The Best Advice in the World on Freshman Drinking

The Best Advice in the World on Freshman Drinking

 

ON MAY 20, 2016 

 

I have a former student who I care about very much. She actually listens to me when I give her ideas. We were messaging back and forth about her recent graduation from high school and her excitement to matriculate into college as a freshman this fall. I closed a message by saying, “Remember to ask me the best advice in the world on drinking alcohol in college.”

This was her response:

Thank you Mr. Parsons! I definitely look forward to college, hopefully the distance doesn’t get me down too much. I will definitely stay in touch! Is your advice “don’t do it”?:)

I left her name out of my response to protect her privacy. This is my response to her question:

No.

That is typical, stupid parent advice that any college student who is going to drink in college will ignore. I know, I know, you are not typical. You don’t see yourself as being like other students, and you are right: you are not like other students. You are smarter, cooler, and have a brighter future than the rest of the pack.

On the other hand, there are college students, about a million or so, who are smarter, and “cooler” than you, and think they have the same future ahead of them as you have, but they will never have that future because they are well on their way to a life shrouded in alcoholism.

I have been to college; you have not. I know the “pull” of peer pressure, and the desire to rebel, and to just say, “F it, I’ll do what I feel like doing.”

You do not know that pull, or desire to rebel. Not yet.

Every year, millions of college kids unwittingly learn a lifetime addiction in college; they never recover from that habit whether they grow up and stop drinking heavily, or they continue to drink themselves slowly into a morass of apathy.

No one has to drink in college. For the first three years of your college experience, it is illegal to do so. But who follows the laws these days, right?

Feel free to not drink.

You might be lucky like me, and alcohol will have no allure for you. I doubt it. Alcohol is a magical substance the defeats even the most resolute of souls.

I have no idea why I didn’t drink like all the rest of my high school friends and my college cohort. It’s irrelevant why I didn’t drink. I missed the alcoholism bullet. My wife missed the bullet, and my daughter, so far, is dodging that particular bullet.

You may, or may not dodge it. You are a deliberate and contemplative person; you should at least hear some reasonable strategies to avoid a brush with alcoholism.

My first, and simplest advice is to drink if you choose, but just don’t drink your first freshman semester of college.

You will notice that a lot of the first semester heavy drinkers won’t show up the second semester. The whole point of first semester is to make it to second semester; you will be much wiser, and less impetuous your second semester because you will be a bit older, and you will think to yourself, “Holy shit, that was a bunch of people that flunked out, dropped out, or got killed. I’m glad I wasn’t one of them.”

If you think you have to drink, delay drinking until second semester. I guarantee you that there will be more booze available to you because those other guys will be drinking somewhere else.

My second piece of advice concerning responsible drinking is to drink slowly.

Drinking is not a “game.” Beer pong and chug-a-thons are games that are fun for awhile, but they promote irresponsible drinking. Students engage in those games because they don’t know how to drink. Learning to tolerate alcohol takes a bit of distraction to get past the taste and the uneasy feeling that you should not be engaging in this activity as a freshman. You don’t see thirty-somethings playing drinking games. There is a reason for that.

My third piece of advice is to drink in a same sex group: drink with the girls, and only with the girls: they will never rape you.

You have no idea how many girls get raped in college. Neither do I, actually, but it is way more than is ever reported.

Boys like to have sex; they want to have sex with younger girls because those freshman girls are more easily coerced. Freshman girls are frequently easily manipulated to do what boys want to do the girls are drunk.

There are ten thousand college freshman girls raped every school year to every college senior girl who gets raped.

Where did I get my statistics?

Nowhere; I just made that up. I’m not too far off, and the exact numbers are not germane to this argument when it is my cherished friend and student who might have to go through the rest of her life as a rape survivor.

If you want to drink with a guy, take your boyfriend to college with you; at least he won’t rape you when you are drunk. No other guy you’ve known for less than six months can guarantee that they won’t rape you when you are drunk.

Where do I get my authority on abstinence?

Does F. Scott Fitzgerald sound like the voice of authority when he wrote: “First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, and then the drink takes you”? He spent the last third of his life writing to earn enough money to keep his dearest love, Zelda in an asylum. (Zelda invented the verb “to party” by the way.) Fitzgerald’s goal was to get Zelda out of the asylum and back into his life, but neither of them could stop drinking long enough to make that happen. It makes for a good romantic story if that is how you want your life to read.

Incidentally, F. Scott was smarter, better looking, and a better writer than you are now, and look what happened to him.

Fitzgerald could have learned something from me: “Nobody ever starts drinking with the intention of becoming an alcoholic.”

