Drugsandalcohol. Three words that, like mathandscience, are said in such quick succession that they should be one.
I remember that in elementary school we used to have programs dedicated to teaching us the evils of drugsandalcohol. For a good number of people, drugsandalcohol are truly evil, leading to addictions and broken lives. I’m not understating that. However, for most of us drugsandalcohol are a facet of near-everyday life and a way to socialize. Used responsibly, they can be positive things. So that brings me to the theme of this column: men use drugs and alcohol responsibly. I think using drugs and alcohol responsibly involves two things: reasonable amounts and reasonable times.
My first point is that a man uses drugs and alcohol safely, i.e. in reasonable amounts. You might think we already know this, but surprisingly few people actually practice it. I’ve seen plenty of parties turn from a fun evening into an ordeal in a matter of minutes because of over-drinking, or binging or crossfading. Any transport to the hospital was avoidable at some point, if the person had recognized his or her limits or a friend had stepped in to help. I’ve been caught up in it as much as any boy, trying to be macho by kicking back more shots than the guy next to me. Fortunately, I haven’t gotten into any trouble, but that type of behavior can cause things to go south quickly.
Someone once remarked to me that people are always going to have to push limits to find their boundaries, so unsafe drinking is unavoidable. I couldn’t disagree more. Nobody heads out on a Friday night and says, “Fuck it, I’m gonna drink ‘til I vomit. It might be dangerous but at least I’ll find my boundaries.” Even people that have found their alleged boundaries can still cross them consistently. Now, everyone has a different body but we’re generally the same. Therefore, we can educate ourselves about drinking guidelines, follow basic safety tricks like measuring drinks and go out with friends who are educated or caring enough to help us watch our limits.
I cite alcohol because I think it’s the most common example of drug abuse in which people think they know what they’re doing when they really don’t. Given the number of resources we have to educate ourselves about safe drinking, coupled with the availability of sober events on weekend nights, double-digit transports per quarter is way too high. A man knows his limits, not because he’s exceeded them before, but because he and his friends are educated about alcohol consumption.
My second point about responsibility has to do with taking certain substances at reasonable times. Drugs shouldn’t dictate a man’s social experience; they should complement it. Essentially, baking shouldn’t be on a social agenda. Marijuana is a great drug to enhance certain social experiences and hang out with friends. However, there’s a reasonable limit. If you and your friends can’t get together without marijuana, then you have a problem. Men should be able to have a good time together in the absence of drugs.
Similarly, your free time shouldn’t be dedicated to getting high. Baking is not a hobby. Your free time here at Stanford is best used learning a new skill, joining a student group or getting ahead in classes. Take your mates to go play soccer, or fountain hop or exercise. My purpose is not to chastise marijuana use; I have plenty of friends who smoke pot, and it affects their lives positively. However, there are plenty of boys for whom marijuana is a negative influence when it begins to dominate their social life and free time. A man doesn’t let drugs or alcohol dominate any aspect of his life, even in small, easily overlooked ways.
Share your thoughts on masculinity and drug use with Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.