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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

insights: how to handle a hangover

My hands and my hair smelled like orange juice, cranberry juice, peach schnapps and hard liquor. It was our 100 Days Until Graduation party and my friends and I as the class officers, were making the vats of mixed drinks for the party that night. I had just gone through a bad break-up scene the night before and my friends thought I should be the official taste tester of the drinks we were to serve. They thought it would cheer me up, get me in the mood to have fun.

Here is what I remember about that evening:

Mixing drinks and tasting them. Weak, strong, strongest. Eyes burning. Good, yes, the drinks are perfect.

Driving to the mall with a friend to buy an outfit to wear to the party. (I did not drive.)

Party. Loud. Billy Joel “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” I remember feeling like I was walking in a peach cloud. “Do you smell peaches?” I asked. It was me. Apparently if you drink enough peach schnapps you smell like it. Thus, my nickname. Peach.

Ladies bathroom. My friend and I in a stall (she’s smoking a clove cigarette) discussing whether she should kiss a boy she was crushing on. At our college in New Hampshire it was called ‘scooping’ as in:

HG: “Are you seriously going to scoop N. tonight?”

BF: “I am SO going to scoop him tonight.”

HG: “About damn time.”

BF: (sniffing) “You smell like peaches.”

HG: “You smell like Dentyne. I hope N. like the smell of cinnamon.”

Then nothing. Blank. Until the next morning when I woke up to loud sunshine coming through our dorm window. I was face down dressed in last night’s alcohol soaked clothes (and one wet shoe), holding on for dear life as my bed spun round and round upside down. I squeezed my eyes shut and wondered how to get the spinning to stop. Our room was always hot. Heat + nausea + spinning = a wild jump to the door, to our bathroom where I sat for most of the morning, gripping the porcelain as I revisited everything I ate and drank the night before. The sound of the toilet flushing as I laid my head on the cool tile floor was like a demolition sound. I held my ears and squeezed my eyes shut.

Later, my roommate brought me lemon-lime Alka-Seltzer which my stomach wasn’t ready for and to this day I still can’t tolerate the taste of lemon-lime. Flashbacks. As I laid on my bed later with an ice pack on my head I tried to recall the night before and one thing I couldn’t remember was where I had left my car. I didn’t remember parking it. So I changed, threw out the clothes I had been wearing and got dressed. I slid on dark sunglasses and ventured outside. It wasn’t until I got to upper campus that I found my car. In the middle of the quad. Along with a tube of Clinique lipgloss and a fuchsia Ferragamo ballet slipper I had been wearing the night before. My friends called me Cinderella’s drunk little sister.

The hangover I experienced last Friday was worse.

11:30am. I was at the club to run and meet my trainer. I had driven there in 20 degree weather with all the windows rolled down and the music off. The crazy bright sun bouncing off the wet pavement was battering my eyes. I wondered if wearing my sunglasses on the treadmill would be in bad form. I gently walked at 3mph (no incline)but the guy running next to me was going so fast he was making me dizzy. Each step he took was POW POW POW on the treadmill. After a couple minutes on the treadmill, I abandoned the effort and sat quietly on one of the “Wait Here For Your Trainer” seats. Elodie, my trainer found me and told her I was hung way over. I had a crushing headache, my stomach felt like I had been punched, I was nauseous, my body was shaking.

As Elodie and I worked out with weights and I did squats, we talked about this hangover thing. See, the funny thing was that I hadn’t had a thing to drink. Since that party in college I never drank to excess again. What we figured out though was that since June 1 I had been on a program to get healthy and lose weight. I’d lost 90 pounds in 7 months by eliminating wheat, dairy, sugar, coffee and alcohol but in the last two weeks with the holidays I had gone off the program, adding in a decaf coffee then real coffee, then a mocha, Christmas Eve cheese fondue with real bread, Chinese and Mexican dinners, cookies, nachos, cake, cherry pie, sugary grape gum (my favorite). It was a slippery slope and when you start, it’s hard to stop. I became a train that was heading off the rails faster and faster into Bingeland. My body didn’t know what to do with all this sudden sugar, caffeine, wheat and junk food. It was rebelling. It did not want this. My body wanted to get the  sugar and junk food out of my body even more than back on that day in college when it wanted to get the alcohol out.

So Elodie and I worked out and we pushed harder than I have ever pushed. I did so many squats that I cried the next night in bed when I just tried to roll over. When I got home from the club I went through the pantry and collected all the foods that we had allowed back into our house. L (my husband) and I had been eating so healthy, I knew if I didn’t get back on the rails immediately that I would stay off the rails and settle back into my old patterns.
The Life Lesson
Like an alcoholic who joins AA and starts counting the days of sobriety, I did the same thing. I went to my weekly Weight Watchers meeting and I saw the 2 pound gain. It hurt. I wasn’t going to go to my weekly meeting. I thought if I blew it off then I wouldn’t have to face it but you know the longer you put something off the worse it gets. If you have a problem, face it, handle it. Problems don’t go away if you avoid them. It would have been the easy path to say “Screw it. Done. I can’t do it.” but that’s quitting. The harder thing is to detox again, to get the toxins your body doesn’t want out of your system. It was harder this time though, than it was in June. This time I knew the cravings that were to come when I started to jones for a coconut coffee. I knew what was coming and it wasn’t fun. What I did differently this time that I ever have in my life, is that I didn’t hit myself over the head. You mess up, it’s OK. The key is to get back to what you were doing, what made you happy and successful. Yes, there were moments of pure glee when I was sinking my teeth into cheesy nachos but it was short lived. That was the behavior of someone was was sad and didn’t love herself enough to say you don’t need that to cope.

So, it’s a New Year. If you are trying to change a habit--stop smoking, eat healthy, exercise more, spend more time with your kids, stop gossiping, stop overspending, you can do this. You. Can. Do. This. And if you slip up, you are human. You get back up. The key is to get back up right away. Don’t say you’ll start next Monday or tomorrow. Start right now. I can tell you that if you say you will start the next Monday or the next week or the 1st of the month that you will just dig yourself deeper and deeper. Start you clean slate now. I’m here right along with you, cheering you on. I’ve lost that two pound gain and more. I’m now at 93 pounds gone and I can tell you that there is no cheesecake, no Dorito, no mocha in the world that tastes as good as the feeling of self-control.

I learned something from these two hangovers.

1.) Every day is a new day, a wide open day for something marvelous to happen. Maybe you went off the rails. Big deal. New day, new you in control.

2.) Your body is smart and precious and marvelous. Listen to it, treat it kindly.

3.) A cold shower works wonders.

4.) When you lose control of food, alcohol, your temper it’s hard to find your happy. I found that writing down what I am going to eat and what I am doing for a workout and sticking to exactly what I wrote keeps me on track.

5.) When you need help, ask for it. It helps when someone brings you a cool cloth for your forehead, or works you hard to remind you just how strong you really are.

6.) Fess up. Start a clean slate. It works. If you need more, try AA or OA. There is a support group out there just waiting for you.

7.) Nothing helps a bed spin. You just have to ride it out.

8.) If you get a nickname, be sure it’s for something that isn’t embarrassing.

9.) Never be the taste tester for a party that centers around alcohol.

10.)  Hold onto your shoes, because when you least expect it one will invariably go missing.

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