It’s great advice to tell someone to be aware of their surroundings, especially when they are going to a place where there will be alcohol served and people they don’t know. Yet the advice can only be taken well if you know how to actually be aware of what’s going on around you and what could be going on in the night. This includes whether or not you’re drinking any alcohol.Write down your best friend’s name on a piece of paper and fold it in half; I remember doing this during my new member process of joining a sorority. I wrote down my best friend’s name, a girl that I’ve been friends with since I met her in third grade. I folded the sheet of paper and waited to find out why we were doing this.

During this part of the new member process, we were talking about risk management and behaviors. Some scenarios included alcohol being present, while others did not.

The sister told us to imagine we were at a party where alcohol was available and that our best friend had come with us. She told us the story as: your best friend hasn’t been to many college parties, and tonight she’s had a lot to drink. You never tell her to stop drinking. Later that night, another friend tells you they saw her hit her head and that she has a headache. You ask her if she wants to leave, but she insists on staying. You keep an eye on her, but you start to think she’s fine once you see her get another drink.

You’re ready to go home, and she stays at the party with a few of your friends. The next day your friends tell you she passed out on the couch and they left her to sleep it off. As you go to find your friend at the place of the party, you see the police outside the house, taping off the perimeter with crime scene tape. Someone standing by you in the crowd tells you that someone died of alcohol poisoning.

This story is similar to what happened to Sam Spady, a college student. My sorority sister told us to open our folded papers and said what if this happened to your friend? I couldn’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to lose a close friend of mine like that, especially to lose someone to something that could have been prevented. I was a sophomore in college when we did this activity and heard about the death of a college student. Now, in my senior year, I think far back to the name that I wrote down on that paper, someone who is still my very best friend. I have so many plans with my friend, a girl who is planning out her wedding for next year. Life would be so different without her.

After discussing how it could have happened to anyone of us or one of our friends, we watched a video on Spady and her alcohol-related death. I would hear her story again at a Greek life event. At this event, in a room full of new Greek members, I once again heard of Spady’s story. This time when I heard the story, it explained how many people were involved or interacted with Spady the night she died. It would have taken one person to help save her life, a life she lost at 19.

Being aware of your surroundings should allow you to be more conscious of the strangers around you. For starters, you should realize that if you are drinking an alcoholic beverage, then you’re impairing your judgments, meaning you’re impairing your understanding of your surroundings.

Your surroundings are not limited to the area you are in, or the people you are with. Spady had a concussion and a high BAC (blood alcohol content). She wasn’t turning blue, nor did she have clammy hands. She was passing out, and it’s possible that someone tried to wake her, but was unsuccessful. These are a few factors that could show signs of alcohol poisoning. Signs of alcohol poisoning are not always bound to be the textbook signs.

If one person had taken her to the hospital, or called an ambulance, her life could have been saved.

The group of friends you go out with, and the people you choose to allow into your social life, can ultimately decide a level of safety in a time of crisis. You can still go out and have fun with or without drinking, as long as you are making sure you or your friends are not drinking too much. They should do the same for you.

Ginger Rae Dunbar is a student at West Chester University majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at RD655287@wcupa.edu.

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