At the end of high school, Toren Volkmann described himself as an academic, an athlete and an artist, destined for a venerable college experience. Like most first year students, Toren flirted with using alcohol to fit into the new social fabric of college life.
In a matter of months, alcohol quickly became a new priority for him and then turned into a dangerous addiction. By the end of college, he became a full-blown alcoholic at the age of 23.
Seeing Through The Blur
For many students, constant drinking in college can seem sexy, fun, and completely normal. But, four years of drinking like an alcoholic can have unforeseen consequences. Some students don’t drink at all, and most make smart decisions, overall. But on today’s college campuses, there are those who abuse alcohol with a determination that raises their drinking to professional levels. We all know these people, and they affect our college experience. Toren Volkmann was one of those out-of-control drinkers. He was proud of his drinking, and every night out offered a new risk and a new challenge to top the night before.
In Seeing Through the Blur, Toren Volkmann takes his college audience on a ride through the peaks and valleys of his experiences as a drinker. It didn’t take long before he found himself entirely socially and physically dependent on alcohol. Toren was so completely wasted from college partying that he was unable to function in the real world that awaited him after graduation. He paints the not-so-pretty picture of how innocent partying throughout the seductive years of college can not only morph into extreme abuse and addiction but can cause individuals to lose sight of who they are and what matters most.
Toren uses his experiences to combat the glamor of heavy drinking, address the media and marketing’s effect on the alcohol culture, as well as information about alcohol’s impact on brain development, and its interaction with genetics and addiction. Beyond his poignant descriptions of college drinking gone wrong and the early signs and symptoms of a problem, Toren discusses the life-long consequences of his drinking, openly discusses his recovery from alcoholism and gives college students reasons to take their drinking decisions seriously.
As a result of attending this program, students will learn:
- about addiction, genetics, brain development, and to consider the impact of heavy drinking on their health, relationships, and academic performance,
- how to identify ways to challenge the alcohol culture, think critically about information portrayed in media and advertising, and how to listen or assist those who may be struggling with drinking issues,
- how to consider their personal identity in relationship to alcohol, and ways to demonstrate leadership in their community, and
- avenues for support as they find new paths of growth toward their goals and aspirations beyond the college years.
“About three hundred people, which included freshmen, peer mentors, peer educators, athletes, upperclassmen, faculty and staff, filled our theater. Toren captured each and every one of them through his real life stories and situations. Our students were able to relate so well to Toren and were clearly touched as he recounted his life as a college student with an addiction. I have received so much positive feedback from our university community in regards to the program. Toren has really touched many lives at DeSales University.”
– Wendy S. Krisak, DeSales University
“His honesty and frankness grabbed the attention of the audience and spurred a great deal of thought and communication about many of the problems we face in our own campus community. Toren brought an immense amount of knowledge that relates well to college-age kids that allows him to seem credible, but still on the level as a peer. He brings an edge to his message, and encourages kids to think for themselves. This makes him not only seem real, but someone that students want to listen to.”
– Tara Roberts , Washington State University
Toren Volkmann speaks nationally to college audiences about his experiences as a college binge drinker and his decision to seek treatment for alcoholism during his Peace Corps work in South America. Having co-authored the book From Binge to Blackout, Volkmann has been an advocate for alcohol awareness issues, reducing stigmas of addiction, and addressing the need for more recovery options for youth. Volkmann holds a Masters in Counseling Psychology from Lewis and Clark College. In his free time he enjoys music, surfing, urban cycling, and gardening.