Hangovers happen in sobriety.
I experienced them particularly in early recovery when I was unaccustomed to feeling good without substances. I was learning to feel substantive, to feel complete.
Feeling whole was all I ever truly craved when I drank and drugged. Before then, I never quite had that feeling of fitting in. I drank and used on that condition; a spiritual longing was the cause.
Alcohol is well-known for diminishing inhibitions. Drunk, you lose that filter—you burst the bubble of self-consciousness. The phrase “a drunk man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts” explains the phenomenon.
But the drink and the drug are deceptive, like the ornate gift-wrap of a big empty box. What I thought made me happy left me unfulfilled. I tore open the gift-wrap and was left with nothing—every time.
I was so inhibited before I drank, so crippled by social anxiety, that alcohol gave me exactly what I needed. And recovery gives me the same thing.
Ironically, admitting I’m an alcoholic gave me the same comfort that I craved when drinking alcohol uncontrollably. It released my inhibitions, gave me the feeling of fitting in.
And if it feels good, I will abuse it.
Friday was a whirlwind of activity for this blog.
Paul interviewed me for the BUZZKILL podcast, and Liv featured me in her Recovery Kitchen (see here for a list of all my generous hosts). I posted a sentimental piece about my baby girl connecting with the world. Site views spiked. What’s more, my soul was brimming with that feeling of fitting in.
But, when social media notifications stopped pinging, and comments were replied to, a familiar feeling settled in. I can liken the feeling to the hangover after a night out. I feel unfulfilled and lonely, like the roller coaster ends, the safety bar lifts, and I have to exit the car.
The logic would follow that if there are sober hangovers, it is possible to be drunk on life.
I think you could change this site from “the Miracle of the Mundane” to “knock-down-drag-out drunk on life” and you’d be reading the same thing.
At least once a day, I am smashed on life, so filled with purpose and direction, with contentment and joy that I am not tipsy, not buzzed, but loaded.
The sober high does not wear away at my soul, it uplifts it. The sober high doesn’t gnaw under my skin, but gives me a peace and serenity in who I am. But, as with synthetic highs, there is always the next morning.
The sober hangover has a cure.
What did I do when struggling with a hangover from intoxicants? I discovered many solutions, the easiest of which was to get stoned. I just loaded up on more of what I thought was the answer. I tore open the gift-wrap covering more empty boxes.
Naturally, to cure a sober hangover I need more of the same—I need more of the answer. I need to share, to be of service to others, to help another alcoholic, to pick up the phone and call someone.
The happiest this blog has made me was when I heard that Patrick O’Riley prints pieces and gives them to inmates at the Missouri Department of Corrections Treatment Center. Giving it away is the true restorative elixir. Helping others gives me the gifts I always wanted. And like Santa’s wonder-sac, there is no end to the bliss it contains.