?

Well, my fellow grinches, mindfulness is just being aware of the present moment.

That’s it. I swear. Just staying present with your body’s sensations, your thoughts, and your emotions without placing judgment on them.

You may not know it, but you may have been practicing mindfulness without even knowing it. Our friends at The Treatment Center have put together a helpful quiz to gauge your how often you use mindfulness.

So what’s so great about it?

No grinches are immune to anxiety or worries. Using simple mindfulness exercises helps to ground you, and better prepare you for dealing with stressful situations. Mindfulness helps you listen to signals that your body gives you, and helps you manage your emotions and resist immediate impulses.

But HOW do you practice this mindfulness thing?

There are a couple different mindfulness and relaxation techniques.

Being Present: This can be done anywhere: just take stock of what you’re feeling. What kind of thoughts are you having? What emotions are you feeling? How does your body feel? Give attention to each of your body parts, and special attention to the rhythm of your breath. Take in information from each of your senses. This method in particular help people in the middle of panic attacks.

Acceptance: Once you’re present and aware of yourself and your surroundings, try not to judge wherever you’re at. Because of all those rich yuppie gurus who ruin everything, you’re probably going to think you’re not doing it right or you should be having a different reaction. But this is a part of practicing mindfulness! We work to accept thoughts, emotions and states as they are, and hold back from dubbing something ‘good’ or bad’. The more you accept what you’re feeling and thinking, the more time you give yourself to decide how to react in a given situation.

Awareness Meditation: Sit down anywhere that’s comfortable, and bring your attention to your breath: In and out, in and out. When your focus moves to something else, just gently guide it back.

Routines: You heard correctly, grinches: you can do this during any almost activity! When you’re walking, doing dishes, working, even while you’re ruining Christmas. Just keep taking in your surroundings, and observing your thoughts and emotions. 

But I’m a Grinch! Taking care of myself and my emotions don't sound fun! 

Time for some hard truth, grinches. Everybody needs self care. Self care isn’t glamorous or very much fun, but it’s gonna help prevent us from reacting impulsively or sinking into an unpleasant mental state. Mindfulness gives us the ability to reflect before reacting and letting emotions pass through us. This is a holistic therapy you can give to yourself. Students in particular benefit from mindfulness, because when anxiety and stress aren’t dealt with, students are more susceptible to depression, substance abuse addiction and other mental health issues.

Happy Grinch after becoming mindful and not depressed.

So go forth! Use these skills! Find some inner peace and self-love without spending a lot of money and being an appropriative jerk wad about it!

Affluence, Art and Addiction Assessment

Over the past two months, my social media feed has been decked with decorated caps, selfies with diplomas, and dope commencement speeches. The School of Theater class of 2017 was extremely near and dear to my heart, and even though I could not attend their graduation, I’m so proud of them and what I know they will accomplish.

Yet, along with that excitement, I’m all too aware of the realities of the world my friends are facing head on. To begin with, a theater artist’s life is not a particularly stable or easy one. No one heads into this career expecting to make a lot of money. Rejection is a daily companion, and in a profession where it’s dangerously easy to confuse your identity with your art, it takes vigilance to remain emotionally healthy. Now contextualize this with the current administration, a steady increase of global carbon emissions and far too many cultural idols overdosing: no wonder Millennials experience the most stress.

Now, my love and support are with those who are hit hardest by our current climate: my POC friends, my disabled friends, my Muslim friends, my immigrant friends, and my poor friends. But I don’t pretend to speak for these communities, and I have an issue that often goes unnoticed that I want to explore: Today, I’m going to take a look at the state of my affluent friends, my friends who have safety nets, and how a life of easy access can result in prolonged addiction.

Credit Card

Addiction in Affluence

This issue has surfaced for me after a few ideas had coalesced. It began when I read an article my friends were sharing: ‘Can Only Rich Kids Afford to Work in the Art World?’ This article examined how art students are far more likely to receive financial help from their parents for school and post grad life than the average student. While I know students in my program who are here on full scholarships or work three jobs to attend school, they are definitely in the minority. With BU’s tuition being hiked up every year, this school and the School of Theater, continues to serve wealthier students.

Thinking about these wealthier students, some of whom were born into Hollywood families, it reminds me of the time that one acting teacher told a student that she was riding on her mother’s success. When you come from a world of money that you didn’t earn, a world where almost any mistake can be remedied, it’s all too easy to feel like an imposter. The myth of American exceptionalism is indiscriminate: it affects everyone.

Combining these feelings of insecurity with the tortured artist stereotype, post-grad pressures and how Hollywood perpetuates cycles of addiction, it creates the perfect environment for an addiction to be contracted, to fester, and to grow.

