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Hey, Bonita!

Apologizing for Past Behaviors

Hey Bonita,

I’m a grad student. I had a pretty big conflict with members of my cohort last spring, which was not resolved before the summer break started. The gist is that I regularly acted like an ass during classes and events. I was loud and obnoxious; I sucked all the air out of the room, as they say; and made it very easy for them to be motivated to avoid me. I’m sure I made group projects horrible for them, and I get so embarrassed even thinking about how I acted. Over the summer I started online therapy, decided that my life would be better if I drank way less, and maybe I shouldn’t drink at all. I’m taking a break while I decide. Looking back on those times with my cohort, I have to admit that I was often tipsy during class and probably smelled like alcohol. I’m sure there were days when I was there drunk.

I hate that I played this role in my cohort, and I cringe thinking about how their experience in the program will always be colored by That One Stupid Drunk. I’m not into 12-step culture, but I would like to find a way to make amends. What comes to mind is apologizing to the group during a meeting, but isn’t that just more self-absorbed sucking of air? Should I do something like buy everyone coffee?

Thanks for your help!
No Longer A Stupid Drunk

Hey there NLASD,

Congratulations on figuring this out about yourself, and I wish you only the best as you navigate the path to sobriety. It’s really tough to be sober (or even just a light drinker) in this town, and especially if you’re a student at the winningest college football school in the country. Drinking culture is everywhere here, and it can be shocking to go on campus on a game day and see all of the handles of hard liquor at everyone’s tailgate. There’s a lot of pressure to participate in the ra-ra-go-dawgz of it all, and I take my wig off to anyone who makes the choice to remove themselves from that aspect of campus culture. I’m also really glad that you figured this out before you graduated, because it’s my opinion that being an alcoholic student is only slightly easier than being an alcoholic adult trying to keep a job and a home.

But now you’re sober and in therapy, and oh snap—you can remember your behavior with brutal clarity, and it’s embarrassing. I’ve been there. Imagine being in a blackout while getting escorted out of a family restaurant in front of all of your coworkers on the university paper, and then running into your opinion editor at Little Kings over a decade later. Because that’s what happened to me during my first year in town, and I still have moments where I could vomit from the memory of my first year of college. He remembered it all, sure, but today it’s not a thing that we mention at all when we see each other. I was a teenager, and I’m not anymore, and running into this person while I was still getting to know Athens was a comfort that I can’t quite describe.If you did something that was truly transgressive, offensive and unacceptable, then I think you would owe the person your behavior affected a sincere and private apology. There is no need to make this about your entire cohort—people really aren’t watching us or judging us as closely as we think, so there’s no need to assume that all of them think of you as a disgusting drunk. If you want it known that you’ve changed, perhaps you can slip in the fact that you’re now sober and in therapy when chatting. If someone invites you to a tailgate, let them know that you only tailgate sober. Don’t hide the fact that you’re in therapy—as much as you’re comfortable with admitting, of course. After all, it’s a fact of your life, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of. I think you can pepper in your truth while also being a good student and a great classmate, and your peers will indeed gather that you’ve changed for the better.

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