November what? The 26th? It’s late November? Already? The demons of Thanksgiving, Christmas, peak season at UPS, the hell of Winter, and the struggle of buying gifts is already upon us? When did all of this happen? I’m not ready for this. It was only a few weeks ago that it was July and everyone was miserable in 100+ degree heat indices. Right?
Sober September was great enough and it was the happiest I had been in awhile. I’ve said before in some post before that surprisingly I don’t have anxiety when I’m not drinking. It has been so long since I’ve been sober for an extended period of time that I’d just accepted anxiety as part of my natural state. Sure, Jeremy is somewhat anxious, but it was never a crushing and terrible thing that I couldn’t work through until I made alcohol a part of my everyday existence. But here we are and I have no choice but to deal with it and work through it. Life is always a struggle to fight through your problems and this is mine currently.
Sober September quickly turned into Intoxicated October and Not-Sober November which is where I am currently. And it’s the absolute worst time of the year to realize that maybe you should stop drinking, that it does you no good, and that it’s a crutch you use to limp on by in life. Fucking stand up on your own and live up to your potential, right? But it’s cold and dark and work is hell and stress is high and despite any meditation on the matter I can’t help but feel that life and everything is spiraling apart hopelessly. Add in the second/third wave of COVID-19 looming over all of us and I don’t even think I want to attempt sobriety just yet. I just don’t think I can pull off during this point of my life. Maybe I’ll just camp out until things finally fucking calm the fuck down…eventually…whenever that actually happens…maybe January?
Anyways, hanxiety. It’s a term I found on Reddit a few days ago and it has struck me with its personal resonance. If you can’t tell, it’s a portmanteau of hangover and anxiety which makes its meaning quite clear: hangxiety is the anxiety you experience while being hungover. Apparently the Irish have a term for it (according to some random Reddit user): The Fear, which is quite fitting really.
It’s comforting knowing there are terms so fitting to my current state used by a massive part of the internet population. It removes the ‘personalness’ of the problem — maybe it’s not a problem with you our your mind but with the alcohol use/abuse and is something chemical — which makes it a ton easier to deal with. When there are a bunch of people experiencing the same crap that you do you don’t feel quite as bad about it as if you were going it alone and thinking it was some issues with you a person or something. All of us borderline alcoholics are in this together, in some nebulous struggle against a molecule of all thing, and it gives you a feeling of camaraderie. It’s not just you going it alone and a ton of us experience this ‘hangxiety.’
Apparently hangxiety is a medical side-effect of alcohol use/abuse. It’s as natural as any other drug side effects and it’s not something to beat yourself up over. Sure, you’re drinking way too much and may have fucked up temporarily, but the next day side-effects are as much of an issue of biology and chemistry as they are to your possible drunken texts to your ex, if you sent them or not. As said before: don’t beat yourself up over things if you can help it. No one who is prescribed opioids beats themselves up over the ability to shit (as opioids stop you from being able to take a dump) so us alcoholics shouldn’t fret over the next-day anxiety, guilt, and stress that we always experience.
(Big Note here: obviously alcoholics and those prescribed prescription drugs are totally different, but I’m trying to say don’t personalize the side-effects of the drugs you’re taking I guess.)
Alcohol is a depressant, and as the brain and body’s way of dealing with this is to increase the ‘flight or fight’ response of your body so you don’t die. By drinking you’re basically slowing everything down and your body speeds itself up with its funny tricks so you don’t pass away. It’s a battle of chemicals; as you dose your body with things that slow you down, your body increases the things that keep it going like cortisol: the stress hormone. Do you ever notice how you wake up anxious, on edge, fearful, and terrified after a night of drinking? Thank cortisol and your super-effective brain and body for this. You’ve dumped a bunch of depressants into your system and your body is fighting it and what did you expect to happen? Welcome to the hell you’ve brought upon yourself. And you have nothing else to do but accept it with open arms and own it because it’s all your own fault.
This is the hell I’ve been in for about two months now, and despite being in this hell I’m surprisingly adapting just fine to it. It sounds awful, but I’m used to waking up after four or five hours of sleep totally stressed out and feeling guilty for some unclear reason despite not drunkenly texting my ex or doing other silly shit. Sure, I didn’t do anything to feel guilty over, but the feeling is there and ever-present and it feels real. It’s hard to shake a feeling of guilt despite knowing you’re not guilty of a damn thing. I suppose with this outside opinion from thousands of Redditors I’ve detached myself from the hangxiety in a way. Yes, I was drinking a bit too much and brought it upon myself, but the hangxiety itself is just a byproduct from my stupid life choices and not a problem on its own. I wasn’t guilty, a failure, or held some vague form or regret for any real reason: it was just the booze changing my brain chemistry.
It might be the functional alcoholic speaking here, but I’m getting to the point where I totally ignore and disregard my hangxiety. It’s just a passing feeling and if I fight through it, chill out, focus on being at peace with my life, and I find I can get through it just fine. It does seem like everything in life is a tradeoff, and if you do accept functional alcoholism into your life you can still learn some sort of lesson about stress, anxiety, and depression even if it’s at the expense of your greater health. I’m not saying people should willing drink to induce the temporary hell that is hangxiety just to deal with general anxiety, but damn if I haven’t been learning things over the past few months about dealing with stress and anxiety.
As for my hyped-up, hopeful closing statement: if you are a total drunkard who wakes up after a paltry three or four hours of sleep totally stricken by The Fear: you’re not alone. While I’m not facing the actual problem of alcoholism here, I am trying to give you some comfort over your hangxiety. It’s just a temporary side-effect of drinking heavily and if you give yourself time and turn your thoughts over to more comforting things you’ll find that you can fight through it. Don’t fret, don’t worry, it’s not a big deal and you can work through it. Despite you bringing these feelings upon yourself, remember above all else try to love yourself! No one is perfect, you can eventually work through your issues, but please don’t put extra effort into beating yourself up! Hangxiety, while awful and difficult to deal with in the moment, is just a temporary effect of alcohol on your brain and body and has nothing to do with your mental state, even if you might think it does. Hangxiety doesn’t speak to your mental state or fortitude, security, or safety in any way and should be totally disregarded. Don’t put too much emphasis into how you feel in the moment and try your best to work through it. Like me, you might find that it’s not a big deal at all once you face it and deal with it the best you can. It’s only a passing shadow, or something…
Maybe it’s best summed up by Sam’s speech in the middle of The Lord of the Rings movies:
“I know.-Samwise Gamgee
It’s all wrong
By rights we shouldn’t even be here.
But we are.
It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo.
The ones that really mattered.
Full of darkness and danger they were,
and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end.
Because how could the end be happy.
How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened.
But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow.
Even darkness must pass.
A new day will come.
And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.
Those were the stories that stayed with you.
That meant something.
Even if you were too small to understand why.
But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand.
I know now.
Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t.
Because they were holding on to something.”
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