I’m writing about this to dispel myths of addiction in all demographics. Although the wealthy experience many privileges, their lack of financial limit often leaves addictions untreated because of their inability to visibly hit ‘rock bottom’. With being able to purchase alcohol online, drugs online, and delivered to your door, access is easier than ever before.

It can be difficult to identify whether you or a loved one has an addiction: because of societal narratives, addiction is associated with moral failings and a lack of self-control. Luckily, there are many available resources to help. To start, there are many online quizzes associated with Alcohol Rehab Centers. These are sometimes good places to start because they’re all online and you don’t have to feel worried about being judged. From the Center The Dunes East Hampton, here are some questions you can ask yourself or your loved one:

Do you find yourself drinking before and/or during work hours?

Have you found yourself budgeting more money for alcohol each month?

Has a friend or family asked you to cut back on your drinking?

Have you and your partner argued frequently about the nature of your alcohol abuse?

Have you accidentally injured yourself (or others while consuming alcohol?

Do you ever drink in response to feeling strong emotions such as anxiety or anger?

Do you consistently feel guilty about decisions you make when you’re drinking?

Are you unable to stop consuming after having a few drinks?

If you or your loved one answered yes to any of these questions, it may be beneficial for you to educate yourself about the disease of addiction and explore treatment options.

In the theater alone. Don't give into addiction.

It’s at these times I think of the great artists we’ve lost to overdoses. Even over the short span of my lifetime, it’s been devastating: Prince, Carrie Fischer, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Heath Ledger, Robin Williams, to name a small few. And I’m lucky enough to have worked with students at my school who have moved me as those great artists have moved me. To think, that when professional help is available, we could lose anyone capable of reminding us of our humanity with such power is harrowing.

To all my friends, in all walks of life, while working and fighting for kindness and justice and art, be gentle with yourselves in these hard, hard times.

Calling in and Cushioning Drug and Alcohol Treatment


People Places Things - Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Denise Gough in Duncan Macmillan’s People, Places and Things

Witnessing the Cycle of Addiction

About mid semester last fall, I was exercising my favorite method of procrastination: reading plays that I might produce post-grad. All of my friends who had been abroad in London last year were raving about Duncan Macmillan’s People, Places, and Things. I had gotten my hands on a copy and snuggled up on a couch on the second floor of the CFA.

The play followed an addict, Emma, who committed herself to a drug and alcohol treatment center. Emma refuses to admit she’s an addict from the beginning, and resists the program, believing herself to be above it. Once she’s released, she comes back some time later, begging for help and finally seeing the way her addiction runs her life. In the final scene of the play, Emma returns to her home. And everything we believed about Emma is turned upside down.

Although we have just seen one cycle of this behavior, her family has bared witness to it for most of her life. When Emma attempts to apologize, her mother reminds her of the time she stabbed her when her mother attempted to flush her stash of drugs down the toilet. Her parents’ sympathy for her has run dry. She guilted, manipulated and used her family too often for their relationship to ever really heal.

People, Places and Things - On Stage
Duncan Macmillan’s People, Places and Things

How to Know When To Call In for Help with Drug and Alcohol Abuse 

More often than not, families of addicts don’t know when to say enough is enough. Despite all the common portrayals of addiction, when a loved one becomes an addict, empathy and pity are a valid response. Seeing a loved one in pain is horrible, and doling out second chances is tempting.

But when nothing seems to create a long term change, what does one do?

It seems like calling in for professional interventionist help may be necessary, but how can one be sure? That’s when tools like an intervention quiz become vital. These quizzes can help contextualize one’s experience and see if professional intervention is what your family needs.

Do you feel like you often sacrifice your own needs to help your loved one?

Does your loved one make you feel guilty often?

Do you feel responsible for your loved one’s behavior?

Does your loved one depend on you (or others close to them) for financial support?

These are just a few of the questions from Family First Intervention’s quiz. If the answer to any of these questions is yes, I would strongly suggest taking the quiz.

People Places and Things - Drug and Alcohol AbuseDuncan Macmillan’s People, Places and Things

Unknowing Cushions of Addiction 

The painful truth of it is that addicts were family first, and it’s difficult to resist enabling them. To support their addiction, they will convince their loved ones to believe that they are capable of helping themselves. This so often turns people into unknowing enablers. Family members become cushions to support their addiction, not their recovery. It’s understandable, but at the end of the day, it can be fatal. In situations like this, addicts and families need professional interventionists to aid them in effective and long-term recovery.

None of us want to look at our loved ones and find our reserves of love depleted.


For more resources, refer to the Family First Intervention’s website.