My dear student, if you never start drinking, then it follows that you will never become an alcoholic. That is logical. Logic is great, but it can’t hold a candle to the maelstrom of emotions that will drive you to drink in college. Logic is a pitifully weak ally against the pressure to drink in college, but it is all you have got.

But what’s the fun in going through college without drinking?

I’ll offer my life experience:

I have lived a riotously fun life, an extraordinarily fun life for the last sixty-five years. I have another thirty years of fun ahead of me. I did not drink in high school, or in college. I am sure that I have drunk less than one thousand bottles of beer…in my life.

In closing, you and I are not close to each other yet; we can barely even consider each other true friends. So what’s my personal interest in you?

You are unique in the world. There is nothing that you cannot do if you set your mind to it. Steve Jobs said that he wanted to “put a ding in the Universe.” You are smart enough, magical enough, and have enough of the right karma to put a freaking dent in the Universe if you have a mind to do so. It would be an unforgivable shame, a crime against everything that is good and right in this world, if your energies were diverted by alcoholism, or rape, or dropping out of college before you had a chance to see your true destiny just beyond the horizon of a college education. Trust me on my perception of your uniqueness; I am always right when I identify extraordinary students like you: students who will go out into this world and change it for the better.

Okay.

Closing for the second time: Your mother, or even your goofy father would never ask you to do anything illegal, immoral, or self-destructive with your body, or your life. Be the guardian of your body, the defender of your life, and the advocate of your destiny, by never doing anything illegal, immoral, or self-destructive to the wonderful person who may one day call me her close friend and valued advisor. “______________ and Jeff Parsons are friends.” Such a sweet sentence.

If you read my blog post titled “Using Math and Modeling to Defeat Alcoholism,”  I quote my daughter Samantha asking me why I would ever drink again when she reaches 21.

What she really was asking is, “Why would anyone ever drink?”

 

Dear reader, I would be happy to hear your comments on this essay!

 

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Career Tech High School Class of 2016 Commencement Speech

As I promised, here is the text of my speech to the CTHS Class of 2016, as delivered on May 10, 2016:

Good Evening Honored Class of 2016, Parents, Family, Teachers, Administrators and Board Members.

In the space of little more than a month, through happenstance, I have experienced a most devastating event and a most gratifying event. I am grateful to be here to speak to you tonight; I feel a balance from being invited to speak to you.

Thanks to you, the members of the Class of 2016, I have the opportunity to address you one last time This is the most energizing and exciting opportunity that has come my way since I had most of you as Freshman.

Thank you.

Let me catch my breath a moment.

This evening, I want to talk to you about life and death.

Settle down. We aren’t going to visit dark places.

I am going to talk mostly about life because I have some authority on that subject.

First let’s do a quick review. I wrote the Class of 2015s speech last year with you in mind as my audience.

You weren’t here last year so I will do a quick review to bring you up to speed.

First, I regaled the Class of 2015 by suggesting that their parents buy them a Tempur Pedic Memory Foam mattress for their graduation present. There was a point to my request: I reasoned that if a person is going to spend the next third of his or her life in bed, parents might as well spring for a great bed in order that their dear children might spend that time enjoyably.

Second, I offered the advice to make a point of becoming a conscientious person. For those of you who don’t have a ready definition at hand, to be conscientious by my definition is to do what is expected of you:

You perform you duties promptly.

You embrace your responsibilities every time you are called upon to be responsible.

You are cheerful in executing your duties.

And you always complete your tasks without being asked a second time, or better yet without ever being asked.

What do you get out of this?

You will be a stand out parent.

You will be loved and cherished by your spouse.

Your employer and your customers will always look forward to engaging your company.

You will always feel good about yourself because dependable, loyal people always feel good about their service to others.

My last directive to the Class of 2015, and now to you is:

Every day, every hour of every day, ask yourself the Laken question:

“Is this the best use of my time now?”

If the answer is “no,” you’ll know what you need to do.

If the answer is “yes,” you probably won’t be asking the question.

The best use of your time is different for you than it is for me, and anyone else. But you and I will spend a large part of our lives doing the exactly the same activity if you listen to me carefully for the next five minutes.

I want to teach you something I have always known, but something that has just re-entered my life in the last four months.

I want to teach you to live and to know you are alive while you are living.

How will I teach you to be aware of living in five minutes?

Let me show you.

Stand up.

Follow my instructions:

Breathe in deeply.

Hold that breath for two or three seconds.

Now breath out slowly, twice as long as it took to breath in and this is the most important part:

Smile.

Okay. Once again for the slow guys:

Breathe in deeply.

Hold that breath for two or three seconds.

Now breath out slowly, twice as long as it took to breath in, and this is the most important part:

Smile.

And again:

Breathe in deeply.

Hold that breath for two or three seconds.

Now breath out slowly, twice as long as it took to breath in, and this is the most important part:

Smile.

