How can I get rid of these awful feelings?
June 2, 2010 1:44 PM   Subscribe

How do I deal with feelings of guilt and shame after drinking? I admit to a drinking problem; that's a different question. What I would like to know is specific strategies for making the morning after less hard on my conscience. Or do I need to just suck it up and deal with it as the natural consequence of my drinking?

After drinking I feel a lot of shame and guilt. This is partly due to my conscience telling me that I have not yet managed to find the motivation to stay sober. But it's also partly this cringey sort of feeling where I replay in my head various conversations, exchanges with people, stupid things I did or said, dumb text messages etc. Pretty routine and immature stuff. But it all compounds into a kind of retrospective social anxiety, that seriously makes the next day a real trial. What I'm asking for is specific strategies, for example tips from cognitive behaviourial therapy, for dealing with these feelings.

I drink heavily between 1 and 3 times per week with friends and have done for years (I'm a 28yo female), I am quite gregarious anyway but become loud and occasionally obnoxious when drinking.

On and off I make various attempts to quit, eg with therapy, but overall I am really still in the "contemplation" phase of dealing with what definitely seems to be an addiction. Everything else in my life at the moment is pretty great, eg job, living situation, relationship etc.

So while I am still drinking, what can I do to forgive myself and not be crippled mentally by feelings of shame the next day? Or do I need to suck it up and somehow channel it into motivating the next quit attempt? (easier said than done...)

All advice or thoughts appreciated! thanks
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (44 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Not to be glib, but wouldn't "getting rid" of your guilt about drinking make it easier to drink yourself into failure and death?

Get rid of your alchoholism.
posted by General Tonic at 1:55 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

If it helps, I could have written your exact post except I only drink to excess once every few months and have never tried/wanted to quit. I have heard it called an emotional hangover. Your second and third paragraphs resonate most with me.

What has helped me is the next day I remind myself that this isn't reality, it's the emotional hangover talking. Everyone says stupid things, but I always dwell on what I said. The hazy memory doesn't help, because I never know for sure exactly what I've done or said, so I try to recreate everything and feel embarrassed.

Drink less, get drunk less often, learn to pace yourself, and remind yourself that it's the hangover talking.
posted by valeries at 1:55 PM on June 2, 2010 [7 favorites]

Let us imagine that it is not you that you need to forgive, but some other person. Let us say that you get married and your husband periodically gets drunk and acts like a lunatic and causes you terrible grief, and then asks you to forgive him. Under those circumstances, you would probably be willing to forgive him - he is after all your wonderful, supportive, intelligent, good looking husband who enriches your life endlessly, except when he is being a drunken lunatic - provided that he agrees to STOP DRINKING, right? If he won't stop, you would be unlikely to forgive him. So I think that the same standard should apply to yourself. You know that you shouldn't be getting drunk, and if you stop doing it you should be able to forgive yourself for past mistakes - we are all fallible. But if you are not willing to stop, then the failing is really not forgivable. I don't say this to make you feel bad, but only to tell you the truth as I see it.
posted by grizzled at 2:02 PM on June 2, 2010 [8 favorites]

maybe the shame is a way of telling you something...
posted by Postroad at 2:02 PM on June 2, 2010

Give yourself a break. When you've spend hours interacting with dozens of people (with or without alcohol), you're bound to say something foolish.

I quit drinking but still go to parties where I'll have conversations with very drunk people. Sure they can say silly things (often loudly) but you know what? It's not that bad. It's part of loosening up and people can be a lot more forgiving and understanding that you think. Relax.
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:03 PM on June 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

This is one of the reasons people quit drinking. You get fucked up, do dumb shit, and feel bad about it in the morning. This is one of the reasons I quit drinking for two years, and now have to really monitor how much I do drink.

Possibly related anecdotes:
When I used to do speed and would stay up for several days, I would be tired when I ran out of dope, and often times I would sleep.
Also, every time I get poked with something sharp, something that's long enough to break through my skin, I bleed.
posted by gally99 at 2:05 PM on June 2, 2010 [7 favorites]

If you do equally cringe-worthy things when sober but don't beat yourself up about them in the morning, I would agree with Valeries above that the depressant qualities of alcohol are lingering in an "emotional hangover".

