The reverse hangover

I’ve been very fortunate to avoid or at least limit my exposure to the kinds of social situations many of the newly sober find themselves in right away:  weddings, business trips to Vegas, work happy hours, boozy client dinners, etc. I even skipped my 20 year high school reunion last summer because I didn’t want to face all that drinking sober. Never lost any sleep over that decision, btw.

This weekend was an abrupt switch from my carefully conscious sober life to being around people who drink like I used to drink. Alcohol was discussed and poured and even spilled more in front of me in a 24 hour period than in the last year of my life. At first I found myself thinking “why can’t I just drink with them?”  They were all having so much fun. But the experience was like a hangover in reverse: the more everyone else drank, the better I felt in my own sober skin.

4pm Saturday –  The other grownups drink beer or whiskey and get ready to go out and I feel anxious and low. I remember golden Saturday afternoons and fuzzy-headed buzzes and how nice those things feel. But when did I even have that last? I can’t remember the last time I waited until 4pm on a Saturday for a drink. What’s so great about being buzzed at 11am?

6pm –  The others return from the brewery that used to be my favorite. Their high octane beers were my pride and downfall. They still serve amazing soft pretzels and root beer, plus their game room keeps the kids amused for at least 15 minutes, but I’m glad I didn’t go. In that moment, I didn’t belong there.

8pm – I’m glad I’m not slurring my words or having to expend all that mental energy to keep from slurring my words. I used to pride myself on not appearing as drunk as I was, so being drunk was pretty exhausting. It feels good to be a sober hostess…no forgotten side dishes or taking an hour to clear the table in between drink and smoke breaks.

9pm – I’m not out of breath or incapacitated after a few games of ghost in the graveyard. I used to be a social smoker, which means I smoked only when I drank. Which means I smoked a lot.

10pm – Our guests’ cigarettes smell good but I don’t want one. I can’t follow anyone’s conversation because everybody is talking over everbody else. I really want to go inside and watch Gremlins 2 with my kid, and I will soon, but first I think about what I would be doing after six hours of drinking.  I would be talking over everybody else too but making less sense. I would be sharing too much and slurring and no longer caring. I might even be drinking from a beer bottle with a cigarette butt swirling around the bottom.

9am, the next day – I am hangover free and it is no less beautiful than it always is. We go to breakfast at a place that has great food and I didn’t feel the need to lobby for somewhere that at least serves mimosas. I enjoy our company in that relaxed, giddy mood of morning afters without all the pain.

For those who are new to not-drinking or struggling with all the changes it entails, it absolutely does get easier over time. Other people told me this before and it turns out they were right. Everything gets easier, but being around other drinkers is something in particular I’m more comfortable with now. My husband said me not-drinking just feels like the new normal, which is great. I’m glad he feels that way. I don’t quite feel this myself and I suspect it will always be a little hard and feel a bit tempting when I’m around others enjoying alcohol in the same carefree way I once did. But it’s not hard to remember carefree weekend buzzes were not my reality in the end.

Now I’m rewarded with a different kind of peace when I don’t drink. It lasts longer than any buzz and I don’t have to pay for it later, and that is why I don’t drink.

21 thoughts on “The reverse hangover

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  1. I could have written every word in this post and I am so very glad. It is a wonderful post and reminder of what we are not giving up, I still need to be reminded sometimes. Thank you.


  2. LOVE LOVE LOVE this!

    How awesome to focus on what you have and what you have gained. Accentuating the positive versus focusing on the negative- it really is just a slight shift of attitude and perspective that can change your whole world.

    I have zero desire to go to any sort of high school reunion. I’ve never understood the fascination. Isn’t that what Facebook is for? Ha ha!

    Great post- entertaining, engaging and well written. Bravo.


    1. The reunion was organized and advertised solely on facebook, so I could see who was going and everything. I haven’t been to one yet and that may never change.


  3. The feeling of waking up not hung over never gets old. I can always tell when I have a drinker on my table and when they’re hungover at their appointment. My days of feeling sympathetic for them are way over.


  4. Great post esp your summary at the end.

    I can say it does get easier – but yes I do sometimes sit and look at someone else drinking and think… “Why me?” But then I think, if I had an allergy to a food stuff – say nuts – that I knew was so bad that it may kill me I’d avoid it like the plague on a menu and would no doubt say to the waiter “This dish, it doesn’t have any nuts in it does it?” etc. I wouldn’t miss them… why do I feel that with alcohol… I know why I’m an alcoholic, I may not have had an alcoholic drink pass my lips for 8 years now but I’ll always be an alcoholic and whilst I know the damage it’ll do I can’t controle my irrational desire for it either… But these days as I sit having a birthday celebration curry with my son on Sat and have to pass his bear down the table I half smile at myself that I’m there, physically, mentally and emotionally – if I started drinking the last two would drift away as quickly as smoke from a fire


  5. it’s so great to read this, what a boost to the beginning of my day. i like how everything gets easier, even though you still have to be aware. but you’re also aware of how good you feel, and that just rocks 🙂


  6. What an evocative post. And what a reminder of my recent foray back into drinking 😦
    I’m 7 days in (again) and have a wedding in a few weeks that I have to go to. I will certainly keep this post in my mind and think, what would threebee do? I think you’re my new guru!
    Thanks, great post x


  7. Brilliant post. Your last paragraph reminds me of the 1st paragraph from A Vision for You. I like how you thought the drink through, 4PM Saturday, non-alcoholics can wait until 4pm to have the first drink, I on the other hand started around 10 or 11am and was well on my way by 4pm. Whether it is a social party or stopping at store on a hot summer day, I have to remember the fun of drinking was a very long time ago, I drank hard, heavy and never know how much I was going to drink or what I would do, the risk I would take and the damage I would do to loved ones, Like what your what husband told you, wonderful support and you are blessed to have it. Your Higher Power is doing for you what you could not do for yourself.

    Please keep sharing, new and old alike in recovery need to read about what it was like and what it is like now. Share your struggles also and how you got through them without a drink which is just as strong a message as this feel good one!



  8. Oh I love those last lines as well. “..But it’s not hard to remember carefree weekend buzzes were not my reality in the end.

    Now I’m rewarded with a different kind of peace when I don’t drink. It lasts longer than any buzz and I don’t have to pay for it later, and that is why I don’t drink.”

    I liked how you took us through the whole drinking cycle. It really isn’t long before “why can’t I just have a drink like everyone elseo” becomes, “Thank God that’s over and I don’t have to deal!”



  9. This post is a great example of how short sighted we can be in the middle of it all. It has been a couple years but I CLEARLY remember thinking if I didn’t go out, I was going to miss something AMAZING/FUN/EXCITING. I would be so bored and all alone. But the way you detailed it out was perfect. One night out really isn’t that long. Losing everything I have worked for, and starting all over IF I EVEN COME BACK, over 12 hours for an evening like you described… Really, what is there to compare! Recovery is what I chose today 🙂 Thanks for the post


  10. So real to me too! Going through couple of these type of events at the moment. However tough I focus on my lovely mornings as the reward and remember how those used to feel. – Sick, guilty and afraid of what I did, who I offended etc Now its clear headed and guilt free. A much better place


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