My eyes pop open. Alert and unaware of where I am, I try to make sense of the objects I see in the dark. My head hurts and my mouth feels dry. I place my hands by my sides and grasp the sheets to reorient myself. I’m laying in bed. I feel relieved when I notice my husband lightly snoring next to me, and the sudden awareness of my dog’s weight on my legs reminds me I’m safe.
I turn to my side and rub my eyes as I grab my phone: 2:00AM. When did I go to bed? I can feel my anxiety racing in time with my heartbeat. Did we get in a fight? I try to recount the timeline of our evening: flashes of my husband and I laughing, him chasing me around the living room after us both being overserved at his birthday dinner. I struggle to piece together a full evening. How can I not remember? I only had two glasses of wine. I try convincing myself that my husband and I are fine, that I’m making up drama that never occurred, but my anxiety continues to quicken. Overanalyzing everything I think, Did we have sex? Why are my clothes still on? Is he mad at me?
My breath shortens and my chest feels heavy. Panic sets in. I haven’t had this happen in so long.
I didn’t know how to process the grief, and drank to detach from reality.
The next morning, I force my husband awake after hours of trying to drown out the noise in my head.
“Babe, are you mad at me?” I gently shake him, asking him nervously.
Perplexed, he softly rises and asks, “What?! Why would I be mad at you?! We had so much fun last night!” He turns towards me and places his hand on my chest. “It’s just your anxiety, love, I promise we’re okay. You’re okay.”
He pulls me in tight and rubs my back, telling me everything is going to be alright. For a moment, I believe him, enough to put my mind at ease and finally fall back asleep.
Later that day, he asks me why I was so upset, why I thought we had been fighting. I try to blame my hangover, but just moments later I cave. “Well, I don’t remember last night completely. And I assumed I’d done something crazy…that I was crazy.”
My husband’s eyebrows draw together. “You’ve never gotten crazy in front of me,” he responds, somewhat confused. “You’ve always remained in control.”
But, there was a time in my life, before I met my husband, when I was out of control, and it haunts me to this day.
When I was 22 years old, I got out of a seven-year emotionally abusive and controlling relationship—and discovered a whole world I previously had not known: boys, dating, flirting at bars, drinking, clubbing. In my past relationship, I wasn’t allowed to do these things. It pains me to even use the word—allowed—but it’s true. I wasn’t allowed to do so many things, like even grab dinner with a friend.
As I was adjusting to my singledom and newfound freedom, I was simultaneously coming to terms with my dad battling cancer and my stepmom quickly deteriorating from ALS. I didn’t know how to process the grief, and drank to detach from reality (often taking one too many shots of whiskey at the bar).
I can still taste the way whiskey would linger on my lips the morning after a wild night. The type of nights that were considered normal because of my age. The type of nights that would be celebrated over egg benedicts and mimosas the next day. The type of nights that no one flinched an eye at.
We were young, and we were messed up in our own ways. We were just trying to figure out how to live, how to be.
And yet, still, they haunt me.
The nights I don’t remember how I got home.
The nights I don’t remember where I parked my car.
The nights I don’t remember who I was with.
Nights I don’t remember if I paid my bill.
Nights when I left the oven on, and passed out too soon to be able to put the pizza in.
Nights when my best friend was worried about me, like when she found me sitting on a urine soaked doormat locked out of our apartment.
Countless nights I lost my phone, wallet, or keys. Or, all of the above.
Mornings I’d have to call the tow company to ensure they had my car.
Mornings I’d regret all of my life decisions.
Mornings my self-hatred was so high that the only remedy was to numb myself with another drink.
Even if I experience the slightest of hangovers, all of the memories come rushing back as anxiety-fueled reminders of my past—flutters of nights I don’t want to remember. Some are tucked so deep, into hidden places of my subconscious, that it’s almost as if alcohol is the key to unlocking the worst horrors.
It was shortly after meeting my husband, that I became hyperaware of my alcohol intake. I first stopped taking shots as a way to help manage my inevitable anxiety. I knew that these quick and easy consumptions of alcohol were often how I got myself into trouble, or enabled me to lose control. I then let go of my nightly glass of wine over dinner, but I struggled to give up drinking socially. Alcohol is deeply imbedded in the way we socialize, and I didn’t want to stand out or have to explain my reasons for needing to step away from it. The moment you publicly announce your departure from alcohol, you are branded as having “a problem” and you can expect whispers to quickly circulate. Over time, I found myself having one or two drinks with friends instead of the usual four or six (or ten). My hangovers obviously lessened, and eventually so did my anxiety. Years later, after unsuccessfully trying to conceive for two years, I had a socially accepted excuse to no longer drink at dinner parties. “I’m fighting major inflammation and hormonal imbalances right now, so I’m skipping the aperol spritz these days,” was a common response I found myself saying, and people rarely pushed back.
And while my recent reasonings for not drinking are true, I’m never really honest about the fact that alcohol reminds me of a past I’ve tried hard to ignore. Even if I experience the slightest of hangovers, all of the memories come rushing back as anxiety-fueled reminders of my past—flutters of nights I don’t want to remember. Some are tucked so deep, into hidden places of my subconscious, that it’s almost as if alcohol is the key to unlocking the worst horrors. Like those that are the hardest for me to recall, like the night of my sexual assault, or the night I know I drove home, but don’t remember.
