When I heard the phrase “emotional hangover” for the first time, it was a few weeks ago at an AA meeting. I had no idea what the lady meant, but I nodded in empathy and appeared concerned. This is typical of me. I didn’t know, but I didn’t ask. Part of that is simply because it’s rude to cross talk in our meetings and something the members frown upon. I could have asked after the meeting, but by that time, the yearning for new knowledge in my mind had passed.
So, fast forward to this past weekend. My husband and I were invited by some friends to a county fair to attend a trifecta of country music. Someone had gifted the group an extended limo so the issue of parking, driving, and dealing with directions was moot. We had a sitter and had not been away from the boys’ baseball fields in a while so we decided to go. As with any great date night, it did not come without a hitch or two. We left the house to meet at the limo destination only to be caught up in 60 mph winds and sideways rain. Fabulous. My hair is long and thick and the humidity loves to make it frizz. So much for spending an hour making it look somewhat nice. But this post really isn’t about my hair anyway. We meet up with our friends and are introduced to two couples we do’t know and a girlfriend of one we do know. New people are awkward to me because my worry thoughts kick in to overdrive. Also, the daughter of our friends and her two buddies were there (all super cute 20 somethings). I sat down and was in the middle of booze, beer, jello shots, gummy bears infused with liquor (something new, I guess) and alcohol-laced fruit. Sigh. I was not prepared for this as I thought. About 20 minutes into our drive, one of the young gals asked me why I don’t drink.
“Well,” I said, “it’s like this. Each of us is allocated 20,000 drinks over the course of a lifetime. Unfortunately or fortunately, however, you choose to look at it, I have consumed all of my allocation.” She laughed, realized I was quasi-serious, and proceeded to take a jello shot. That was the only question I had all night in regard to drinking.
So we arrived after an hour and hit the beer tent. Lucky me. The bartender let me know free cold water bottles were available for the designated driver. I figured I qualified and not knowing my thirst quotient, the bartender handed them out to me each time looking at me wondering where in the hell I was putting all of this water. My liver was delighted!
The music was good; I danced a bit; saw other people I knew and visited with them. I also decided that since I was saving a shit ton of calories on alcohol, I could eat the fair food without guilt. A calzone, elephant ear and lemon shake up later, I felt pretty good. The night wore on and so did I. At one point, my husband said, “You know, if you were drinking, you would have accused me of hitting on someone else by now. Thanks for a good night. I’m having fun.” I wasn’t even ticked because he was completely right. Yeah, I have come a long way. But, by 10:30 I was ready to go. And there, my friends, is why you never, ever, ever go to an event without your own wheels. I knew this, denied myself this, and had to force myself to muddle through when I didn’t want to. Big. Hefty. Sigh. Turn around bright eyes. We started back to the limo around 11:40 after another trip to the beer tent to round everyone up. Yeah. Most everyone was pretty trashed by the time we got to the car. Unfortunately, the young gals were in charge of the music so we got to listen to crappy 80s-90s rap 300 decibels too loud the whole way home. Insert a half a dozen 40 somethings trying to breakdance in a limo to the said shitty tunes. May I repeat here NEVER, EVER, EVER forgo your out in a situation where you need an out.
When my husband and I finally arrived home at 12:30, I was spent. I fell into bed to my husband saying, “I appreciate what you did tonight. I know it wasn’t easy, but you were a really good sport.” I felt physically ill and had the shakes, but finally fell asleep.
The next morning, I awoke at 9:20! I haven’t slept that late since my drinking days. And I felt absolutely awful. My head was fuzzy, my bones ached, and I wanted to sleep for days. I seriously hadn’t felt this horrible since I was drinking and I’ve had the flu and strep since then.
My kids were happy when I came downstairs. I murmured something like good morning and made my way to the Keurig machine. My mood was set. I was crabby and everyone was going to know it. Why wasn’t the dishwasher unloaded? Did ANYONE bother to switch the laundry over? Where are the uniforms for the games today? I didn’t stop there. I wish I had, but the truth is, this rant went on for (gasp) two more hours. I seethed silently, I snapped at my kids, I ignored my husband. After all, he was in a crummy mood, too.
Finally, my husband said, “We need to stop this. Let’s start the day over. Deep breaths.”
Part of me was ticked. Why did he have to come up with the sane idea? I mean, aren’t I the one in therapy, AA, recovery? So, I went to my quiet space in the garage and thought about my behavior. I was acting like I did when I was actively drinking. I was an obnoxious, out-of-control raging poop. I was not weighing my words, thinking about the repercussions of my outburst nor was I concerned with how my husband and kids were feeling. I did not like what I had done. I was honestly grateful that my husband had the sense to call a truce and ask us to regroup. Who knows? I might still be caught up in the garbage if he hadn’t. But he did, and I am grateful.
Emotional hangover. I had to accept responsibility for my behavior, make immediate amends to my family and make it better by chilling the heck out.
Having to look my kids in the eyes and say, “I’m wrong. Mommy is misbehaving and is taking her fatigue out on you. This is not okay and you do not have to accept this treatment” was not only humbling but also embarrassing. I know better. I did not like feeling out of sorts nor did I like the way my body felt. It was a good reminder of how I feel when I drink, and it’s not pretty. The good news is that my kids were very forgiving and knew I was sincere. We had a great rest of the day.
I am an alcoholic. When I am HALT, I can be assured that my life will be unmanageable even if for an hour or so. I need to be vigilant, rely on others for help, and admit when I need help. This is a recovery process not an end-all be-all fix.