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Anthony Golden / Gavel Media

Friendships and Alcohol: A Familiar Cocktail

It was Saturday night, but all I cared about was holding onto every last second of the weekend. It was dark and light simultaneously. An array of fluorescent colors was spiraling over the walls, covering the ceiling, and giving me only a glimpse of their face. My mind fell into a dance with the lights and suddenly I felt so close to them.  Earlier in the night they were only a stranger, but in those loud flickering moments I felt like I knew them.

Now it’s Sunday morning, and the weekend is essentially over. I woke up feeling nauseous. My head wasn’t dancing anymore, it was pounding. I scold myself for the amount of money I spent on drinks as I wash down a few Advil, drinking straight from the Brita. Then, in some sort of post-night-out routine I unconsciously established, I pull myself together and prepare for the week ahead. I didn’t give them too much thought until we walk by each other in passing. Those somewhat intimate feelings we shared Saturday night quickly turn into an awkward, uncomfortable look-away. The BC Look-Away is a classic tale, but why had the night’s events that pulled us so close together twist and turn and push us so far apart?

It’s no secret that alcohol brings people together and creates camaraderie. The drinking culture at large is fundamentally one big alcohol-induced hangout. We both praise and condemn alcohol for its ability to make a situation more comfortable. The “let me take one more shot before we leave” mentality developed because if things go awry, the lowered inhibitions, readiness to talk to strangers, and ease in conversation can all be accredited to being “too drunk." We blame the drinking culture for our nightly problems, yet we repeat the same pattern over and over again each weekend.

The friends we make while we are drinking seem so valuable in those blurry moments, but when reality hits, feelings of discomfort and awkwardness seem to outweigh the previous night’s excitement.

What I find most interesting about alcohol’s role in college students’ relationships is the way it can align different social circles for just a few hours. Going out comes with the chance to meet people who we may never be in the same place with at the same time again, and if we are, we are less likely to talk to them in the absence of alcohol. With each person we encounter we see an opportunity to seize, a possible relationship to develop.

Admittedly, surrounding that truth is some sober insecurity: insecurity in the idea that the cute guy sitting at the bar could end up being your boyfriend; insecurity in the idea that the girl in your globalization class dancing to your left has the potential to become your soul sister. The probability is low, yet the stakes are high. Truthfully, some of the greatest relationships in our lives are forged by the randomness  and spontaneity of life's events. But often, instead of capitalizing on these opportunities, we become bounded by the social strain of sober “awkwardness,” and thus we stick to our comfort zones.

Although we use alcohol to combat sober social strains, we tend to attribute alcohol consumption to taking measures of avoidance. The reality is, though, if we continually allow our inebriated selves to persist in relationship-seeking behaviors, and if we assume that alcohol can push us outside of our comfort zones, we will have a far bigger social circle and many more social opportunities. Nonetheless, this is dependent on what comes after those chaotic, drunken moments.

It doesn’t take some grand gesture to be a personable person. The simple act of authentically following-up on the relationships we establish while drunk is a good start. If we utilize the socialite-egos that are brought about through our use of alcohol, we might just have a more expansive outlook on the importance of relationships in our lives.

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