by Tara Bales
Drinking is widely considered, and referred to in the entertainment industry as, cool. Whether it’s a teen house party scene in a movie where all partygoers are clinging to / chugging from red Solo cups, country songs whose sole purpose is the celebration of the aforementioned cups, or websites like Texts from Last Night that alternately mock and salute what is more often than not alcohol-fueled behavior, we as a society generally glorify and add an almost shiny luster to the antics of one who has consumed alcohol to excess. Professional athlete and celebrity “role models” convicted of DUIs are given a slap on the wrist and urged by their publicists to give a half-hearted statement of apology, but are soon photographed sipping contentedly on the alcoholic beverage of their choice and impressionable young minds are left to conclude that drinking is glamorous and whatever risk there may be is well worth the reward.
At age 15, I met Josh. Brilliant, funny, charming, and yes, cool. He paid all sorts of attention to me so of course I fancied myself in love with him. I was in high school, he’d just started college, and throughout the next decade or so we kept in touch regardless of whatever curveballs life threw us. Roughly four years ago something changed. He’d always been a bit of a partier but never anything crazy. We were talking less and less, and it seemed like whenever we did talk, he was wasted. As I’d also maintained a friendship with his brother, albeit a much more casual one, I pumped him for information. Turns out, Josh’s tendency to be a bit of a partier had turned into full-blown alcoholism, not that he admitted it. When he relocated to Florida from Munich, where he’d been working the last few years, I flew down to visit. My Josh was gone, he no longer existed – in his place was a man that weighed probably less than I did, started his day off with a giant java mug of wine, and over the course of the day drank between two and three large bottles by himself. Unbeknownst to me, he’d been hospitalized in Munich for alcohol poisoning, steatosis, cirrhosis, and ascites. When I left, we had a blowout over my calling him out as an alcoholic and repeating what doctors had said to him – if you do not stop, you will die.
My wonderful, witty, fiercely intelligent friend died February 2nd, 2014. He was 32 years old.
Every time I see an ad glamorizing alcohol, I want to scream. Every time I see a commercial where it’s just a big ole party and everyone has a drink in their hand, I want to throw something at my TV. Yet I obviously know it’s not the alcohol’s fault – to blame the alcohol for Josh’s death would be like blaming spoons for obesity. I just don’t think we push the effects of alcohol abuse hard enough.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking too much over time can cause problems with your heart, liver, pancreas, and can increase the risk of developing mouth, esophagus, throat, liver and breast cancers. Approximately 10% of dementia cases are related to alcohol consumption. Even on just a single occasion, getting drunk hampers your body’s ability to fight infections for up to 24 hours after drinking, causes impaired judgment, anemia, blackouts, upset stomach, headache, diarrhea…the list goes on.
The constant and almost subconscious glamorization of alcohol in the media and entertainment industry continues to send the message that drinking is fun, it’s cool, trendy and just the thing to do. Alcohol can be a drug, alcoholism is medically classified a disease, and we as a society need to realize the damage we’re doing by glorifying alcohol use—we are not doing anyone any favors.
Tara Bales only recently began attending APU. She resides in Anchorage with her
three-year old daughter and no, she does not like long walks on the beach or