College Life Coping with Roommate who is a Heavy Drinker

College can be a tough time for many people. Free from the oversight of parents and traditional community figures, many incoming college students may behave unwisely and have difficulty handling their newfound freedom. Not surprisingly, a common pitfall of many incoming college students is the easy availability of alcohol. Through various means, dorms often have ready stockpiles of alcoholic beverages. What should you do when your roommate turns out to be a heavy drinker?

First of all, you should be proactive in discussing a roommate’s drinking before it threatens to harm your relationship. Make it known that you will not allow his or her drinking to jeopardize your academic success, meaning your room will not become a “party room” if your roommate’s imbibing becomes a social lubricant that may tend to drive festivities back to your domicile. For your collegiate success it is important to explicitly state your refusal to become the “party room.” Holding your tongue and allowing your grades to suffer as study time gets minimized by party time can cost you dearly in terms of lost time and tuition money.

Secondly, let your roommate know where you draw the lines in terms of nursing a drunk. Sometimes a person may become a heavier drinker if they are indulged by friends and roommates who will clean up afterward. If you are not a babysitter or hand-holder, be up-front about it. Force your roommate to drink elsewhere if he or she expects an indulgent and supportive audience.

Third, develop social connections so you can get away from your roommate if need be. While being up-front and direct about not tolerating an obnoxious drunk may keep a lid on bad behavior, your roommate may continue to imbibe if he or she feels you are a captive audience forced to socialize. By having friends and joining clubs and extracurricular activities you force your roommate to realize that if they continue to drink they will often be drinking alone. You will not be “held hostage” by a roommate who wants to have a drink every time you two are together in your room or suite.

Developing a positive network of out-of-the-dorm friends may help your roommate as well, either by introducing them to new people who can help show them that fun can be had without alcohol or by forcing them to socialize on their own, perhaps getting them out of the room and away from the mini-fridge of booze. Many college students may drink out of loneliness, so establishing a positive social network could also help a heavy-drinking roommate.

Fourth, if the problem of a heavy-drinking roommate proves unmanageable, do not hesitate to seek help from dorm and school administrators. Your Resident Assistant (RA) or dorm adviser can help you find new living quarters away from a heavy drinker who refuses to change his or her disruptive behaviors. These individuals are paid to help with these exact types of situations, so do not delay to seek their assistance – they are there to help. If an RA seems unhelpful, take your problem up the chain of command.

Inform your roommate that you will not hesitate to discuss the continuing drinking problem with these administrators if need be. Perhaps the threat of college administrative sanction, up to and including expulsion, can get a troublesome roommate to sober up.

Above all, remember this: You are paying for a high-quality, wholesome educational and social experience and should not tolerate anything, or anyone, less. Be polite but be firm in letting a roommate know that you will not compromise on seeking a positive and beneficial college experience.