A History of Hangovers

Woman vomiting

I recently moved to a new apartment, which is why I haven’t written here since April. The move was tedious, so I’m not going to write about it. What I want to write about instead is my former toilet.

In the chaos of the move, I didn’t think to say goodbye to my toilet. I gave it a perfunctory scrubdown without tenderness or nostalgia and left it without looking back. But after moving in to our new place, it occurred to me that, in parting ways with my old toilet, I had undergone a notable transition. That toilet was the last one I was hungover in. I hope to never know another bowl so intimately.

It has now been over a year since I last vomited. When I’m not drinking, I have a very strong stomach. I’ve had a legitimate stomach virus only a few times in my life and have never had food poisoning. Yet I paid for nearly every drinking binge with some major repentance to my toilet. It was almost always the next day, which was something I used to regret. I wanted to be one of those drinkers who puked early on, getting the toxins out of my systems before I could do too much more damage. But I had a high physical tolerance while the booze was going down. It was only after my body had metabolized it (which, as I’ve remarked before, seemed to happen more slowly in me than in normal drinkers–is this common to alcoholics?) that I began to really suffer.

And, oh, how I suffered. I don’t mean the kind of queasiness that can be alleviated by a greasy breakfast, which seemed to be the type of hangovers the people around me were getting. Friends often wanted to go out for brunch the next morning, which was usually out of the question of me. Hangovers for me meant full days in bed, vomiting multiple times, and crippling, suicidal depression, which often lasted well into the next week. I vomited so much I’m surprised I didn’t give myself a hernia.

Sometimes, I worry I’ll forget what hangovers were like. With close to 15 months sober, the memories are still fresh enough for me to wake up many mornings rejoicing that I can get out of bed. But the further I get from my last drunk, the less vivid it feels. This is, of course, where AA comes into play–as an excellent reminder of what my life would be like if I started drinking again. But I’ve also been meaning to gather recollections of some of my worst hangovers here, so I can quickly review them if I need a reminder of why I’m sober.

So in no particular order, here are some of my hangover highlights:

Travel hangovers: I puked on a plane from Sarasota. I puked in the airport in Philly. I puked in multiple trains from Charlottesville to DC. I puked outside a car in Annapolis. I almost puked on MUNI. It sucks being hungover on the road, where bathrooms are public or dirty or nonexistent. If I never get on another vehicle wanting to puke, I will die a happy woman.

Portland hangover: I’m not sure why this one sticks out in memory; I think because it was particularly bad. We were subletting a family friend’s condo in Portland while my partner did an away rotation there. The condo owners had unwittingly told us we could help ourselves to some of their abundant bottles of wine. We returned home one night from getting some drinks with his coworkers, and I continued drinking for the rest of the night, long after my boyfriend went to bed. I think I opened at least two bottles of wine. At one point, I dropped a glass on the floor where it shattered. I had an online shift the next morning, which I tried to cancel, but I was too drunk to enter my password. So at 8:30 the next morning, I dragged my laptop into bed and began scoring online essays while puking every 20 minutes for the next 8 hours. I thought I might need to go to the hospital. I couldn’t even keep down water.

Family hangovers: Got blackout drunk at my brother’s wedding. Missed the family brunch the next day because I was puking in his bathroom. Got blackout drunk with my father. Unable to get out of bed the next day to go to yoga with my mother. When staying with my parents one summer, I came back home at 8am after spending the night at a stranger’s house and spent the whole day in bed, although I was supposed to go look for apartments. Arrived home for another visit hungover, unable to do anything but lie on the couch with my eyes closed, although my mother had planned a day for us. Secretly puked twice on Thanksgiving in my boyfriend’s family’s house after getting drunk with his sister the night before. Unable to eat the pancakes and sausage his father made for us.

Suicidal hangover: Got drunk in college after a breakup and told everyone I was hanging out with that I wanted to kill myself. Woke up the next overwhelmed with shame and despair and fled the house I shared with a friend to stay in a hotel alone with my dog for the next two nights because I was too ashamed to see anyone I knew.

I think that’s a sufficient sample for now. It should be impossible to read through these without reminding myself why I’m sober. Farewell, old toilets. You saw me through some times that my current toilet could never imagine.

How about you? What were some of your most memorable or terrible hangovers? The ones you bring to mind when reminding yourself why you’re sober? Please share! We can keep our memories fresh together.

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19 thoughts on “A History of Hangovers

  1. I too had a long history with toilets, puking and hangovers during my drinking career. I’ve puked on buses, trains, coaches, in the street, in stranger’s beds, in bushes, in restaurants. I’ve been sick once in sobriety and that was down to a stomach bug. Once in eight years – during my drinking, it was at least once a week. I also had a strong constitution when I drank, it was only ever the next morning that I’d get the familiar stomach contractions at any sign of movement. I was the only person I knew who had to write off whole days because of hangovers. I never got how other people managed to go to work after a night out.

    • Congrats to puking only once in 8 years–I think I could handle that! Amazing to think I’ve gone a year without puking. Thanks for sharing; your hangovers sound a lot like mine. It was only after I went into recovery that I encountered other peoples with hangovers like mine. 🙂

  2. Once I woke up in my vomit on the bathroom floor. My head throbbed, but my ear was hurting like hell too. I could not understand why until it was later explained to me I had gotten my ear pierce the night before by someone equally drunk – and sure enough, there was a bloody gaping hole in my ear.

