I’ll be the first to admit my relationship with alcohol has been a hot and cold one – very little grey area. Since reaching whatever age marks independence from one’s parents – 18? 19? – when I started having access to booze, I always equated alcohol with a good time; a better time than I would have without it.
When I came of actual legal drinking age, drinking was even more exciting. I got to try all kinds of horrible things like hurricanes, Long Island iced teas, and a “make me something blue” when I happened to know the bartender. I don’t condemn that person – my early-20s self. I think, within reason, that’s kind of when those things are supposed to happen.
As I’ve gotten older – and I think 25 was the most memorable landmark to the fact – hangovers got precipitously worse. They went from being a kind of floaty feeling (probably still drunk in the morning) at 21, to a nasty eye-splitting headache at 23, to the “Doom Hangovers” I started having at 25.
A Doom Hangover is when your emotions get involved. You’re not just ill, you’re not just ruing your decisions from the night before; you’re consumed with guilt. You’re sure everything is wrong, and it’s definitely your fault. This is closely related to, but not the same as, that feeling where you call all your friends to see what you did last night because you don’t remember the details but OH GOD you’re sure it was bad.
No, you might remember the whole night. You might have only had one or two too many. But the Doom Hangover bears down like an anvil on your soul for an entire day, sometimes more. This is your late 20s: Welcome.
The biggest ruse of all, though, is around age 27 and beyond, when you’ve convinced yourself that drinking a few at home, every night, constitutes “responsible drinking.” Again, not condemning the habit, but it’s its own monster. Nothing like reassuring yourself that “it’s okay because I don’t have to drive,” “it helps me sleep,” or “red wine is good for you,” just to wake up feeling like actual, disturbingly familiar garbage the next morning.
The effects were starting to eat into my whole day. I recently got off all my drugs – the immune suppressants, the hormones, and finally the antidepressants. Since then I started to notice an acute change when I drank: I got really depressed the next day.
Not only that, I’m turning 30 in less than a month, and it’s hard not to notice how your body changes around this time in life. Everything was starting to sag and bloat, in spite of regular exercise. My skin looked sallow and old, in spite of my hopeless devotion to my skincare routine. I woke up with a case of dry-mouth I could sell to science no matter how much water I drank. I looked how I felt: shitty.
It was vanity that finally did me in on alcohol again. I say “again” because I quit about two years ago, and I lasted 9.5 months (no baby, hand to God) before I wanted a glass of Pinot Grigio. I used Alan Carr’s book “The Easy Way To Control Alcohol” to do it, and while it stuck for awhile, I thought I had done a great job at overcoming my disagreements with alcohol, and that now I really could “drink responsibly.”
But back to my vanity. It’s real. It’s a being unto itself, ask my mom. I refuse to let my appearance go, because my sanity goes with it. Looking good is inextricable to my identity, and to lose control of both would set me adrift psychologically. My appearance is my buoy in the ocean of life’s chaos, and I don’t care if you think that’s shallow.
So I found myself waking up last week with another self-inflicted gin-ache and thought to myself, y’know, enough is enough, dude. This isn’t fucking worth it. I drink because – I DON’T KNOW WHY – and the results are worse and worse. I feel like garbage, I look like garbage, I’m gaining weight, my clothes don’t fit, and this ISN’T FUN anymore.
That was Friday. Today is Tuesday. I’ve lost 3 pounds of bloat in five days. My skin looks healthy and a lot younger. I wake up at 7 am without my alarm and do the New York Times crossword before work. My pants fit. My body is sending me a clear signal: girlfriend, stop poisoning yourself.
I’m a very all-or-nothing person. A friend once told me I have a steely resolve; that I make a decision and stick to it from then on out. This was right before she told me she slept with my ex and I’ve written her out of my life ever since, so I guess she had a point.
But alcohol has always been my pet issue. I vacillate and I hem and I haw. I try to be “cool Kackie” and just have a drink – stop obsessing. But it doesn’t work, and it’s written in the lines on my face. Alcohol is a wily monster, but if I had to place my bets on who would win in a fight – I’d bet on my vanity all day long.