However, if you DONT NORMALLY do/say these cringe-worthy things while sober, but only when drunk, that's another story. Saying and doing cringe-worthy (and occasionally tragically stupid) things is part and parcel of heavy drinking. Alcohol is known to have an anti-inhibitory effect. If you are going to accept and continue heavy drinking, you are going to have to accept remembering that you said and did cringe-worthy (and occasionally tragically stupid) things, unless you drink to blackout state, in which you will be more likely to do tragically stupid things.

So, if you're identifying with my second paragraph above, you may be feeling ashamed, and this shame has an important, healthy function. In our society, we seem to be anti-shame but we need to sort out destructive shame (shame about having normal sexuality, for example) and healthy shame (shame for being a dick when drunk).
posted by lleachie at 2:13 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Can you talk to the freinds you drink with and see if they can give you an honest assessment of how rediculoud you really get? Are you sick in the morning? Do you require other people around you when you are drinking because someone always ends up taking care of you?

It's hard to tell from your question if you are socially anxious anyhow and drinking just makes you feel moreso because you talk more and have less memory of what you said or if you really do need to find things to do other than drink while with your friends. I sometimes feel stupid when i remember things i said or did the day after, even stone sober.
posted by WeekendJen at 2:21 PM on June 2, 2010

You should count yourself lucky that you still have enough wits about you to remember making a fool of yourself and feel a corresponding sense of shame. When you can no longer remember anything you've done, or when you become able to rationalize your drinking problem no matter what the consequences, that's when you've really got a problem.

So basically, what you're asking here is, "How do I become a full-fledged alcoholic who is no longer concerned with the consequences of my drinking problem, and is therefore no longer able or willing to help myself?" What do you think the answer is?
posted by keep it under cover at 2:21 PM on June 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

Consider the steps here:

1.) You get drunk (you have complete and total control over this action)
2.) You do dumb things while drunk (You have impaired yourself and therefore have less control over this than you do action 1).
3.) You feel shame about step #2.

Why are you spending time and energy trying to eradicate step 3 when you can cut it off at the pass by not doing step 1?
posted by pazazygeek at 2:26 PM on June 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

I am not sure you have a drinking problem. Sounds more like a quiting problem. You are beating yourself up in the morning because you think you should stop drinking the way you do. Going out on Friday and Saturday nights in my 20's and having a bunch of beers was only a problem when I thought it was. Mu puritan work ethic would beat me up in the morning if I didn't get up early and do something productive. I say just get up and do something productive and you won't worry so much about the previous night's drinking assuming you enjoy yourself and don't make a complete ass of yourself when you do drink.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:28 PM on June 2, 2010

Do your drinking around people who are likely to forgive you.
posted by bingo at 2:33 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I get that chemical shame sometimes too. I try to be humble. It is as if I am being forced to my knees. If I submit, it makes it more bearable.

Sorry I can't put it into words better.
posted by krilli at 2:36 PM on June 2, 2010

Hey look, when someone says they have a drinking problem that "definitely seems to be an addiction," and have sought therapy for it and made several failed attempts to quit, can we assume that there really is a problem instead of being all like, Oh you're fine, go on loosen up and have fun! Don't beat yourself up!

If someone doesn't like who they become when they drink, that's a problem. End of story.
posted by keep it under cover at 2:44 PM on June 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

Nope. I can't agree with "you keep it under cover".

Beating your self up doesn't help you deal with an addiction. Worry and anxiety don't accomplish much of anything.
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:48 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not trying to be glib, but the guilty feelings are your brain trying to give you the motivation to change your behavior.

Trying to come up with a coping mechanism that doesn't include behavior modification is a recipe for disaster- you will be training yourself to ignore your heart/conscience/soul/self when you do things you aren't proud of.
posted by gjc at 2:50 PM on June 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

bonobothegreat, specifically what part are you disagreeing with? That OP has a problem? If an addiction isn't a problem, then what is it? And clearly, worrying about a problem accomplishes little but trying to ignore the problem accomplishes even less. I'm not getting it, please enlighten me.
posted by keep it under cover at 2:55 PM on June 2, 2010

Can't happen, because it's a feedback loop. The less guilty you feel, the more you'll drink, making the resulting negative effects worse, increasing your guilt again. So any steps you take to assuage your guilt will just (quickly) bring back the same feelings while making the overall damage worse.