    On my one year sober anniversary I had gone to to get pizza as a celebration. I got food poisoning and puked my guts out that night – seemed so unfair, yet symbolic on my sober anniversary, I also puked my guts out.

    • Haha, had to laugh a little at the ear piercing story. I hope your ear has recovered! And yes, I was really afraid of puking during my first year of sobriety, but I think if it happened now, it would serve as a good symbolic reminder.

  3. Oh, the memories. Have a long history of growing up as well.
    Puking secretly at work was always a highlight. Or, puking on my way to work, pulling the car over and on the side of the road. That was fun. Puking secretly at any member of my family’s house because I stayed up way later than them drinking their booze.
    The worst hangovers usually involves some kind of drug. I’ve spent entire days where I haven’t been able to eat or drink anything and have dry heaved well into the next evening. Honestly I’m surprised I didn’t do damage to myself with all that bile!!

      • Oh god, yes, the dry heaving. The really bad hangovers would always get to the point where I felt like I needed to puke more, yet had nothing left to puke, so I’d stick my finger down my throat to force out bile. Sorry if this is too graphic–I need to remember! I also love that I don’t have to puke in secret anymore. If I puke now, it will be an EVENT, meaning something is wrong other than just drinking too damn much, and I will actually welcome support and acknowledgement from my loved ones. Thanks for sharing!

        • Nah not too graphic. I just had a flashback to one time when I still a teenager and lived at my moms. I threw up in bed and was so hungover and sick I had to call her and ask her to come to my room and help me. That was back when there were only landlines so you had to dial your own number then hang up to make it ring. Good times.

  4. Haha. Great post. In a weird way, I look back at hangovers and laugh but I can still feel the pain and emotions of it all too. My worst: puking. Body twisted up in pain from drinking way too much on NYE. Missed my daughters bday party the next day. I’ll never forget that one.

    • The ability to laugh at drinking stories while simultaneously feeling the pain behind them is one of my favorite parts of recovery. It just feels so human: being able to recognize the absurdity as well as the suffering. I also missed a lot of important events due to hangovers. Thanks for the reminder. ❤

  5. I remember waking up with a fluttery stomach and knowing it was from drinking the night before. I’d have to force myself to vomit with the good old finger down the throat. It was always the nasty bitter bile followed by dry heaving. If I was going to work, I’d tough it out, but more and more often, I’d just head downstairs, pour a glass of wine and start thinking of a reason to call in sick – or “working from home”. I was a real proponent of the hair of the dog cure – to avoid a hangover, just keep drinking!

  6. What a great list for ex-drinkers to recall…

    Oh boy… so many… Here are some highlights –

    1. On holiday on the Island of Jersey. I got up in the middle of the night, it was hot and stuffy in the room. I think I threw up but anyway… naked I sat in the wing armchair by the window. It was an old building, Edwardian at least. I parted the curtains a bit and pushed the shash window up. I lent on the windowsill taking in the fresh air and hoping that the world would stop revolving soon. Next thing I know I’m waking with a crushing headache, but that isn’t all that is crushing, the noise! There is a dustcart right below my head crushing a huge bin of beer bottles, which I’d no doubt added to considerably in the bar the night before. But the biggest issue is that the sash window, being old, has slowly slid down and is now crushing me across my shoulders. So I can’t move at all. I’m trying to kick the bed to wake my wife but it is too far away. The dustcart operatives have a field day laughing at me and making as much noise as possible.

    2. Hotel in Reading on a course for work. I get hammered and head back to my room. I lay down – I knew it was going to happen but simply couldn’t move so I just threw up over the bed covers. In the morning I’m washing them in the bath and put them back on the bed with a huge stain soaking wet. God knows what the maid thought.

    3. Get home really really really drunk. I’ve decided to go to burger king on the way back as food will sober me up… NO. I just lay on the bedroom floor and vomit all over the bedroom rug. My wife had to call her Dad to come over in his car to help move me and clear up the mess.

    Brother I could go on all week with these tales… Thanks for the prompt. Earlier this year I got food poisoning and had a night of being sick three or four times. It brought back so many bad bad memories. But good to be reminded about how it was nearly all the time back then.

  7. “The ability to laugh at drinking stories while simultaneously feeling the pain behind them is one of my favorite parts of recovery. It just feels so human.” Me too! it’s one of the things that got me sober in the first place, that humor.
    One of my favorites was a night I puked in my bed, got up and ran to the bathroom puking all the way, puked in the toilet, and then in the tub. Then i spent the rest of the night walking back and forth in my own puke just to go and puke some more. Man was THAT fun to clean up.

  8. Yes, yes, yes, I see myself in all of these. Hungover on planes, buses, cars…would often get drunk again instead to avoid that particular hell. The throwing up the next day always felt like doing penance. For years I worried about going to the dentist, thinking they might think I had bulimia due to possible damage to my teeth from all the throwing up. Thanks for putting these out there as a reminder of why we are where we are.

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