a painful reminder


hangover2I haven’t written about alcohol for some time. I think this could probably be viewed as a positive – alcohol has ceased to be of an importance in my life to the point that I even need to write about it. People are generally used to the idea that I don’t drink much. There’s rarely any surprise when I ask for a soda and lime. Some people have even come to me for advice on how to have a dry month, or for tips on staying away from booze, which is pretty awesome.

All I ever wanted was to be able to enjoy A Drink without reference to Being Drunk. I wanted to able to have a good time without needing to be drunk, and to have a drink without wanting to have a hundred more drinks. While the former has been hard work, largely due to social anxiety, I am definitely able to achieve the latter.

My guidelines for drinking are simple:

  1. If I want a specific drink, I can have one.
  2. If I need a drink, I can’t have one.
  3. If I have one and it makes me want another, I can’t have it
  4. If there’s nothing alcoholic I particularly want to drink, I have a soft drink
  6. If I start feeling drunk, I stop drinking.

These guidelines have worked brilliantly, for the most part.

There was one occasion on holiday with the new Mr RDPP where everything that could have gone wrong went wrong, and we ended up stuck in the only bar open in a tiny town in Sicily, the two of us against the world, drinking exciting coloured drinks with umbrellas in and shouting animatedly about politics. I felt fine the next day, probably in part because the drinks were mainly fruit and sugar and in part because the most pressing thing we had to do that day was eat ice cream and swim in the sea.  I suspect this made me a little too blasé about being as mindful as usual of moderation. The guidelines? Well, maybe they kinda slipped a bit.

A few weeks ago I had a weird FUCK IT moment while at a music festival and decided to Get Drunk. I bought a locally made bottle of wine and went at it in a way that would have made 15 year old me proud – swigging out of the bottle and sharing it around and hiding it in a bush while going into a venue to avoid the bag search. It felt like going on hangover1holiday to a past version of myself. It felt seedy and transgressive and fun. Unfortunately the trouble with throwing caution to the wind when you’ve stopped paying attention to the wind direction is that caution can end up blowing right back in your face.

The Hangover started at about 1am. I’d forgotten all about The Hangover. The pounding, stabbing jabbing pain right down though the top of the head straight into the eye socket. The rolling nausea which goes away for just long enough for you to think you’re spared the worst so you do something daring like move or speak and it rushes back in going “HAH”. The way the light burns through your closed eyelids, the way the duvet isn’t even a comfort as it rustles just so damn loudly as you work out whether you’re too hot or too cold, The tiredness, the taste in your mouth like you’ve been licking the floor of a petrol station, the vague sense of dread, the way the inside of your skin feels sort of greasy, and the thin layer of gritty sweat that builds up as you try to go about your day pretending everything is normal.

I used to feel like this all the time. HOW? How did I do it?  I have regular migraines, related to hormones, and they have a similar type of headache/nausea combo, and I can’t do anything at all to prevent those, so why on earth did I voluntarily do something which made me feel this why? It was fun, sure, but had it been fun enough? Probably not. I crawled to the nearest painkiller, swallowed as many as were safe and crawled back into bed again, making pitiful mewling sounds and cursing my horrible decision making skills.

It was a good learning experience though – it was my first hangover in 19 months, and I fully intend it to be my last. I’ve already done the hard work of making sure I can happily enjoy myself without drinking, so the only revision I am making to my guidelines is that they are no longer merely guidance – they are rules.



One comment

  1. I think your rules are brill!

    To some extent, I’m fortunate: I get the hangover before the drunk. This happened in my twenties twice: I had overindulged, with resultant discomfort, unable to sleep for vertigo, only once before. Both were exquisitely terrible days, and I didn’t realised how much I was drinking without food to balance. I don’t make that mistake anymore.

    I must admit, those were a great motivator to avoid drinking too much. However, I also have issues keeping me free of most common vices.
    Can’t stand things up my nose.
    If it goes in my mouth, I’d better like the taste, or it ain’t got a chance. I can have maybe two drinks–glass of good wine, and a fine Islay singlemalt after–but that’s as much as I can tolerate. Does allow me to have better wine and spirits, and decide some aren’t worth the bother.
    The highs described from recreational drugs sound like being vilely sick to me, and these days as a crochetty crone, interfere too much with my medications.
    Fear & loathing of needles, AND slippery veins–just imagine how thrilled I was having to inject insulin twice a day–albeit subQ–and do the finger-stick routine four times a day, while pregnant, from 10 weeks on, to delivery, when it all stopped. The needles were fatter and thicker then, too.
    I don’t get gambling: being in Las Vegas for me, walking around all those casinos, is like an atheist looking at the art collections in the Vatican, in that I don’t understand the draw of it
    I do not ever have adrenaline rushes, save from fear, and I don’t enjoy that.

    I can however over-spend on sparkly, gorgeous, and yummy things, and don’t manage my money well, and against that I must constantly strive.

    The moderate “highs” I get tend to be from intangibles–unless you count some forms of social dance. Feeling the music running through me, giving me choreography, being one with it–one of my favorites. Reading a book that will become a favourite, or re-reading one. Walking through a garden, a forest, or plant nursery. Watching the Pacific waves crashing against the shore or cliffs. Certain pieces of music, or songs. Glorious sunsets. About 50 paintings in the world move me to tears of joy, of sorrow that I haven’t seen them before, but not exactly highs. Certain dramatic presentations give me highs, no matter how often I see them. Meeting someone I admire–and I’d better stop here!

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