phantom hangover

tuu Sitthikorn/iStock via Getty Images
tuu Sitthikorn/iStock via Getty Images

Dreamt I drank.

Felt guilty as hell. There was no desire to drink. Just did it. I was driving my son’s car. 2009 Toyota Corolla LE. Going to get it tuned up for him at a friend’s garage. Strange. Surreal. Exciting and worrisome, as dreams often are. I felt good, buzzed up, but I knew it was the phony high—the old friend I thought I had for so many years. The one that helped me make bad decisions. Destroy relationships. Make me hate myself. A lot happened. Reunited with drinking friends, but I wasn’t really happy to see them. Lost an iPhone that wasn’t mine. Then, drove off from a gas station with the Unleaded 89 Octane nozzle still lodged in the Corolla’s filler tube. Didn’t realize it until I got home. And the car had other damage. I never made it to the garage. I don’t remember how I got home. And more guilt piled on. All I wanted was to get my son’s car tuned up, but I got tuned up instead.

And then I woke. Safe in bed. My wife, pretty as ever, sleeping next to me. I took a deep breath. Sat up. Stretched. My head throbbed. I felt unclean. As if I’d been real-life drinking all night.

Heading into ten months of sobriety and getting phantom hangovers.

Life’s funny like that.

I have no desire to drink. Not one iota. I don’t miss it. It is, like a bad relationship. You’re in it, but you think you love the person. You think you’re supposed to tough it out, deal with it. Move in and out of days stepping on eggshells because even though it’s bad, it’s great when it’s great. The laughing, the physicality, the…the…

The excuses.

For me, there isn’t a reason to drink. For years, I conditioned myself to believe that everything—good or bad—was a reason to drink. Instead of living life, really living it, I pumped booze through my bloodstream, got buzzed up, and stayed safely at an arm’s length from anything meaningful.

Not that all the experiences I had while drinking were bad. They weren’t. In fact, some were great. But I often find myself considering how much better they could have been had I been sober.

I’ve no regrets.  I’m working through the guilt. Accepting who I am, for better or for worse. Discovering that the most important relationship that I have is with myself.  And the better that relationship is—without anything phony in between—the better my relationship with the world. Most importantly, my kids and my wife.

So I wake, with her. Safe in bed. Both of us breathing, healthy, and warm.


With another day of promise, waiting.

~ KJ

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