One of my first really bad hangovers was in high school. I must have been 17.
I don’t even remember what I did the night before. Weekend partying in high school usually involved siphoning off someone’s parent's alcohol. We would then dump it into our Jack in the Box cups filled with Tab or Coke. Sometimes we were able to get an older sibling to buy us beer.
Through word of mouth (and rotary phones!), we found out whose parents were going to be out of town that weekend, and there we went.
Other times, we met at the beach, a park, or local campgrounds.
It was a Saturday and I lay comatose on my waterbed, well past what my mom considered a proper time to get up on the weekend. She was busy at work that morning sewing my gown for Senior Prom and was annoyed that I was still lounging in my room.
Hangovers, Mom, and Prom
My mom made most of my Prom and Winter Ball gowns throughout high school. If she was too busy, she would make an occasional exception and help me buy one from Charlotte Russe or The Broadway, contributing to my Taco Bell earnings of $3.50/hour to make the big purchase.
The gown she was sewing was a slinky, floor-length number with a plunging neckline and made from teal blue polyester silk, probably cut from a Butterick or Vogue pattern. She needed me to try it on to see what adjustments had to be made.
Mom kept her beloved Singer sewing machine in our home office, a small room with a desk, next to my parent’s bedroom at the opposite end of the house from my bedroom.
After her third shout to me, I managed to hoist my miserable self up and off of my sloshing mattress. I shuffled down the hall in my Foreigner t-shirt and JCPenney underwear and attempted to stand still next to the Singer. I stripped my shirt off and mom slipped the dress over my head. My stomach roiled and my head pounded.
She had a mouth full of sewing pins and was standing close to me, pulling, gathering, and pinning my dress at the bustline.
“You smell like your father,” she said, pointedly, looking at me.
I sucked in my breath, realizing it must reek.
“Geez Mom,” I said looking down, a feeling of shame washing over me.
“Like beer,” she continued.
I stood there silent, mortified, unsure how to respond. There was no question after all. Just an observation - one that I was certainly not proud of. My mom knew I was drinking and she didn’t like it.
She finished the dress alterations with neither one of us saying another word. Nothing more was said about her comment that day, but I never forgot it.
Me, my BFF Carrie, and our dates, Senior Prom
Good Girls Have Hangovers Too
I had always prided myself on being a “good girl”. Straight A’s, honor roll and National Honor Society were a part of my academic plan every semester. My parents, teachers, coaches, and counselors respected me, and I them. Family activities, church, helping out at home, and working part-time were all part of my regular life.
I knew partying on the weekends with my friends did not fit in with this pretty picture of perfection. But I liked drinking. It relaxed me and made me feel like I belonged. I was 17 and still didn’t know where I fit.
Pandemic Drinking = Endless Hangover Hamster Wheel
Cut to 42 years of “social drinking” practice later, and we find ourselves in the middle of a pandemic and I am getting more hangovers than ever. They are still guilt-ridden and no fun, and now I am 58, so I really feel the pain.
In the spring of 2020, I had slowly begun to increase my previously “normal” (i.e. accepted by society) level of daily drinking. More wine became my way to numb the stress of living in a world in panic mode.
On the surface, everything appeared normal. I was still the same high-functioning mom – running 5 miles every morning, working, socializing with friends and family, traveling with my husband, and caring for our home.
But on the inside, I was suffering. There were so many mornings I woke up stressed and disgusted with myself. It appears I was not alone.
The Pandemic is Easing – So Why Am I Still Hungover All The Time?
In early 2021, our life was starting to show signs of getting back to normal. Vaccines were helping to drastically reduce Covid cases and people weren’t getting as sick, even if they did get the virus. The threat seemed to be a more manageable one now.
Our six kids were regaining their footing in school, in their jobs, and in their living situations. My fiancé and I were finally able to have a small backyard wedding in April of 2021. It was so beautiful and we were so happy. Our chaotic life was calming down.
Snuck in a backyard wedding between Covid outbreaks in California
I felt so lucky that our family had made it through the worst of this time with not too much collateral damage.
So why was I drinking too much?
Some days I would say to myself that I am only going to have one or two glasses of wine tonight – no more. I want to feel good tomorrow. But inevitably, after two, that resolution went right out the window and the number three (or four) glass was poured.
I’ll skip wine tomorrow I would think, as the pale yellow gold went glug, glug glug into my glass. Tomorrow would come, and there I was feeling like shit in the morning, yet again. Saying I won’t have any wine at all today, but then changing my mind by the afternoon. I was sick of it!
Why do I keep doing this? What is wrong with me?
My negative self-talk took on a life of its own. You would run for the hills if you ever heard the voices in my head talking to you. Because she is one mean bitch!
Maybe there was more collateral damage than I realised.
No More Hangovers – I Quit
After a long summer spent partying with family and friends, on September 7, 2021, I woke up that day and decided I was going to take a 30-day break from alcohol.
I wasn’t sure if I could do it.
I started by reading everything I could about the science of alcohol – its effects on our bodies and why it is so hard to stop using it. (Alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in America today!)
The first few weeks with no wine were tough, I’m not gonna lie. My body struggled to make the adjustment and I was a grumpy mess. (Check out this podcast episode of Over The Influence for their interview with Clare Pooley, author of The Sober Diaries. I found her story so inspiring in the early days of going alcohol-free.)
But the overwhelming, fantastic, and brilliant feeling of waking up without a hangover was astounding. I couldn’t get enough of it. And even though I was fearful of the alcohol-free journey ahead, I knew I never wanted to go back to living the other way again.
Today I am closing in on one year, no booze. Yep, I did it.
I AM FREE.
My story is being shared here in the hopes that it can help anyone else that may be struggling in their relationship with alcohol. It doesn’t matter how much you are drinking. Only you know if it’s too much for you. You don’t have to wait until it gets worse or you hit a rock bottom to decide to change.
Tammy is from San Diego, California, and is mom and step-mom to 6 wonderful children. Drinking worked for Tammy for years until one day it didn’t. Now she is writing about it and helping inspire others to follow the same path.
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