Drinking Friends and Real Friends

The night began inside the house doing jello shots, and then sitting with some people around a bonfire where I consumed an entire handle of alcohol of my choosing. After that, I played beer pong and then….darkness. When I came to, I heard laughing and realized I was flat on my back. Picking myself up, I continued to play. I quickly lost consciousness again, and again, and again. I only remember a few things from the rest of the night. What I mostly remember was being carried to the car and stumbling up the stairs to the apartment where I lived just in time to throw up into a trash can. I proceeded to be sick every half an hour until 4:30 AM. Nights like this pretty much sum up my senior year of college.

I’m not much of a drinker. I never have been. Even on my 21st birthday, I barely touched beer. But everything about that was different my senior year. What changed? Well, for starters, my girlfriend of one year had suddenly broken up with me in the worst way: over email. There was no closure, no hard reason why, just the phrase “I’ve changed.” That phrase haunted me my entire senior year. I was also in the middle of trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I had just changed majors and was struggling with a pretty severe sense of confusion. I also changed the group of people I was spending the majority of my time with. I spent time with my roommate’s friends—who weren’t bad people by any means. Nevertheless, I found that when I was around them, I started to engage in unhealthy behavior. I drank way more than I ever had, was more crass in my language, and was generally more open to behaviors that were shortsighted and harmful to myself and others. All of this led me to feel like I was in the middle of a huge dark ocean, being knocked around by big waves.Flickr/ M@X

A study from the 1950’s done by Solomon Asch suggests that even when we know something to be factually right, a small majority of people in our immediate influence who argue otherwise can influence some of us to conform to their line of thinking. Basically, even if we know something is right or wrong we tend to do or say what our friends say, regardless of the truth. This study and others like it show that we are all susceptible to influences from others, and I personally experienced that in my senior year of college.

But thankfully, college wasn’t the end of the story. In the same way that we can have bad influences, we can also have incredibly good influences. Contrast senior year to the present day, where I’m in a much better spot. I am married to a wonderful woman. I spend time with friends that don’t force drinks on me, and who engage me in conversations that are intelligent and funny. I have realized that I find myself a much better person in part due to my choices of who I choose to spend time with. Although I dislike admitting that people significantly influence my choices, I have to admit that their influence reaches rather far. So, I found it helpful to ask myself: Who in my life brings out the best in me in real, concrete ways? Who inspires good in me? Who makes me want to serve others? Who inspires me to attain my goals? Who can ask me hard and uncomfortable questions that challenge me to grow? These are the people I should be around most. My wife is one of these people. The best man at my wedding is too. The group of friends I spend time with now are people that encourage me by their actions to live a life that is meaningful for myself and others.

However, I also realized that not all of influence is external or from other people. Post college, I chose to have better friends than I did my senior year because I was disgusted with my choices. I had become shallow and lifeless. My idea of a good time was getting so drunk that I couldn’t remember the night before. The movement of the desire of my heart to a cleaner existence then shaped my external influences, and vice versa. An example of this is when I started to be more involved in the young adult group where I met my future wife. The internal movement of my heart to desire more wholesome company led me to this group of men and women who did good things. These were people that I saw were truly pure of heart. That observation brought on some well-deserved guilt on my part, knowing that I had lost some of that innocence in my search for cheap thrills. My desire moved ever more toward a simpler, less “me”-centered life. This desire grew stronger the moment I met my future wife and decided that things had to change. Thankfully, they have changed as a result of both my inner desires and external behaviors feeding on each other to change my life choices. And it has all been positive change.

While I’m still not perfect, I do my best to act on the good impulses. Do I still spend time with people who bring out an unpleasant side of me? Yes, because sometimes they are unavoidable–like at work, school, or even family functions. But as long as I keep desiring to become a better person, I will continue to seek out those friends that make me so. Sometimes it means taking matters into my own hands: starting a book club, a coffee shop meet-up, a gaming group, etc. Whatever it is, I know that I need that external influence, or else my desires don’t mean a thing. I truly want change in my life. A taste of shallowness my senior year scared me to death. I don’t want that, and I know that you and I are meant for more.

Philip

Philip lives in Ohio and enjoys his time doing introvert things like reading and going on solitary hikes, but occasionally has bursts of extroversion that exhaust him. He is a part of I Believe in Love because he wants to share his experiences in the hope that someone will find them helpful, and maybe even hopeful.
Philip
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