On the Dance Floor, Not the Bathroom Floor: Tips for First-Time Drinkers

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If you’re going to try something brand new as a freshman in college—or as a sophomore, junior, senior, we won’t judge—the first few weeks of the semester is the time to do it. That could mean anything from going to your first office hour session to testing the water (or rather, not the water) at your first college party. While many hard-partying freshmen are quick to brag about their high school drinking days, for those who are less experienced, it can be a little scary. Check out the best tips to help you be a safe and responsible drinking pro, even if you’re a total rookie.

Be Honest

Faking it until you make it isn’t the move when it comes to your first time drinking heavily. It might be embarrassing to admit your lack of experience to your friends, but it’s going to be 10 times more embarrassing when they figure it out on their own after you’ve vomited all over the bathroom floor. Your friends would much rather help you learn your limits than help you clean up that mess. Let them know you might not be able to keep up right away, and you’ll all end up happier.

Take it Slow

Your first few experiences drinking should be about finding your limit, but don’t wait until you’re absolutely trashed to determine what that limit was. Even if your more adventurous friends don’t count their drinks or alternate with water, when you’re first starting out, those aren’t bad ideas. It’s also not a bad idea to only stick to one or two types of alcohol the first night. You have the rest of your drinking life to figure out what your favorite is; you don’t need to taste-test them all at once.

Eat Before You Go

…And a few pretzels during the pregame won’t cut it. When you’re planning on going out that night, dinner should be part of your plan, too. Eating a heavy, protein-filled meal will make your body absorb alcohol slower. That may deter some of your buddies’ plans of getting totally wasted, but if you don’t have a tolerance at all yet, eating before is the right move. Plus, it’s hard to have fun when you’re starving.

Beware of the Communal Drinks

Jungle juice, hunch punch, slapping the bag, taking a bottle to the face – however the partiers at your university share alcohol at their ragers, avoid it like the plague. If you decide to share drinks with the entire party, you might literally catch the plague. Living in a dorm and sharing a public bathroom already puts you at the ultimate risk for getting sick: You don’t want to start drinking the saliva of strangers on top of it. Your best bet is to pour your own drinks into your own cup, or at least watch the bartender do it. That way you know how much you’re taking in…and that none of it is spit.

Make Transportation Plans in Advance

If your dorm is farther than a short walk away, you’re going to need to find a way home. It’s best to rely on sober-you to make these plans a few hours in advance, unless you want drunk-you to accidentally send you to Timbuktu. Saving the number for a taxi service, downloading Uber, learning your campus bus route or finding a friend to DD should all be your next move once you figure out your plans for the evening. And it should go without saying, but might as well repeat it: Don’t drink and drive, don’t let your friends drink and drive and never get into a car with a driver who’s been drinking.

Put the Phone Away

When you decide to stay up all night drinking, your voice of reason will decide it’s ready for an early bedtime. Thus, your logic will decrease as your BAC increases. One thing you can do to dispel any damage that will come from this unfortunate occurrence is to keep your phone away unless it’s an emergency (and missing your high school ex is not an emergency). You don’t NEED to update your Snapchat buds on every song that plays, and your mom will most likely understand if you don’t answer her random text at 11 p.m. on a Friday. And proven fact: No one ever takes an Instagrammable picture more than three drinks into the night (Sorry to all screaming girls at the bar). Put the phone away, and you’ll thank yourself tomorrow.

Forget the Myths

Your older sister swears by “beer before liquor, never been sicker,” and your best friend says that a cold shower sobers him up almost instantly. Most Internet sources you consult on these matters will dispute whether there’s any truth to these age-old drinking claims. The real truth: It all depends on the person. As you embark on your first round of drinks, your friends will be eager to share their knowledge, but just remember that no two people are alike. Listen to your body. Hearing about your friends’ major screw-ups is fun, but learning from your personal experience will teach you the most.

Drink to Enjoy, Not to Be Drunk

Not drinking just to get drunk is a foreign concept to most college kids. Chugging it all down to get hammered is cute the first weekend of freshman year, but keep up the habit, and you won’t find yourself invited back to anything. Alcohol should be the opening act of your night, not the main event. If you want to drink, have enough to loosen yourself up, but not so much that you lose all your friends in the process.

Stay With Your Squad

When you’re drunk for the first time in the dark basement of a frat party, you don’t want to suddenly realize that the people surrounding you are total strangers. You definitely don’t want to be the drunken kid at the party that those total strangers are now responsible for, either. Partying during the first few weeks of school is a great way to make connections, but when you wander away from your homies to go meet that cute boy from your psychology lecture, make sure they know where you’re going and come right back.

Be Prepared for the Hangover

Part of figuring out whether you want to go out drinking at night means deciding how hungover you’re prepared to be in the morning. Those with early classes should definitely avoid hitting the bars on weeknights. Your best bet when planning your first night out is to finish all your homework the night before, put some Advil and a water bottle next to your bed and plan to stay there all day. After all, if you enjoyed your first night out drinking, chances are you’re going to want to rest up for next weekend.

CM does not condone underage drinking, but we definitely condone safe drinking. Stay smart, stay legal and have fun.

Natalie is a sophomore Broadcast Journalism major and Women’s Studies minor at the University of Maryland. If she’s not at the dance studio, she can most likely be found watching comedy shows on Netflix, eating ice cream, or jamming way too hard to showtunes.

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