Breathing is life. Intentional breathing is living and paying attention to your life as you live it.

You know you are alive when you are breathing.

You appreciate your life as you live it when you breathe intentionally as we all just experienced.

Breathing is the miracle of life.

We all come into our lives on an in breath.

We leave our lives on an out breath.

In the meantime, we never stop breathing, we just stop paying attention to the beauty of our breathing until now.

Breathing intentionally will inform your life about everything you need to know and do with this gift of breath.

Our breath is central to our lives:

We hold our breath when we are excited and joyous.

We laugh. And laughing is the most joyous form of breathing.

To cry is to breathe: crying is breathing to help us catch up with our overwhelming emotions. It is done in the presence of god if you think about the tears and the symbolism of water being the presence of God.

We breathe harder when we live harder. Running. Skiing. Basketball. Baseball are all breathing sports.

When we play sports like baseball, we breath!

Watch me: Pitch. Bat. Catch. (I act this out.)

We hold our breath when we think we are about to die.

Maybe we do that to keep from dying. Who knows?

Now I will make my point.

I know of a man, Thich Nhat Hahn who breathes intentionally and smiles with every breathe all day every day and he has been doing this for the better part of his ninety-three years. I think he must cheat a little by smiling continuously during his waking hours and in his sleep. He does smile and he does emphasize every breath he takes.

I want you to take sometime to breathe intentionally every day. It should become a livelong habit to breath intentionally. We may not become Thich Nhat Hahn, but we will all be better for breathing intentionally.

Ten minutes every morning would a good start for you.

I wake up every morning and breathe intentionally for sixty minutes. I roll out of bed. I touch the timer on my I Phone, and assume the down dog position and start breathing intentionally.

I don’t stay in down dog for an hour in case you are wondering. It is fast way to wake up.

Sixty minutes is a really, really long time to dedicate to breathing. However, the upside is that every hour of the rest of my day is shaped by that first hour.

Every minute of intentional breathing reminds me that I am alive and that I am enjoying my life.

Ask yourselves if you have ever seen me not vibrating with excitement and exuberance in the last four months.

Let me shift gears here for a moment.

Addicts have negative triggers in their lives: a Bic lighter, the television remote, the VISA card, you know your negative triggers. They live lives of negativity and aimlessness; they are hungry ghosts in search of more of something to fulfill their lives and they never find that something.

We will not become hungry ghosts; we will breath our way though a full and rich life regardless of what comes our way because we are intimately in touch with life itself through our breathing.

Let me show you my positive triggers.

I use my I Phone in the morning to trigger my intentional breathing.

I use the key fob to my Volvo to remind me to breathe intentionally while driving all the way to Anchorage, or to Carrs, if that is all the further I am driving.

When I feel fear, or anger, or sadness, I stop, I focus, and I breathe intentionally.

It’s kind of like that “count to ten before you explode,” but better because it works and it lasts longer.

Okay. Let me catch my breath.

I want to tell you two stories before I close.

I learned that life was breath from my chocolate Lab, Duke. Duke lived ten great years by my side. I biked with him, sailed with him, and read the Bible out loud to him. Twice. He loved it. The day that my wife Eva and I put Duke “to sleep” as the euphemism goes, we took him into the exam room, watched as the vet gave him a sedative to calm him, and then we petted his chest as he breathed in and out and in and out and then stopped.

My moment of awareness was realizing that when he stopped breathing, his life was gone. Forever. It could never be started again because he was dead. He had stopped breathing. He had stopped living. That was the moment that I knew the secret to life:

Life is breath.

My second breathing story is about my daughter and my wife. My wife had lost consciousness about ten days before she stopped breathing. My daughter, Sam, spent every minute of every day with her mother almost until her last breath. About five days into unconsciousness, Eva was breathing so slowly, about four breaths a minute, that Sam had to crawl across the bed, put her face close to her mother’s face and listen to see if she was still breathing. As Sam was leaning into her mother’s face, Eva said, BOO!” Sam jumped back, scared breathless and listened as her mother said, “Just messing with you.”

Her last words.

 

My last words to you:

I will always think of my wife, Eva, my daughter, Samantha, my dogs, too numerous to mention, and you, the Class of 2016, every morning as I practice intentional breathing

Until

My

Last

Living

Breath!

Good night! Good luck! Thank you for this experience!

 

Here is the video of the Career Tech High School Class of 2016 Graduation.

My speech is introduced at 58:44. Maximize the screen and turn up the sound

http://thecube.com/event/career-tech-high-school-commencement-ceremony-643038

 

Christopher Drick (a former student) suggested I and this video to this blog:

 

 

 

 

Ghosting: The Gutless Goodbye.

