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.