Dear CHEERS: Helping a friend who may have a drinking problem

By Kathryn Slezak

Dear CHEERS,

I live in an apartment of 7 people, but surprisingly we get along most of the time. We have been friends since the beginning of freshman year, and we do everything together, so we know each other pretty well. Lately, one of my best friends in the apartment has started to drink a lot more than he has since I’ve known him. It started off as a way to celebrate the good weather, but he has steadily been drinking more and more. It has gotten to the point where none of us can tell whether he’s drunk or not because he drinks all day every day. I want to say something to him about his drinking, but I don’t want to be the buzzkill, because I like to have a good time too. Is there anything I can do?

It’s really unfortunate that looking out for a friend like that can have such a bad connotation, but it’s a reality we’re stuck with. There are ways for you to let him know that you’re worried about his drinking and what he’s doing without showing any judgment or being a “buzzkill” about it. You can test the waters to find a way to ask him if there’s something going on with him beneath the surface that is causing him to drink so much. Stress, family problems and bad grades can cause excessive drinking in hopes of coping, forgetting, or de-stressing. Your friend might not recognize immediately that you’re trying to be a good friend if you approach him about this problem, but eventually he’ll realize that you were just looking out for him. You can also see if someone else in your apartment wouldn’t mind approaching him about it if you don’t feel comfortable. However, he might see it as you and your friend talking or gossiping about him if he knows you both are talking about him. This can sometimes make the problem worse than it needs to be and prevent him from being as receptive to your help. If neither of these options are possible, there is always the anonymous option on the Current Students homepage where you can submit his name if you are concerned about him. This may seem extreme, but if you are truly concerned about your friend and want to help them but don’t know how, this is a great way to do so.

Kathryn Slezak is co-leader of CHEERS and a senior at Gettysburg College.

CHEERS (Communicating for a Healthy Environment by Educating Responsible Students) is a peer educators group whose primary goal is to provide students with information to make healthy, informed choices which will facilitate student adjustment to the Gettysburg College atmosphere.

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