Thursday, February 08, 2007

What's the difference between an alcoholic and a JMU student?

No, that isn’t a joke with a punchline. I actually am wondering what the answer to that question is.

In the news, Lindsay Lohan and Tara Conner (AKA Miss USA), are all over the news for their shameful alcoholic problems. As far as I can gather, Lohan and Conner’s only crimes are not being JMU students, but rather people stuck in a world of adult behavioral expectations. I imagine most JMU students probably look down at Lohan and Conner and think of them as alcoholics, but I seriously think Lohan and Conner would fit right in at JMU. If they’re alcoholics and actually needed to check into rehab (beyond the need for good PR), then wouldn’t half of JMU need to check into rehab?

Lindsay Lohan was lambasted last fall by Morgan Creek Productions for unprofessional behavior. She arrived late on the set occasionally from partying the night before, but consider that movie stars have to arrive on set at 5-8 AM, way earlier than when most JMU classes start. Tara Conner got drunk the night she won the Miss USA paegent: that sounds as good as an excuse to drink as any.

The National Institute for Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse defines alcoholism by the following.

1. Craving -- A strong need, or compulsion, to drink.

2. Impaired control -- The inability to limit one's drinking on any given occasion.

3. Physical dependence -- Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety, when alcohol use is stopped after a period of heavy drinking.

4. Tolerance -- The need for increasing amounts of alcohol in order to feel its effects

Also defines alcoholism as interfering with your daily life, so for people like Lindsay Lohan and Tara Conner whose daily lives are much more demanding, whereas our daily lives at JMU involve drinking as an almost mandatory 13th credit.

Looking at these, someone exhibiting #4 tolerance is cheered, praised, and worshipped by his fellow collegians. You could go so far as to say that developing tolerance isn’t considered the sign of a disease as it is a training goal for a frequent drinker. But seriously, none of these are detectable if you are drinking every day, and the average JMU student has the opportunity to drink in a large social public setting at least 4 days a week: Main Street Wednesdays, Highlawn Thursdays, and Drunk Bus Fridays and Saturdays. Many JMU students do take advantage of all 4 of those in the same week, so if someone were to drink at a bar or in his apartment on the extra three days, who would notice?

My friend is a bartender and I asked him what an alcoholic is like, and he says you can tell who they are because they have a sort of tic when they walk into the bar before they get their drink. That’s more along point #4. If you have regular access to alcohol and you get your daily fix, who would notice in a million years if you were an alcoholic?

At JMU, you get more crap for not drinking enough than you do for drinking too much. I don’t drink too much, not for any major reason, but I can’t tell you how riled up people got at the alien concept of me being at a party on a Friday night and deciding not to drink. Drunk people would be in their quasi-friendly mode, put their arm around me, and yell with drunken breath: “Have a beer,” “Come on, have a beer,” “Now.” It’s really more obnoxious than friendly.

In fact, you could make the point that it’s pretty hard to avoid alcohol if you wanted to at JMU. Most clubs and productions don’t schedule things on Friday and Saturday night because they can’t compete with the drinking crowd. Perhaps, that’s why Campus Crusade has such a strong presence at JMU, because there’s such a large current to fight.

I’m not necessarily bashing alcohol use, that is the holy grail of JMU life and would be sacrilege to do so, but that’s just some food for thought.


Martin Nicolaus said...

If you're going to make it in journalism you're going to have to look at your stories from the reader's viewpoint. Who or what and where is "JMU"?

Anonymous said...

Do you think all 16,000 students at JMU are alcoholics? What do you have against JMU? There are many schools that consume much more than JMU. When will you, as a wanna-be credible journalist, support your statements? Please try not to be so closed minded. You have to think about where you are and what your surroundings imply. If you want to get trashed go to a house party. If you want to stay in, play UNO. If you want to be a little bitch go to a knitting party and snip your balls off. At least JMU isn't Tech where you get charged at the door. You obviously have a bone to pick with JMU. Grow a pair and get over it. As a student myself, I'm glad you weren't accepted at my school, I'd be embarrassed to think my institution could produce such an ignorant little tart. I look forward to a response to my inquiries. Thank you.

OKonheim said...

Actually, I was a JMU student and just graduated a few months ago.

You know, I could have just as easily said "What's the difference between Lindsay Lohan and a college student?" I don't have that much beef with JMU. When I was there, i sometimes felt the drinking got a little out of control, I don't think my article was that attacking, I was just making some connections between the expectations of people our age in the public eye and us.

The only problem was that someone might be unfamiliar with the fact that I went to JMU myself. I did transfer from another college so I had a basis for comparison in terms of how much at least one other group of college students drinks.

By the way, isn't JMU under 15,000. Did they grow that much already?

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