As a young adult attending college, it felt liberating and exciting to drink to the point of intoxication. It was “typical” to binge drink, party, and use illicit substances while at university, particularly for students in a fraternity or sorority. After all, being part of an organization with deep historical roots and a wealth of social opportunities felt like much more than just a part of your college experience—it felt like a home away from home.
Kegs and eggs on Saturday mornings with your fraternity brothers? Midnight naked runs through the library? Making fancy cocktails for your sorority sisters—for four days straight—after your 2pm classes? Those traditions were part of your experience on campus. And they were fun. The trouble is, these habits may have also contributed to the struggles with alcohol you’re currently experiencing as an adult.
The Irresistible Connection Between Alcohol and Going Greek
It is no secret that “Greek Life” gets bad press more often than not—but as you know, there are also great advantages to pledging your allegiance to a frat or sorority. “Going Greek” can lessen the sometimes emotionally devastating blow of leaving home and going to college. It feels wonderful to belong to something greater than yourself while being constantly surrounded by a community of like-minded people.
However, the deep-seated connection between Greek houses and excessive alcohol use has been documented and studied for over a hundred years. Though the choice to drink often and in high amounts isn’t confined just to those belonging to a frat or sorority on campus, numbers don’t lie. 60% of college students use alcohol on a regular basis, and two of every three binge drink with the same frequency.
So what binds the abuse of alcohol, the tendency to binge drink, and belonging to a sorority or fraternity together? Simply put, the desire to be accepted and liked by others—especially in a new environment laden with freedom and choice—is a strong one. Being invested in a social group can also influence college-aged individuals to do things they know might not be healthy or in accordance with their personal beliefs.
How Greek Life Can Lead to Post-Grad High-Functioning Alcoholism
There are two main reasons Greek life might lead you to adult alcoholism. First, it can be tempting to extend the habits you developed with your brothers or sisters. The drive to continue the constant party often dictates the social circles you choose and jobs you take after college.
Anyone accustomed to drinking heavily at least three to four times a week may naturally navigate toward people, places, and work environments that use drinking as a primary way to socialize and feel accepted. Frequent binge drinking sessions or daily drinking often result from the work hard, play hard mentality.
Alternatively, Greek grads often suffer from the sudden lack of that party culture. You entered the workforce, and the community surrounding you evaporated. Weekends suddenly aren’t full of parties where proving you can drink more than everyone is a claim to fame. You really start to miss being around groups of people your age. The loss of such a piece of your identity can be traumatic. Alcohol, as a major piece of that former identity, is something you fall back on in order to cope.
Nearly every study on the relationship between alcohol abuse and Greek socialization shows that belonging to one of these groups is a strong predictor for other alcohol-related problems, including alcoholism post-college. The way students drink when they are in college reveals a lot about developed drinking habits—which can contribute to excessive alcohol use and alcoholism in adulthood.
High-Functioning Alcoholism Is Still Alcoholism: Treatment Is Necessary
Unfortunately, the connection between a Greek-style college experience and alcoholism in adulthood is often missed. These individuals can be high-functioning, family-loving, job-completing individuals. This group of alcoholics should not be overlooked, however, as they still need proper treatment.
Using alcohol as a crutch—even if you are still able to uphold a job, make a decent salary, and maintain personal relationships—is still an unhealthy and dangerous dependency. While there is no shame in reaching out for help, the first steps are recognizing and admitting that your relationship with alcohol is toxic and can lead to unintended and unwanted consequences.
If your alcoholism is closely connected with the partial loss of identity and those friends you held dear throughout your pledge, it is crucial that you treat both together through a comprehensive treatment program, complete with therapies and activities that suit your individual needs. Know that you can again find a healthy and reliable community to belong to, without alcohol. There is a fuller, happier, healthier life waiting for you beyond your binge-drinking college days