In these anxious moments, I now try to remind myself that I am not my past, that I am more than my mistakes. I practice radical self-forgiveness and self-compassion, and repeat, I am in control—regardless of what my memories try to convince me of. More than anything though, I calm myself with the fact that I didn’t have the tools necessary to deal with my life then. But that I do have the tools now. And while I rarely drink these days, when I do, I remind myself that being silly with my husband and letting loose on his birthday isn’t me being “out control,” but rather, me choosing to not live in the memories of the past, but to live, joyfully, in the present.
LET'S TALK: do you struggle with hangover anxiety? or feel socially forced to drink?
WHAT READERS ARE SAYING ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
I’m without words. This is exactly how I feel. Hangovers are so so hard for my mind… I just cried and showed this to my boyfriend. This IS me. Thank you, you’re not alone.
Now I’m in tears! Thank you so much for sharing. I’m so happy these word helped, and in turn, your comments are helping me feel less alone. <3
I can relate to this so much. Thank you for sharing <3
So well said. Definitely relate to a lot of this. Thank you for shedding light, always.
I relate to all of this so so much. Thank you for your openness and for sharing 💕
Wow this resonates so deeply. I’ve always struggled a bit with my alcohol intake and used to make constant excuses. As I get older that anxiety never left and I’ve had to be very adamant about cutting back. I think it’s just easier for some people than others. That used to embarrass me but the more vocal I am about it, the easier it becomes. Thanks for sharing!
It’s crazy how much socializing and alcohol are interwoven. So even when you feel firm in your decision to cut back, you somehow feel like you’re “failing” in a social setting, regardless of what your reasons are. Thank you for sharing! xx
Literally googled searched “hang over anxiety” the other day to see if it was a real thing. My anxiety after a night of over imbibing is really bad sometimes. Sometimes it’s anxiety about the night before, what I said or did, but sometimes it’s just a general feeling of unease. It’s like my whole body, including my mind is saying, “what the hell did you do to me?”
I feel this so much. I loathe that feeling of not remembering and having to put together fragments in my mind, or piece together text messages and conversations. It’s been awhile since that’s happened (Kevin’s bday was probably the last time) but ugh, the worst feeling ever. Thanks for sharing! <3
My best friend and I refer to it as “hangxiety” and often it will put us out of commission for longer than the physical effects of a hangover. Not knowing what happened makes me feel so out of control, and is a reminder of that same feeling from the past when I was in a less healthy mindset.
Thank you for sharing!
SO freaking relatable thank you for continuing to talk about uncomfortable subjects. I admire your bravery but it’s crazy how many people are thinking the same thing
I’m attempting an alcohol-free month for the first time, mostly due to hangxiety, and wanting to recalibrate my drinking habits and a create new, healthier discipline on it. I also just got my first shipment of microdose mushies in advance to take the edge off haha. Sober-ish March. Baby steps. Wish me luck!!
I couldn’t relate to this more. I had a terrible binge drinking / coke habit in my late teens. Many mornings either waking up not knowing what had happened or staying up for days on end.
Thankfully I overcame those destructive habits and left behind the toxic people. It’s been over 7 years since I left that life behind and unfortunately it still affects how I socialize.
I still sometimes wake up after 2-3 glasses of wine feeling like Ive completely lost control. I call my friends to make sure I didn’t do anything wrong, I think that my boyfriend hates me even though we always have a great time or I cry out of shame and guilt that I did something but I don’t know what.
Thanks for sharing your experiences xo
I relate to this so much as well. I’ve actually given up alcohol completely because of it. It’s only been 2.5 months and I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself, but I’ve got so much TIME back! The amount of time we waste on drinking, then being hungover, then having crippling anxiety. I went through a similar period to you and have the exact same feelings. I still felt guilty whenever I drank?! Thank you for sharing ❤️
I couldn’t agree more. Thank you for writing this article. I went through a very similar period of destructive behaviour as you, which was masking unresolved pain. That period still haunts me to this day, as I struggle not to define myself by those behaviours, or the person that I was back then. I am so radically different now, and I’ve left ‘friends’ behind because of it. I’ve actually stopped drinking because the anxiety I was getting was so bad. I’ve freed up so much more time that I was wasting either drinking, being hungover, or in a state of all-consuming anxiety for days. I feel so much better. Now I get anxiety about potentially having a drink again and feeling the same way! It’s a process… Happy to have found your blog.
It’s hard whenever I socially drink and I remind myself it’s a choice & I am still in control, but even though I don’t get drunk anymore, the next morning I feel as if I betrayed myself for having a drink or two, for acting to fit in- or for sleeping in (fear of wasting any more mornings/ days like I used to in the past ). This makes me feel resentment towards my own ‘self betrayal’ and makes me take steps away from my friends – I don’t want them to think I am ‘better’ than they are because I want to be ‘holy’ and not drink- the thing is no one knows my past and I don’t want to explain. Any tips for RADICAL self-compassion would be appreciated 🧡. Thank you for writing this.
For a while, in my early twenties, I thought I had a drinking problem. Turns out, I really just had a self-destruction problem and alcohol was the easiest and most convenient weapon. I gave up alcohol in my late twenties out of curiosity (and borderline orthorexia, if we’re being honest) and was surprised how easy it was given my “history”. I have so many blurry nights and fights and lots of things I remember, but wish I didn’t. I rarely drink now but find myself feeling guilty and irresponsible for going beyond the arbitrary boundary in my mind of “two respectable drinks”. Do I even want to drink? Am I trying to numb out? Am I just behaving like a “normal”, social adult? Am I allowed to just have fun? Am I more—or less— myself when alcohol is involved? With the shamestorm of my alcohol fueled past, it can be hard to sort out the answers.