By comparison, if you can feel MORE guilty, enough to help your (presumably underway) efforts to stop drinking, you'll have the same amount of guilt again, and quickly -- but with less actual damage being done. This is still better, though, because eventually you won't be drinking, and then you won't feel the guilt at all -- which is your ultimate goal.

That, plus once you get there, the guilt you'll have over drinking just a wee bit will be so massive it'll help correct you going forward. So, yeah, the only real answer is to do everything you can to stop drinking.
posted by davejay at 2:55 PM on June 2, 2010

IANAD but the effects of heavy drinking and guilt/depressive feelings have been argued to be related to serotonin levels in your brain.

I don't remember the exact reasoning, something like the alcohol replaces the serotonin while drunk, so your brain doesn't make them. Then when you sober up you are stuck with low levels or serotonin which induces a natural depressive state, which can take days of recovery.

In any case it's a sign that you have had WAY TOO MUCH booze, whether from a binge of days, or one night of abandon.
posted by Max Power at 3:05 PM on June 2, 2010

I also suffer from the "emotional hangover", and I'm not sure it's entirely a moral affliction. I rarely drink to excess (certainly never to UK standards for excess), and even when I do, I am so rigorous about controlling my behavior that friends are often surprised to find out later that I was more than a little tipsy. And yet even I, the virtuous drunk, still get the horrific shame and inner grunginess the morning after. So it might not be entirely down to God's righteous wrath upon you for abusing the temple of your body.

Points to ponder:

- When you are drunk you are probably also surrounded by other people who are drunk and are, therefore, less likely to remember your behavior unless it's outstandingly offensive. Getting very drunk around sober people, OTOH, is a big red flag.
- Experiment with staying sober while others get drunk and observing their behavior. This may help you gauge how objectively unforgivable your own drunken rowdiness is.
- Drinking slowly (5 drinks over 7 hours instead of 3) and pacing myself with the occasional pint of water somehow makes me less sloppy, although no less drunk.
- A quart of Gatorade and a long, hard, sweaty, slightly masochistic bike ride usually dispel the worst of the morning-after murk.
- Then rent the biggest, cheesiest Bollywood film you can find.
posted by stuck on an island at 3:14 PM on June 2, 2010 [9 favorites]

If you're always wondering about your conscience and your motivation and beating yourself up in your head, I would seriously consider giving therapy for that a shot. You could have an undiagnosed mental illness going on underneath your drinking problem, and that might need resolution before you can make progress on getting away from alcohol.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 3:25 PM on June 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

I started getting this in my mid-twenties. My drinking was generally confined to weekend nights, but in addition to the physical hangover, which was always pretty bad, I started to feel shame and self-loathing. At first, it was pretty mild - I would curse myself for ruining another nice weekend day spent nursing a hangover. By my late twenties, my hangovers were characterized by a deeper sense of malaise and uncertainty about major life choices, despite the fact that my life was pretty good. Now, in my early thirties, the mildest physical hangover symptoms, brought on by nothing more than 2-3 beers on a Friday night, are sometimes accompanied by crippling angst and feelings of guilt over actions that lie years in the past. I think Max Power is right about booze screwing with serotonin levels.

Assuming you're going to ease off the throttle when you go out drinking, and that booze is not otherwise impairing your professional, romantic, and social goals, there are some steps you can take to tinker with your brain chemisty to ward off these blues. First, I've noticed that my spiral-of-despair symtoms occur far less frequently in the summer, and never when I'm on vacation in a sunny place, no matter how many pina coladas I have. Therefore I recommend getting some sun on your skin and in your eyes - I find it does wonders for my mood. Second, vigorous exercise has a tremendously palliative effect, but you've really got to get breathing hard and sweating profusely. If you can read or focus on a TV, you're not working out hard enough. I often trudge miserably to the gym and leave feeling that I might not be the world's biggest asshole after all. As an alternative, sex is also good. Third, perform some small inane chore you've been putting off, like doing the laundry. The important thing here is to keep moving, be productive, and not dwell on last night's antics. Lastly, if you really must loaf in front of the TV, watch something uplifting. No reality TV, no cable news, and no documentaries about dolphin slaughter or corporate malfeasance. Lighthearted sitcoms (no more than 3 consecutive episodes), nature programming like Blue Planet (or anything narrated by David Attenborough), or feel-good documentaries like The Weeping Camel are all prescribed. I just watched The Election of Barack Obama, and it was perfect for this regimen.

