Tales from a secondhand drunk

Humor Columnist Matthew Seetoo describes the trials he faces as a chronic secondhand drunk


There are those of us who do not drink at parties and face a much worse fate — we are the secondhand drunks.

Christina Anton | Cavalier Daily

Work hard, play hard — no truer words had been spoken about U.Va.’s party scene. Friday, Saturday — and for some, even Thursday — are the times when students can cut loose and enjoy themselves and others. Even when one wakes up upside down, snuggling up to the statue of Thomas Jefferson, the blurry events of the night can make for a great story. 

However, there are those of us who do not drink at parties and face a much worse fate — we are the secondhand drunks. You don’t have to look it up. I crunched the numbers and looked at WebMD. I’m pretty sure it’s a real thing. 

It started the second Friday of September at a house off-Grounds. Parties were never really my thing, so this experience was definitely something new. Things were going great, but then I saw it. I saw the booze. I thought I’d be fine after seeing just one beer, but who ever is? 

The night progressed and it only got worse. My tolerance was still pretty high, so I could handle a couple sounds of beers clinking or tabs popping. But my tolerance gave out when I was talking to Chad and I caught a whiff of his bottle. I could feel the alcohol particles bombard my system as my senses began to go. Chad asked me if I was alright and if I wanted a “Deer Park water bottle” to calm me down. I was still new to drinking culture, but I knew slang when I heard it. 

I staggered back and inadvertently got myself into a beer pong game. I made every shot. If there were any doubts about what happened to me, they were now gone. I was second. Hand. Drunk. The rest of the night was one of very clear events. I couldn’t fail at a drinking game if I tried. I talked to people coherently and competently. I didn’t dangle from anything or jump from furniture. And through it all, I kept wafting more and more of that liquid sin. I was afraid of what people would think the next day when they talked about my radical behavior. 

Eventually the party died down, no thanks to my antics, and a group of friends asked if I could help them get home because “I hadn’t drunk anything.” They were never more right. I had done so much worse and yet they trusted me to not drink and drive, but walk and sniff. I secondhand drunkenly led our march back to the dorms, differentiating left from right and up from down. We were just about back when I saw the blue-red flashing lights of a police car. The group scattered, but I was frozen in place. I was in no condition to make decisions. The officer mentioned how there was some underage drinking going and had me do some tests. He took out his breathalyzer for me to use. “Huh,” he said. “I’ve never gotten a 0.001 before.” He left promptly and I stampeded back to my dorm. 

What a rough night that was. It was 10:30 p.m., the latest I’d ever been out and I’d barely gotten home. Laying down into my bed, I thought about what my parents would think if they could have seen me, if I could survive as an alcoholic and if I was lucky to keep my life. The last thought I had before sleep overtook was, “I really wish I had a beer right now.”

Matthew Seeto is a Humor Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at humor@cavalierdaily.com.

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