By Michael Boulter
Full disclosure: I have never had an alcoholic beverage. That being said, you’re probably wondering why someone who has never had a drink is writing about alcohol awareness. Just as there are misconceptions associated with alcohol, there are misconceptions surrounding those who choose not to drink – misconceptions that, when cleared up, can help us to build a stronger, healthier brotherhood.
When others learn that I’ve never had a drink, often times they rush to figure out why I “condemn” alcohol and those who choose to drink. It can be frustrating to be written off at times for my choice to not drink. What they find soon after, however, is that it’s just that, a personal choice. I look forward to going out with my friends and having a good time. Being sober doesn’t keep me from having a good night out, and by no means do I expect others to make the same choice to abstain from alcohol.
I’ve seen fraternity chapters, however, where a schism has appeared. This level of mutual understanding either hasn’t developed or has gone by the wayside. It becomes a battle of those who enjoy a drink versus those who choose not to – a battle of brother versus brother. One group begins ostracizing those who “are irresponsible”, while the other group starts judging those who “hate fun”. As brothers, neither group is in the right.
This rough relationship is all too often the result of a lack of accountability and a consequence of knee-jerk reactions. As we’ve frequently heard, alcohol awareness in fraternities is a matter of taking ownership of your actions and the actions of your brothers. What does it say about our brotherhood if, instead of choosing to come together and find a middle ground, we choose to draw party lines?
There’s nothing more powerful than having a real one-on-one conversation and letting a brother know that you care about him. How often do instances of a brother going too far with his drinking end with a genuine conversation with him the next day? Instead, how often is that brother pushed aside, talked about, or taken to the judicial board? My hope is that we, as brothers who choose not to drink, can have these conversations and show concern without ever condemning our brothers or pushing them to the side.
And, on the other end, how well are these conversations, when they do happen, received? This is where I’d like the misconception about those who don’t drink to be cleared up. It’s not that those who choose to not drink see themselves differently. There isn’t a holier-than-thou attitude that comes with this choice. Instead of seeing these conversations with your brothers who don’t drink as someone’s attempt to levy judgment on you, do you see it as an authentic display of care and compassion?
I know that we can reach this level of mutual respect. It’s tough to sit down with a brother and let him know that you’re concerned when his drinking caused him to go a little too far. I can only imagine how hard it is to be on the other end, choosing to listen and take what he’s saying to heart. It’s this level of understanding that allows us to foster a true sense of brotherhood.
Brother Boulter joined the GHQ Staff as an Expansion Consultant in 2012 after graduating from Kettering University with a degree in Electrical Engineering. While at Kettering, Michael served his chapter, Michigan Delta, in a number of roles. Guided by his work as President, his chapter won the Kettering President’s Cup in 2011. While serving as Recruitment Chairman, he completely revamped his chapter’s recruitment program, which led to their largest pledge class in 20 years. Michael was a delegate to both ELI and PLC and returned to both conferences the following year as a Peer Mentor. Outside of Phi Delta Theta, he was President of the Running Club and Recruitment Chairman of IFC, a position in which he was recognized as the Officer of the Year. Being an Iron Phi, Michael is an avid runner with a 5 year “running streak.”