None of this addresses deeper issues of addiction and dependence, of course. Good luck, and I hope this helps.
posted by Mendl at 3:52 PM on June 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

Chemical shame the morning after is directly due to a deficiency of vitamin B (the happiness vitamin) - it's depleted by alcohol consumption. Take some vitamin B tablets (with lots of water) before bed, and more in the morning - eg in the form of a fizzy Berocca drink, if you have those where you live.

Vegemite is an acceptable substitute. Millions of Aussies can't be wrong.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:52 PM on June 2, 2010 [7 favorites]

keep it under cover

"If someone doesn't like who they become when they drink, that's a problem. End of story."

I feel that this sort of cut and dried attitude is actually really unhelpful when people are trying to deal with a drinking problem that centers around social anxiety (which was the impression I got from the o.p.'s question) Also, she was pretty specific in asking "So while I am still drinking, what can I do to forgive myself and not be crippled mentally by feelings of shame the next day?" so I felt the comment you gave was kind of dismissive. I just think that anything a person can do to break a problem into it's component parts makes it easier to deal with.

Nobody was advising, "Go drink! Stop worrying!" and I'm just saying there's no use worrying about social gaffes from the night before. Just sitting there, hungover, being hard on yourself usually doesn't help accomplish anything in the long run.

It's an old saying but...worry is like a rocking horse.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:56 PM on June 2, 2010

You can start by reading Kingsley Amis, especially the part about the metaphysical hangover.

If you get sick of that feeling, you can try The Easy Way to Control Alcohol by Allen Carr.

Best of luck.
posted by fantasticninety at 4:06 PM on June 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

In principal of course you could also drink more. So much, in fact, that you don't remember what you did the previous night thus have no shame about it.

In practice, however, my vote would be for attempting not to drink to the point of getting drunk - say limiting yourself three drinks when you go out - and should that prove impossible you may decide you had best leave alcohol alone.
posted by shothotbot at 4:16 PM on June 2, 2010

I get terrible memory loss and the same emotional problems which you seem to suffer from the following morning so consequently I rarely drink to excess these days. When I do though, I quite often write a note to myself when I'm still drunk which I will see in the morning when I'm sober and regretful, something brief but reassuring that I did nothing to offend anyone and we all had a good time. Sounds faintly silly but it's actually quite effective.
posted by Captain Najork at 4:29 PM on June 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

Reparations and repurcussions are a natural result of the party life. Try to be pre-emptive.

Have a conversation with yourself before you start drinking: "It's OK to have fun but don't do/say anything stupid. Dignity is paramount". As the night goes on ask yourself, "Is this smart?"

Or as a friend said "When I'm drunk I try to be as paranoid as possible -- it balances out to common sense"

Take care of yourself Anon, it's a very slippery slope.
posted by raider at 4:31 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I came in to recommend some B vitamins, and see that darn Aussie beat me to it. Anxiety is common after drinking - I usually take a B vitamin before I go to bed to mitigate the ugg in the morning. Be sure to take some vitamin C with it as well, especially if you smoke. I also can't say enough good things about "Emergen-C," you know, those little packets of fizzy vitamins - tons of C and B together - I swear they were made for hang-overs.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:33 PM on June 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

I know exactly what you're talking about: it's a soul-sucking mix of lowered mood, remembering possibly foolish things you said or did examined in a more sober light, compounded by a physical hangover that sullies your mood anew because you're wasting a nice weekend day recovering from the night before. It's a cocktail that can leave you doubting everything.