The purpose of my blog is to write about what I like. This essay is about something I don’t like; thus, it has an unavoidably negative tone.

Last night, I was reading a Cognitive Behavior Therapy  book. I remember some blurb about how the smartest man in the world (Aaron Temkin Beck) invented the cognitive behavior branch of psychology in the 1930s. I thought the CBT approach might be something that could help a friend of mine overcome depression and assorted dysfunctional behaviors. I chose a book titled, The Everything Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, by Ellen Bowers, PhD. It sounded authoritative enough to teach me about CBT.

As I was reading, I came to the following passage:

“Popular literature is full of helpful information about ending romantic relationships or marriages, but how do you manage a friendship that, as far as you are concerned, is definitely on the skids?

One method is to take it in increments, increasing levels of subtlety. Become somewhat vague in your answers to e-mails and phone calls. Be a little evasive when the other person wants to make a specific plan to get together for a concert or an outing. If he doesn’t see that you are tapering off in your investment, it may be necessary to simple not respond to communications. Then, you may want to have a face-to-face meeting and briefly state that your life has changed and you find you no longer have time to nurture your friendship. No lengthy explanation is needed, because if he didn’t “get it” with your more polite attempts, he will not get it now. It will make you feel bad on explanations that fall on deaf ears.

If the former friend morphs into a stalker, you may have to block him from your e-mail, phone, and social media sites. This is drastic, but sometimes it happens. This final level of protection in no way makes you a bad person. You are simply protecting your sacred inner essence from the Negative Nellies and Energy Vampires who enjoyed feeding off of you in the past. They will find other prey.”

Bowers. P 71.

Wow! Bower’s guide is a formula for ghosting!

This is how we treat people who considered themselves to be our friends?

A brief definition is in order: My definition of a friend is someone who is concerned about your well-being, and who supports your efforts to live an effective and productive life through companionship.

I immediately thought of a “friend” who ghosted me in January, and then reached out to me via social media in April to assure me that we were still friends, and then ghosted me again after my wife’s death. She could have read this text from this book and followed it to the letter. Or maybe, her therapist taught her this strategy based on the therapist’s understanding of CBT.

Trust me, if you have ever been the object of ghosting, you know the humiliation of wondering what exactly you did wrong to deserve to be ghosted,then reinstated into friendship, only to be ghosted a second time.

Is this a civil way to treat people? Does anyone like being manipulated like an object? Would Bower’s strategy for ending friendships pass the WWJD test? Would a normal person really feel that ghosting someone is treating them humanely? Does this even come close to the “Golden Rule” that our parents and churches advocated for us to use in building and maintaining our friendships?

My answer is “No” to all the questions.

Bower’s strategy sounds like a page right out of the high school drama culture. It is not a guide for learning “positive and mindful techniques to change negative behaviors,” as the book purports to be. Quite the opposite.

I take exception to the steps Bowers describes to end a friendship. Ghosting is cruel. Ghosting is not a effective, or humane way to end a relationship.

Bowers  is coaching duplicity.  She is not coaching for positive relationships and mindfulness in our relationship with others.

She suggests meeting with a person face to face after ghosting the him? Can anyone besides me see the potential for a violent encounter using that strategy?

What is the matter with just telling someone from the moment you decide to end a friendship: “I can no longer be friends with you. Do not contact me again. Ever.”

One shot to the right temple lobe.  End of friendship.

No doubt will exist in your former friend’s mind: the relationship is dead; your friendship is dead.

A piece of your soul will die with that shot; you can never do just one thing: there is always a cost associated with changing relationships.

Why is this more humane?

Easy. It is honest. It is unequivocal. It respects the person’s dignity by not allowing them to linger in hopes that the friendship might be salvaged if they can only figure out what they did wrong. It saves that person time and emotional energy by letting him, or her, know that you are no longer a “friend” right up front. In all probability, your friend was  deluded that you were ever a friend in the first place; it is important to clear up misunderstandings as quickly as possible.

People can move on if you don’t resort to subterfuge, impeding their understanding of their new relationship to you.

Ghosting is subterfuge.  Ghosting is inhumane.  Ghosting is gutless.

Bower’s should review her advice on how to end a friendship. Her method calls into question her authority to teach “positive and mindful techniques to change negative behaviors.”

I was brought up by my parents, and my teachers, and my friends to treat people with dignity and respect. I don’t treat the people I don’t care for with Bower’s level of disdain.

How others treat you is their karma; how you treat them is your karma.

Bower’s, and my former “friend” have bad karma.

Good luck to both of them: they will need it.

Click  the following  and listen to why Sarah Hepola learned not to ghost boyfriends.

http://www.npr.org/2016/01/13/462787811/going-away-without-ghosting-a-better-way-to-say-im-not-into-you