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It’s the sweaty morning after fear that comes from drinking our body weight in alcohol—and saying or doing embarrassing things we regret.
For most of my adult life, or ever since I discovered my mum’s secret booze cabinet and learnt the fine art of making a mix—like filling a 500ml plastic bottle with a concoction of Tia Maria, Archers, and Baileys (or whatever else was left over from the Christmas stash)—I’ve experienced severe hangovers.
Growing up around my neighbourhood, it wasn’t a good Friday night if you didn’t down intoxicating amounts of cheap cider, luminous-coloured alcohol-pops, or the contents of your mum’s liquor cupboard and hang out drunk down the park with your mates.
I was supposed to feel “hanging” the morning after.
Waking up to a dry mouth and eyes glued shut by mascara, it was par for the course to have a puke-fest from dawn ‘till dusk and meet up again with my friends in the early evening to talk about all the humiliating things that happened the night before.
We had a code of misconduct. Outwardly, we’d one-up each other’s bad behaviour. Cheering on the trash talk, catfights, and falling-into-a-hedge fiascos that we’d each taken part in like it was a badge of (dis)honour.
The more damage you could do to your body and the more emotionally excruciating the drama, the more you were revered by the group.
It was “a laugh,” apparently.
Only inwardly, I’d feel remorse instead of pride at my destructive behaviour.
I’d chuckle along with my gal-pals about telling the biggest girl at school to go f*ck herself or getting up to no good in the car park with that guy from the year above.
But, as the toxic levels of alcohol leached from my pours the next day, with it went my self-respect. Quickly to be replaced with that antsy, heart-quickening, palm-sweating anxiety that I’d “done a bad thing.”
I lay in bed and, in-between throwing up, would wish that whatever I did or said could be magically erased in a “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” kind of way.
Now I’m older, and of course, wiser. I can see we used booze to mask how scared we were of our raging hormones, unexplained emotions, and bits and pieces sprouting everywhere.
Drinking was a pretense at control.
When in reality, we were unravelling quicker than the rusty merry-go-round we drunkenly perched atop in the park while trying to get the older boys’ attention.
Over the years, much of the underlying reasons for blitzing my body with booze—escapism, emotional release, FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), and trying to keep in with the “cool” kids—no longer drives me (thankfully).
So, whenever I catch myself drinking my body weight in alcohol and falling prey to hangover anxiety, I ask myself, “What is this really about?”
Why did you hit the self-destruct button? What’s going on with you, gurl?
And what I usually find out is that either I’ve put myself under too much pressure, haven’t taken enough time off for a while and feel compelled to let loose—or I’m missing something in my life and trying to fill the void superficially.
The holidays, with all the festive cheer, parties, and surviving family gatherings to get through, can also be a trigger for drinking one too many.
In an ideal world, I wouldn’t need to spend a day in bed nursing a mother of a headache under an ice pack and checking Instagram for any inappropriate videos I’m tagged in to rear their ugly head before I notice I’m triggered.
But hey, we can be pretty adept at pretending everything’s okay, even to ourselves, for far longer than we should before taking action to solve the underlying problem.
If we can at least practise the habit of checking in with ourselves and asking probing questions when our behaviour is a little off, then we can learn our triggers, and in time hopefully, evolve beyond them.
Personally speaking, I can’t say I’ll never again suffer from hangxiety after drinking one too many glasses of Spanish Rioja (and multiple G&Ts.)
I’m aware I’m a recovering remorse-aholic, and that’s good enough for me.