The solution? Well, there's little you can do the day after, but the best thing you can do is take control of your alcohol intake the night before. I rarely get this existensial hangover the morning after when I can look back on the night before and remember that I was more responsible about pacing myself and drinking water to mitigate the booze-induced dehydration. If I look back and think, geez, I really overdid it, then it's straight to shamesville.

In general I find the shameful feelings are directly proportional to how physically hungover I am the next morning. I'm hardly a teetotaler, but the bottom line is you have to drink less over the same amount of time and drink water in between. If you can't do that, for instance you just can't control yourself or your social group isn't conducive to more responsible drinking, it really is time to think long term and decide if drinking with your friends is worth developing a serious dependency.
posted by malapropist at 4:45 PM on June 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

As you hit your late 20's, your reaction to alcohol tends to change for the worse. You tend to get more of the "bad stuff" (shame, depression, hangover symptoms and guilt) and less of the "good stuff" (relaxation, euphoria). In fact, you get the most possible euphoria from either drink one or drink two-- adding more after that doesn't typically increase euphoria, only sedation. In fact, as you get older, the sedative effect tends to come on sooner. You can't get around this "biphasic" (up, then down) effect of alcohol without adding other drugs-- which is definitely not recommended.

All of this is why people tend to quit or cut back severely after college-- getting a job and family is part of this "natural recovery" but these physiological changes tend to speed it along.

So, my advice would be if you don't want to quit, try to moderate your drinking. When you are out, alternate alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks or as malaprop says, water, and drink the alcoholic ones more slowly than you are used to doing. Enjoy the flavor-- and try to match the pace of a friend who doesn't overdrink. You might want to check out

If you can moderate, this will solve the hangover problem. If you can't moderate, the feeling of loss of control may push you to seek abstinence. Either way, you'll be doing better.
posted by Maias at 5:29 PM on June 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

Been there. My metaphysical hangovers were brutal. It had nothing to do with shame. It had to do with serotonin and toxins and whatever else was happening when you drink in excess and then stop suddenly. Trust me, these hangovers will only get worse. Keep going and you might get some nice anxiety attacks. Take it further and you might get blessed with the DTs. My emotional hangovers are the primary reason why I cut down on my partying. As mentioned above, even if I have 4-5 beers on a Friday night, the little monster will show up in the morning. If it does come up, I run as hard as I can for as long as I can, pop some B-vitamins, and eat healthy food.

Be careful, alcoholism is a progressive disease / problem / whatever you want to call it. Your 28. If you haven't licked this problem by the time your 38, you may be facing things far worse than a emotional hangover. Have a look at this chart. See where 'persistent remorse' is. Keep going down the line. Yes, it gets worse if you don't find a way to balance your drinking with everything else.
posted by jasondigitized at 5:34 PM on June 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

This same sort of feeling happens to me, sometimes, too, and started a few years ago in my late 20s. I began getting pretty severe shame-spiraling panic attacks along with most of my hangovers, whether or not I'd done anything foolish the night before. I've only managed to get rid of this emotional intensity in a hangover by drinking less. I tried moderating myself better, but I've never been very good at that, so I decided to simply drink less frequently, leading to a lower tolerance for alcohol, leading to being able to get drunk on less booze and, thus, less dehydration and all that other fun stuff.

A number of my friends have also reported getting similar nastiness in their hangovers in their late 20s and early 30s, and all of them have dealt with it similarly, just by cutting back on their alcohol intake.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 5:49 PM on June 2, 2010

bonobo, I'm having a lot of trouble with your interpretation of the question. Are we getting two totally readings of this?

You say: I feel that this sort of cut and dried attitude is actually really unhelpful when people are trying to deal with a drinking problem that centers around social anxiety (which was the impression I got from the o.p.'s question)

Where are you getting the impression that OP suffers from social anxiety, or that the drinking problem flows from OP's anxiety? OP states, "I am quite gregarious anyway but become loud and occasionally obnoxious when drinking." OP only becomes anxious afterward when he/she reflects on the previous night's events. That's not social anxiety. That's getting too drunk and acting the fool.

