At the time of writing I have a hangover. It’s not a particularly bad one, but I’m not feeling as good as I could be. It’s the first time in quite a while that I’ve felt hungover, and I’m not really in the hang of it. In an ideal world I would have been able to sleep for another few hours – that’s always the best way to find my way out of this state – but we had some things to do this morning. None shall sleep.
It’s not that I got massively drunk last night; I just drank too much. It was a Friday night, after a hard week of work, and I knew I fancied drinking rather a lot of wine. That seems like a perfectly normal thing to do. The internet – well my Facebook feed – is perpetually full of people talking about how much they love gin, and how Friday night is drinky night. Feeling drunk is the reward for life’s pain.
The problem is, from the thick end of a Saturday morning, drinking just seems stupid. I no longer recall the fun of the buzz of a couple of glasses of wine; my mind has gone all fuzzy, and I don’t like it. I have consumed more water this morning than I thought my stomach could cope with, and I am in desperate need of something filthy to eat. I remember that it passes, but I can’t handle that.
I like a drink, and I always have. The problem is what comes the following day. It was OK when I had a rather menial job, and I could just bluff my way through pretending to be a fully functioning part of the civilised human race, while my mind was a collapsing tower and my insides were just a bucket of various liquefying organs. Nowadays I have a job which requires my attention, so I can’t just write off a day because I over indulged the night before. And concentrating with a hangover isn’t fun at all.
I find hangovers a jangly experience, where all I understand with any certainty is that I do not know. I shuffle through the house, barely able to hold on to a thought, muttering curses to my own choices.
I have reached the stage where it takes a lot to get me thoroughly drunk, but not a huge amount to get me appropriately giddy. I like being appropriately giddy, and it doesn’t come with the same repercussions as a proper night on the sauce. Having a couple of pints takes the weight off from the shoulders, and allows my mind to come out of gear. It washes away the stresses which life seems to be so inevitably loaded with. I could learn some coping strategies, but I prefer the taste of lager.
The realisation of my idiocy starts in the middle of the night. I wake up for a pee, and realise that my thirst is unquenchable. I am far too hot, and my mind is full of demons. The thoughts of things which I may have said or done – even when I have said nothing and done nothing – flood my mind with a horror I cannot shake. I repeatedly need to reassure myself that I have done nothing wrong, or there will be no sleep. And sleep is the thing I need most right now. That and water. Lots more water.
If I am lucky I can ride this phase out – sleep through it – and wake up feeling merely mildly jaded. The degree of horror in my head is the key factor here: if I can cope with my own reflection I will be fine, more than likely. The worst comes when I wake with a shock: bolt upright, and fully informed that the day to come is ruined. I cannot face my own stupidity at this point, and feel only hatred.
In my youth, when I had failed to develop such a tolerance for self-abuse, a hangover may cause me to vomit. These days, I am merely plagued by random aches and pains throughout the day. The older I get the less I can differentiate these pains from the ordinary pain sensations my body sends me.
I don’t understand people who don’t drink much. It makes no sense to me at all. They must have better coping strategies than I do. It’s like people who don’t finish a cup of tea: I have a quantity of liquid in a suitable receptacle; it must be finished. I don’t understand leaving some behind. People who don’t like a drink are even more puzzling again. Yes, alcoholic beverages often taste awful, at least at first, but that’s no reason to be put off. Just try harder and you’ll develop a taste for it.
But that’s not the point either. It’s the people who aren’t drawn to getting a bit drunk as a leisure pursuit that I can’t wrap my head around. The people for whom seeking a buzz – whether from a pint, a cup of coffee or a jazz cigarette – never seems to cross their mind. I don’t get that lack of an impulse. It doesn’t strike me as something I am capable of. I just seem to like getting fucked up.
Is that a bad thing? Society seems to do its self-flagellating best to tell us all that it is, but I’m not sure. Yes, drinking too much for too long is bad for our health; I will never argue against that. But is liking the sensation of getting a bit giddy really that destructive for the social fabric. I’m saying “no”.
I have been making a conscious decision to reduce the amount of alcohol I consume. It just seems like a good idea. The odd thing is that I have been enjoying the process. Yes, I do miss whiskey, but I’ll get over that. Skipping the sprits reminded my how much I like fortified wines: port and sherry are much maligned, but I love their complexity. They’re more than just convenient vehicles towards Drunktown, the way that vodka – for instance – lends itself to being. They’re actually nice to drink.
It’s an odd technique, not reducing the volume of liquids I consume, but the alcohol content, but it seems to be working for me. Once the spirit has become beer – like the process of distillation, but in reverse – then I can get to the frequency. Life is a journey, and everything lies on a continuum.
I think the reason I want to drink less is that I like it too much. For some people it is a crutch when they are sad, or stressed; I can’t handle that: I know that a drink is not going to make me feel less sad. Yes, it may alleviate some of the physical aspects of stress, but I won’t actually be feeling any less stress. I need to deal with those things separately. And then I can have a couple of pints.