Sam Houston State University’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Initiative held its eighth annual Alcohol and Drug Summit Friday.
Several workshops and activities took place throughout the day taking over the entire third floor of the Lowman Student Center. The keynote speaker of the day was magician, escape artist and mind-reader Bob Fellows who also wrote the book “Easily Fooled.”
“A lot of people would be concerned about being locked up in something physical,” Fellow said. “We wouldn’t want to be locked up in a jail cell and we certainly wouldn’t want to be locked up in a water torture box, but I think it is more dangerous if we are trapped in a way of thinking.”
This “way of thinking” Fellows is referring to is what he said is a tendency most people have to hope that other people will make decisions for us.
“Why do we do things without even thinking?” Fellows asked. “Why do we get roped in by the media, advertising and peer pressureùthen, they have us for life. It has to do with controlling our own minds because if we don’t do it, someone else will.”
Fellows was able to incorporate his various magic tricks and talents with his speech as a means of demonstrating visually how others can influence a person’s own decision.
“If someone tells you that something is impossible, challenge it,” Fellows said. “I would also say that if something feels impossible to youùlike resisting the influence, the pressures of advertising, the media and other peers at the universityùrealize it’s not impossible. You can figure out a way to stay in control of your mind.”
Graduate student and counseling major Andria Rabon was one of the student workers for the ADAI summit.
“I think that alcoholism is a major issue on campus,” Rabon said. “It’s a safety issue, and we really need to increase awareness and let students know that this is a danger and they need to be proactive rather than reactive.”
Senior finance major Samantha McKinley attended Fellows’ presentation.
“Don’t allow peer pressure to hold you down or think situations are impossible to get out of,” McKinley said. “Use your own judgment to make the best decisions for you.”
According to ADAI Coordinator Eddie Gisemba, although the ADAI has made some big strides in the ongoing fight against alcohol and drug abuse at SHSU, he still hopes to continue making improvements on a larger scale.
“I also have a vision for the ADAI and what I hope to accomplish, and that is a world–or campus in this case–where alcohol is used but we’re not seeing any of the negative outcomes associated with it,” Gisemba said. “So I don’t want to hear about any more DWI’s, public intoxication, fights, etc. I am hoping to eliminate the myriad of negative outcomes that come with the abuse of alcohol and drugs. We are always looking for ways to branch out and do more to be more effective.”
ADAI began in 2004 by former University President James Gaertner in response to a string of student deaths that occurred as a result of alcohol. Gisemba said nearly 1,700 deathsùapproximately four per dayùoccur every year among college students in the United States as a result of alcohol.
“Since the program started, we haven’t seen any alcohol related fatalities on the SHSU campus, so we see that as a huge success,” Gisemba said. “The culture is changing; not only have we seen less deaths but also less binging and partying. The access to alcohol and drugs has stayed the same, but the education has increased.”
In addition to his full-time job as the ADAI coordinator, Gisemba also teaches classes in the health and kinesiology department. Gisemba said that although he is technically a health professional, he tends to focus less on the health-related consequences of alcohol and drug abuse, and more on the ways it can affect the future lives of students.
“We want people to envision their plans, 10, 15 years from now,” he said. “What do they hope to haveùmarriage, kids, a successful careerùthings of that nature? Unfortunately somebody’s alcohol and drug use can negatively impact your ability to have those things.”
According to Gisemba, alcohol and drug abuse can lead to fewer promotions, lower incomes and bigger dropout rates. Although Gisemba said he is not opposed to the use of alcohol and drugs, he is opposed to the abuse of such substances.
“I changed the mission of ADAI coming into this position,” Gisemba said. “The goal used to be to reduce alcohol and drug use and I changed it to reduce irresponsible alcohol and drug use. My reason being that I wanted to make clear that alcohol is a very socially acceptable thing, however, when it becomes used in an irresponsible manner, that’s when it becomes problematic.”
Although alcohol and drug abuse is a widespread problem, Gisemba said most college campuses lack programs like the ADAI.
“SHSU is one of the few schools that actually sought out a full time staff member devoted to alcohol and drug abuse prevention,” Gisemba said. “Having a department that is strictly dedicated to alcohol and drug prevention isn’t that common.”