Drug and Alcohol Addiction Within Our Communities


Not in My Circles: Uncovering Drug and Alcohol Addiction Around Us

A alcoholic mother - Drug and Alcohol Addiction

I was sitting in a circle of chairs, in a small back room of a church in Northampton, and I had no idea what I was doing there. It was mostly women in their forties, a couple of men, and my friend and I, a fifteen-year-old duo. Each person took a turn and talked about their last week, barely mentioning the word ‘alcohol’ or ‘addiction’. Everyone laughed and mmm’d at the right moments. When they finally got to me, I was so nervous, I just passed, and let the circle continue on without me.

After about an hour, everyone bowed their heads, said a kind of prayer that I didn’t know, and dispersed. I grabbed a couple of snacks, and my friend and I jetted. Once in the parking lot, we started giggling confusedly. This meeting was decidedly not for us. We walked into town and I never went back.

I drank possibly three times in my high school career. I smoked weed once. I was the kid who would discreetly search a drug slang dictionary to clue myself into a conversation that was going over my head. The world of addiction lived in certain corners of my community, but certainly not in my circles.

So it came to a surprise when a mentor of mine had suggested I go to Al Anon, an anonymous support group for family and friends of problem drinkers. She was convinced my mother had an alcohol addiction. I didn’t believe her—you wouldn’t find my mother barely balanced on a barstool at 2 PM. You wouldn’t find my mother on the street, covered in her own vomit. You wouldn’t find my mother being driven to an addiction treatment center for the second or third time.

I had gone to my mentor because I was having a hard time getting along with my mother, but I believed it to be something every normal teenager went through. It didn’t have anything to do with addiction.

I Finally Saw an Alcohol Addict

After an extremely tense holiday following a nasty divorce, my mother and I settled into our Airbnb in Austin, TX. We were staying there for a half a week for me to apply for a couple internships, and we spent every waking moment together. We went to restaurants and museums and gardens. We even went to The Muttcracker, a holiday circus show with dogs. But amidst all this exploring, I had discovered something I didn’t expect: because we weren’t in the house, I witnessed every drink and every bottle of alcohol my mother purchased in real time.

On our last day in Texas, we were hiking along a dusty trail on a cool January day, and my mother confided something in me: she was thinking of adopting a baby.

I had to restrain myself from laughing, or worse.

“Why would you want a baby, mom?”

And she sighed with incredible weight.

“I want influence someone’s life: I want to give my life meaning.”

This said by a woman who was married for twenty plus years; who has two children in their 20s, one who does not speak to her anymore, and the other with whom she has a very precarious relationship.

And I saw a big gaping hole in her that she had attempted to fill her entire life with her husband, with her children, with anyone who would care enough to remain close. I finally saw an addict.

Hand and Hand - Drugs and Alcohol in College Parties

Giving a drink - Drug ad Alcohol Abuse
was squeezing my way through the congested channels of an Allston apartment. After a few people that were doing cocaine left the bathroom (talking in drug slang and glorying the amount of at they have just done), I relieved myself. I considered taking another shot, but I knew I was going home soon. I tried to find the few other people I hadn’t chatted with: at BU School of Theater parties, not knowing everyone is a rarity. I find my friend Melody in the host’s room, among the score of old VHS tapes. I told her how much I loved the play she read in class last week, and she told me how much she loves me. Her legs were like noodles, and she toppled onto the bed. That’s when I realized she wouldn’t remember any of this in the morning. Last week her roommate had told me that Melody didn’t have a distinction between getting drunk and blacking out: they were synonymous to her. I asked the host if she needed help, and he said she would be fine. And then I went home.

Nothing to Do with a Person's Morality

In the same way, I was so insistent that my mother wasn’t an addict, I find similar blind spots for my friends in college. Addiction is stigmatized and widely considered to stem from a moral failing. But in reality, it’s a disease that can befall anyone and has nothing to do with a person’s morality. It’s even more common among people who also suffer from mental illness, which lends itself to more complexity and difficulty in addressing problems when they arise.

This can be even more difficult with college aged artists, who are steeped in both college pressures and drinking culture, along with troubling myths about art-making. I’ve found many young artists believe that they have to suffer to make great art, and this can manifest in allowing addictions (and/or mental illnesses) to go untreated. Sometimes this has led to people finding help in addiction treatment centers; but most of the time, I see addiction and mental illness torturing my friends.

With all of this in mind, I want to encourage us all to look at ourselves and each other without judgment, and honestly assess our health. To open conversations with those we’re concerned about with compassion. To support and help each other find the appropriate support, be it with talk therapy, support groups, or addiction treatment centers. To keep in mind that we’re all just trying to get through the day in one piece.

For more information and resources about Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment or to view a Drug Slang Dictionary, check out The Treatment Center.