You say: she was pretty specific in asking "So while I am still drinking, what can I do to forgive myself and not be crippled mentally by feelings of shame the next day?" so I felt the comment you gave was kind of dismissive. I just think that anything a person can do to break a problem into it's component parts makes it easier to deal with.

OP was also pretty specific in asking "Or do I need to suck it up and somehow channel it into motivating the next quit attempt? (easier said than done...)?"

It seems to me that OP wants to quit (hence the therapy and attempts to quit), but quitting is hard and so OP is trying to find some easier way to cope with the unhappy consequences of the addiction in order to put off quitting for another day. In my opinion, this is a temporary solution at best, and one that may have negative long-term psychological effects that will only make any future attempts to quit much more difficult. In my opinion, some problems have parts that can't or shouldn't be broken up, and this is one of those problems. Separating the consequences from the cause would only reduce OP's motivation to deal with the root cause.

I don't know what your experience with alcoholism is, but there is a very real danger that as the disease worsens (yes, alcoholism is a debilitating disease), OP will eventually lose touch with the reality that he/she is still able to grasp. If you have any experience at all with alcoholism, you know that one of the most difficult hurdles to getting an alcoholic to accept help is the denial. An alcoholic is able to take that next swig and the next as their life falls to pieces because of the power of their denial. OP is not there yet, and I firmly believe that we would only be helping him/her along the path to full-fledged alcoholism by minimizing the problem instead of encouraging OP to get help while OP is still able to ask for it.
posted by keep it under cover at 6:22 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Along with a B complex you might want to drink some diluted Gatorade or something to get your chemistry a little more back in whack. I say diluted because adding sugar to your system probably won't help things, but the water and other minerals might.
posted by small_ruminant at 6:35 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think keep it under cover is right -- the poster starts out with "I admit to a drinking problem", after all. I've unwittingly done this kind of thing before -- minimize a person's problem because I thought they were doing OK, and that makes things much worse. It's a normal tendancy, but it's very counterproductive to actual addicts.

Besides, it's always better to err on the side of caution in these issues. Whats the worst case --- someone stops drinking who wasn't a true alcoholic? Compared to encouraging an alcoholic down the path of self-destruction, it's a no-brainer. And when a person is saying they have a problem, like this poster, you should pretty much always believe them.

Given that, I think any attempts to mitigate the side-effects of alcoholism are probably the wrong effort, as if successful it would only make eventual quitting harder. (although I'm no expert, just have seen this firsthand several times --- its easy to overlook how true addiction works, when finally hit with the reality of what was going on with some people I know I realized how different it was than the kind of simple over-indulgence I was guilty of myself, and which I based much of the rationalizing their behavior on).
posted by wildcrdj at 7:00 PM on June 2, 2010

under cover

It sounds to me like the o.p.'s problem with alcohol is centered around drinking too much at social occasions and even though she's gregarious by nature, that still says "social anxiety" to me. She points out that the other aspects of her life are great, so I'll take her at her word. I think that dwelling on her embarrassment is a waste of time, since many of us awkward, silly things all the time and the world doesn't end because of it.

I personally believe that not everyone who drinks too much on the weekends is an alcoholic. I'm not interested in arguing that point with you further, I just disagreed with your "end of story" comment and felt like saying so. I wasn't trying to change your opinion, just pointing out to the o.p. that I didn't think your comment would be at all helpful the situation as (I feel) she's described it.

You certainly feel it was valuable and that's ok by me.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:00 PM on June 2, 2010

...and to clarify, just because I don't believe she's necessarily an alcoholic doesn't mean it wouldn't be a good idea if she stopped drinking completely.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:06 PM on June 2, 2010

I know what you're talking about. I don't think the problem is, as other commenters claim, related to specifically what you do whilst intoxicated (though of course if you do something objectively stupid or shameful whilst drunk that won't make the emotional hangover any better). Like someone else said, it's chemical shame, emotional hangover, vitamin deficiency.

I try my best to take a multivitamin before I go to bed that night; if I'm too drunk to do that, I take a multivitamin when I wake up. Strenuous exercise definitely helps. Hair of the dog, aka drinking more alcohol when you wake up, tends to help, but is obviously not a good long term solution and you shouldn't drink too much.

