The upside of hangovers-- especially the brutal ones-- is they usually make great stories. The overindulgence of the night before, the antics, the misadventures, and then, inevitably, the crushing punishment. It’s like a comedy action movie tinged with schadenfreude.
Who doesn’t love a great hangover yarn? I could fill a few notebooks with my own: spread over almost 3 decades. But today I will tell you another tale: the one about the man who no longer gets hangovers.
That man is me-- and today, I’ve been sober for 2 years. And it feels fucking awesome.
I flirted with giving up alcohol for a long time; even went on a hiatus for over a year once. I’m an ON/OFF kind of guy. With my less favorable tendencies, I don’t do well in a gray area. When I was drinking, I occasionally punctuated normal consumption with a good ol’ binge. Old school party-hardy. Weeks would go by with a beer, bourbon or martini here and there and them BLAMO… I’d drop the hammer and get wasted.
Usually these events were set-up by not having any responsibilities the next day. I was out of town, or the kids were taken care of, or I was with old buddies reliving glory days. And even though these benders always came with a price, I rationalized it by saying: well, I don’t do it all the time. Or: what’s the big deal, everyone ties one on now and then?
The problem for me was, as terrible as the hangover would be after “one of those nights,” I was also starting to feel not so good after just one or two drinks. And this wasn’t limited to the next day, it was something I’d start feeling within an hour or so after my last drink. If I had a beer with dinner at 7, by 8:30 or so I was feeling kind of cranky and headachy. The only way to contend with this short term effect was to (can you guess?) keep drinking.
I’ve chronicled my ups and downs with drinking in my blog before (go back and revisit my high and lowlights!), but what I wanted to write about today was this:
It would be difficult to overstate how positive not drinking has been for me. It’s kind of hard not to be evangelical about it because it’s that good. I wake up most days and feel great. I don’t feel ashamed or guilty about the time I waste feeling crappy. I feel motivated to make my dreams come true. I feel healthier. I’m a better dad. I’m a better husband. And I feel overall like I’m living at a higher level.
Let me stop here before this starts sounding like a Tony Robbins seminar. My life is not perfect. I have foibles. I have shitty days. And I do not think that what works for me will necessarily work for everyone. And while I’m at it, I should also say I’m not anti-booze. While you’re having an old fashioned and I’m having a club soda, I’m not judging. Of all people, I could never deny that getting drunk is fun or that alcohol tastes pretty damn good. I’d just had enough of the other side of the coin. Which was definitely not fun.
Too often, alcoholism is viewed as a YES or NO equation. It’s a spectrum. I wasn’t sneaking vodka in the middle of the day or polishing off 9 beers every night. I don’t know if it’s even relevant to me to decide if I’m an alcoholic. I had a problem. Drinking was the problem. And when I stopped drinking, a lot of other problems began to work themselves out. Now, 2 years later, I can’t ever see myself going back.
I say all of this because maybe it will resonate with someone. Maybe you’re that someone. One of the greatest honors of my life was a friend telling me that he decided to quit drinking because of a letter I wrote him about my journey. That floored me. So this blog is an open invitation. I don’t have all the answers, but if you ever want to talk about it, let me know. I’d be happy to share more of my story. And maybe later, we’ll swap some hangover tales.