By: Alanna Shingler, Editor
Note from the author: This is the first of a three-part series on Regis students’ interactions with drugs. Without judgment and without blame, the goal is to uncover the truth about who’s using, what they’re using, and why. Nora* is just one of thousands of undergrads at Regis and her story is unique to her. I would like to deeply thank Nora for her openness and willingness to share her story.
It’s a Tuesday. She looks at her messy room. She feels the weight of the homework she still hasn’t done, the bills she needs to pay, the phone calls she should make. Her roommate pops her head in the door, “Should we black tonight?” “Yes.”
Why do we drink? That is never the first question we ask. What about weed? And cigarettes? Kratom? All are perfectly legal to buy in Colorado. And for students living on or near a college campus, being underaged is nothing more than a small obstacle in acquiring these substances. I spoke with one Regis student who opened up about her relationships with substances - particularly alcohol and tobacco.
Her freshman year, Nora experienced the all-too-familiar pressure of appearing a certain way around her peers. She remembers thinking, “Let’s dress a certain way, look a certain way, and drink a certain amount. That way we can have a good time.” Drinking acted a social lubricant and a vehicle for meeting new people. Nora noted, “I didn’t really ever blackout and I always went back to my dorm and felt safe.”
Toward the end of her freshman year, however, Nora became more comfortable socially at Regis. She got a boyfriend, started smoking cigarettes, and was prescribed anti-anxiety medication. Instead of drinking for the social aspect, Nora started drinking with the intention of blacking out. She marks this time as a turning point in her relationship with alcohol, saying, “I felt like a broken person because I had to take meds . . . drinking became a lot more destructive.” This is when Nora began mixing substances - anxiety medication, cocaine, tobacco, and different types of alcohol all in one night. Not to mention, she and her boyfriend would often not eat during the day because they used Adderall to get as much schoolwork done as possible before going out at night.
Nora dated her boyfriend for about a year and a half until they broke up, but her cigarette and alcohol habits stuck. She compares cigarette smoking to fidgeting: “Sometimes you don’t realize it, it just happens. I smoke cigarettes when I’m sober and when I’m drinking.” She drinks about five days out of the week and has found, “Sometimes it’s a beautiful thing. Sometimes it’s awesome,” but she warns, “If you are drinking with emotion you have to surround yourself with good people.”
Now, Nora is a junior. She feels more comfortable with herself and her friend group. She emphasizes that she knows alcohol can be a negative factor in her life, but that she now knows that she does not need it to “numb” herself or to forget about the past. Nora finds it empowering to reflect on her relationship with alcohol and expresses, “Knowing I don’t want to go back to those days of full blacking out and substance abuse is a good thing.”
*name changed to maintain anonymity