My cousins, my sister and I were huddled around my uncle’s big, red cooler debating if we were going to delve into his abundant stash of Budweisers. On this warm Port Aransas, Texas evening, we did not debate too long before delving in – we were looking to stir up some trouble on the annual family Fourth of July trip to the Texas coast and thought that alcohol would be the perfect partner to our escapades. So, we sent our hands plunging into the icy cold waters of the big, red beer cooler.
With beers in hand, my cousin — you know the cool older one who excelled at drinking in college — proposed that he teach us how to shotgun these beers. Although at that time I had no idea what it meant to shotgun a beer, I gladly accepted his offer to learn about how the cool kids drank in college. As a recently graduated high school senior, I was looking for all the expertise I could get.
He showed us that, first, you cradle your beer with the bottom side up in the air — the objective here is to create an air pocket. Second, you take a key or something sharp and put a hole through the bottom of the can. Pro tip No. 1: Make the hole as big as possible to maximize the flow of beer out of the can and into you. Now, with the beer can prepped, it’s time for action.
In one swift motion my cousin put his mouth up to the hole, released the pressure from the top of the can and dropped to one knee as he let the rush of beer flood his body. It took my cousin three swigs to inhale the entire can. Rising from his knee he let out a belch and proceeded to crush the beer can like a true bro.
In awe of having just witnessed my cousin’s Budweiser disappearing act, I wanted to get as good as him at shotgunning beers. So that night we practiced and practiced to get our techniques just right. As a result of our diligence, we found ourselves so drunk that, the next day, some of us did not make it on the family boat trip. I was not one of the smart ones who chose to stay behind. Instead I made the terrible mistake of agreeing to go on the boat — the place where I would experience one of my first hangovers, rolling on the waves of the Gulf of Mexico.
Unfortunately, that hangover would not be my last one. Instead of learning my lesson about the struggle of hangovers and the negative effects of binge drinking, I decided to only remember this glorified party trick.
Throughout college I would whip out my beer shotgunning skills at any opportunity. Most recently I used this skill to celebrate the completion of the first semester of my senior year. On the Friday evening before finals of the fall 2017 semester, my friends and I gathered at the base of the Campanile to shotgun beers and hang out — embracing the freedom of winter break.
Of all of my friends, I was easily the best shotgunner – no one could beat my Texas-taught skills. Somewhere between my third and fourth beer I blacked out – a glorified experience in college. But laying in my bed the next morning, I felt no glory. Instead of waking up with memories of celebrating a finished semester at the Campanile with friends, I rose with a pounding in my head, a sad tummy full of toxic booze and a very hazy memory of the night before.
Lying in bed I desperately reached out for the glass of water that was by my bedside and chugged it like it was the elixir of life. Once my nausea was at a manageable level, enough so I could actually read words on my phone, I scrambled to text my friends and piece together exactly how my evening had ended. How could I have let this happen again? How many disheveled mornings, with a broken body and mind, would it take for me to stop this maddening cycle?
Finally, after what felt like forever, my friends responded. They too did not remember all of the evening, and I felt a bit better knowing that I was not the only one struggling. The glimpses of the evening that I did hold were amazing, but not remembering the whole night was disappointing. Why was binge drinking and blacking out so normal? From frat parties to fancy bars there was never a shortage of people around me chanting, chugging and challenging each other to consume alcohol, so much so fast that no one would remember it the next day.
It was not easy for me to find a balance with alcohol, especially in my college experience where binge drinking was the centerpiece for most of my weekend activities. But having now graduated, I am much better at thinking about the consequences of shooting beer into my body as fast as humanly possible before doing so, not after. And although I will admit that I have not completely perfected the art of responsible drinking, shotgunning lots of beer has lost its bro-ish charm. Now I want to remember those nights of celebration. I know that shotgunning that third and fourth beer are just not worth missing out on family boat rides and end-of-semester shenanigans.
Jessica Redden writes the Monday column on finding freedom from overconsumption.