Hangover or Withdrawal?

February, 2014

On this morning, I was living in Queens and had to be in downtown Manhattan at 10:15am. I woke up at 10am in a panic. The room was spinning, my mind fuzzy, thoughts incoherent. I was shaky, cold, sweaty and my head pulsated. My makeup was still painted on my face from the night before. I reapplied black eyeshadow, eyeliner, and mascara. The heavier the black eyeliner, the heavier the hangover: The correlation was precise. The makeup only compounded my puffiness and heightened the swelling. No amount of makeup or filter could conceal the damage from last night. I didn’t care, as long I could conceal my addiction.

During my drinking career, hangovers were more routine than working out, more regular than Aunt Flow, and more common than a cold. A hangover was a guest that “hung over” into the morning—alcohol’s evil twin that lingered, even when the party was over. Alcohol had departed and completely metabolized while it’s twin loitered and wreaked havoc on my body.  

Escaping my feelings every night came at an expense. Mornings were characterized by immense physical and mental discomfort. Everything that I had successfully numbed out the night before, resurfaced the following morning, with a vengeance. Feeling hungover characterized my mornings. For this reason, I avoided 9 to 5 jobs. In 2014, I was bartending at BLT in downtown Manhattan, inside the W Hotel. I was occasionally obligated to work a morning/lunch shift. Going to work in the morning is a true undertaking for a seasoned alcoholic. Within hours of waking up, I was feeling highly agitated, cold, sweaty and shaky. If anyone questioned my physical state, I admitted I was hungover, which was a euphemism for “withdrawing.” Withdrawal was a forbidden word. It implied problematic drinking and I was reluctant to acknowledge that my usage was any different than other 25-year-olds. In my mind, withdrawal only plagued hardcore alcoholics—the folks on Intervention that downed a gallon of liquor a day and sipped vodka in the morning instead of coffee. I wasn’t that bad. Until I qualified for Intervention, I would not abandon my ritualistic cocktails.

I called my boss and told him that I was stuck in traffic which proved half true. When you live in New York, there’s always traffic. I took this picture in the cab on my way to work that morning. I still can’t believe I took this photo of my horrendous face with racoon eyes and then had the audacity to post it to social media. I was clearly still drunk.

Hangovers defined my perverse relationship with alcohol. Our relationship was a love story gone awry. Waking up with a thumping headache every morning was no deterrent for my love of vodka. Despite the physical and emotional pain, I maintained our romance; my love for alcohol was unconditional, but it’s love for me was nonexistent.

Behind the smile is a girl in denial. She covers up the truth by convincing herself that she is just hungover. In reality, she is withdrawing. Consecutively drinking ten nights in a row have caused her brain to chemically depend on alcohol. Without it, her brain attempts to normalize activity and function, causing symptoms of torture.

“On this morning, it was my only motivation to pull my two wobbly legs through two small pant holes. This simple task was daunting to someone who was a slave to alcohol and hadn’t yet acquired their morning ritualistic dose. I needed at lest one drop to function. Who am I kidding? I needed at least a healthy guzzle to muzzle my crying soul and body pangs. My body needed it to operate, my mind needed it for clarity, and my soul needed it for warmth.

Vodka used to whisper sweet nothings in my ear and promise me moments of carefree bliss. But this morning, it was roaring in my ear and holding my body hostage until I felt the burn of its existence in my esophagus.”

Girl, Wasted. Chapter One.

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