Overhung

Early Umphrey’s: minimal light show, Stasik tucked away in the back, Joel with a goatee (and hair). Good stuff.

According to my extensive online research (J/K Google-searched & looked at first results), the term “hangover” originated as ‘an expression describing the idea of something that is hung over or left over from the nights before.’  Other theories postulate that after a particularly rousing bout of drinking, one can indeed be seen “hanging over” the commode the next morning.  In any case, if you have ventured even a small distance into experimenting with alcohol, it is likely you have experienced the symptoms at one point or another: headache, nausea, dehydration, etc.

To the raging alcoholic, this concept takes on an entirely different meaning.  Via the development of a high tolerance due to frequent abuse over time, the body can become conditioned to these side effects.  The intensity of the pain is minimized, or in some cases completely eliminated.  For the alcoholic that is a “maintenance drinker,” they are typically drinking non-stop in their waking hours.  Whether consuming large volumes at a time or merely sipping, the blood alcohol content remains well above 0.00; thus, no side effects from the “come down.”

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Without maintaining a steady B.A.C., the maintenance drinker is at risk not only of a hangover, but of withdrawal as well – much more serious, and even potentially lethal.  Much as the individual who consumes eight cups of coffee a day will crash and burn without re-upping their caffeine levels, so too will the alcoholic who goes without drink.  Thankfully I have never experienced this to such an intense degree, but there is no question I have been in the early throes of withdrawal not just once.  Take your worst hangover, multiply it by 100, and let someone dropkick you down a flight of stairs.  That’s roughly what your entire essence of being feels like.

Say what you will about Nic Cage, but the man knows how to do intensity and pain. From “Leaving Las Vegas,” 1995.

My hangovers were few and far between towards the end of my drinking, but when they hit hard when they were there.  This would usually be because I had mixed a variety of different types of alcohols throughout the course of a night.  Since I mostly drank vodka of my own accord, it was when I was at house parties with kegs or when someone was buying rounds of shots at the bar that this cocktail (so to speak) would knock me down.

I take that back, that my hangovers were few and far between.  It was those heavy ones after mixing liquors that were few and far between.  I had simply become so used to a perpetual, low-grade hangover throughout my day-to-day that I became numb to it, and just dealt with it as a minor inconvenience.  Except it wasn’t.  Though in my own eyes I managed as a functioning alcoholic quite well, many times exceeding expectations in my work & responsibilities, the truth was I was operating at probably about 65% of my full potential.

I was, in fact, once admitted to the E.R. for severe dehydration.  I had been on something of a Thursday-Friday bender, paying little attention to my food or water intake.  I awoke at dawn on Saturday for a weekly retail shift I had been working as an odd job.  By 9 AM, I was extremely light-headed and very weak.  I could barely form coherent thoughts, but I do remember being embarrassed by the fact that I had to summon a medic on the job for what was ultimately my own stupidity and recklessness.  I spent the rest of the day in the hospital with an I.V. drip, feeling frail, vulnerable, and disgusted with myself.  Yet another wake-up call that I pretended to be ignorant of.

You just don’t burn clean when your body is constantly bogged down with alcohol & the aftereffects of abusing it.  In these past few months of sobriety, I have realized how much sharper my mind is.  Though I still sometimes may act a sloth, my energy levels are far greater than what they used to be.  I am interpreting the world around me with clarity and preciseness.  I am on my way to becoming a well-oiled machine.  I honestly don’t care what obstacles lay ahead of me; I have nothing but determined conviction that my life will play out exactly as I wish it to, per my personal definitions of ‘success.’  It is what you make of it; you get out of it what you put into it.

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