Like a fever, I find that I know that my hangover (both physical and emotional) is breaking when my body begins to sweat. So I try to engage in activities/put myself in situations that will induce sweat, like exercise or romping around in the sun.

Suffering ill effects from drinking is not tantamount to alcoholism. Alcoholism tends to revolve around suffering ill effects from NOT drinking.
posted by nihraguk at 8:28 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Forgot to add: I find cooking for myself incredibly therapeutic when emotionally hungover, and I have friends who feel the same way too.
posted by nihraguk at 8:31 PM on June 2, 2010

"I personally believe that not everyone who drinks too much on the weekends is an alcoholic."

Neither do I, and nowhere in my comments did I make such a simplistic argument (nice try with the straw man though).

What I'm asking is, when someone feels that they drink too much, wants to quit, and has tried to quit but can't, what do you call that? If that's not the definition of addiction and dependence, then what is? At the very least, OP is well on the path toward it. OP doesn't mention why her attempts to quit were unsuccessful, but the very fact that he/she has not been able to quit demonstrates that OP's drinking is no longer under his/her control.
posted by keep it under cover at 2:15 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Stay with that feeling. Don't run away from it, explore it consciously and remember it when you start drinking again. One of the functions of alcohol is to keep bad feelings away from you, and in the process you lose touch with what your life really feels like. Own your bad feelings.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:45 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sounds like perhaps you are bargaining. You seem to wish to continue your behavior without feeling bad about it. Hmmm.

In a way, your are lucky, I think. Your feelings of shame, guilt, and remorse are intact. Do you really want to deny them?

Yes, I'm an alcoholic and I'm not going to lecture or diagnose you.

DaveJay wrote of "feedback loops." PLEASE pay attention to that. Right now, your life seems to be intact and you are young. Many of us were in the same place at your age. High functioning, intelligent acheivers. All the accoutrements of a successful life. We deserved to "have fun."

I and millions lilke me could tell you about REAL shame, guilt, and helplessness. Continue like this and you may begin medicating your shame. Produces more shame. Yadda, yadda.

Would you rather have an insidious disease without any symptoms? Pain alerts us to the fact that something is amiss. In no way am I implying that you are in the "disease phase." What I am implying is that we all start somewhere. Alcoholics don't start out living under a bridge.

Think about whether you really wish to contiue exactly what you are doing without the resultant feelings.The last three physicians I've had are open/recovered alcoholics. As I live in a small town, no, I didn't seek them out as such because of my issues. I didn't know until they brought it up as I described my symptoms.

Intelligence and achievement can be your enemy, my friend. Can't happen to me, right? Look what I have and have achieved.

The life without shame can be a POSITIVE feedback loop. "I went out, had a wonderful time, and didn't drink!" "I am the DD for my social group." Believe me, such experiences can be as pleasant as having a few drinks.

There are all manner of questionnaires, checklists, etc designed to assess if one has a drinking problem. AA has a very simple one. "Simply go a month without a drink." Is it hard? Impossible? Excruciating? During that month how often do you think about having a drink, especially when alone?

You have symptoms of something. If it were bleeding from some orifice, what would you do? Would you wonder how to cope with the alarm the bleeding causes or would you wish to eliminate the bleeding.

Please be well...
posted by private_idaho at 12:55 PM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's important to note that many drinking problems are not progressive and that many alcoholics recover without AA. People in 12-step programs have an unfortunate tendency to state their personal experience and what they've been taught in AA meetings as a universal truth. It isn't.

Some people have a progressive course, many more do not. Some people find that they can moderate; others find that this is impossible. Some find AA helpful; others don't.

From writing about addictions for decades and studying the area intently-- as well as having my own personal experience as a cocaine and heroin addict who was helped by 12-step programs at one time but has problems with some of their ideas-- all I can say is that it's very complicated and you need to figure out what works for you and what doesn't.

Telling people that they have a progressive disease and that it has a particular course is dangerous and could do harm by pushing people away from help because they think that AA and total abstinence is the only way. That's simply not the case.
posted by Maias at 2:46 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

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