What is Hangxiety?
I want to preface this by saying, yes I am a sober bitch, and in no way shape or form am I judging anyone for imbibing. Really.
This is about the normalization and naming of the panicked feeling upon waking after a night of overindulgence. If you’ve ever shot up and checked your phone immediately to see what your speedy drunken fingers typed to someone you shouldn’t be talking to, you are my people. If you sent drunk texts and deleted them for this reason, then remembered the act of deleting them… but not what was said… you are my people.
I am one of those millennials that downloaded TikTok during quarantine. I have posted three videos of my cats and my bio reads “just here to be nice in the comments,” which is true. I scroll TikTok to reply with niceties and support others because damn we all need as much of that as possible lately. That’s the reason I am writing this, too.
There is a sea of videos making jokes about hangxiety floating around and the comments are usually flooded with “omg me too!!” or “I didn’t know that’s what this is called!” and I remember seeing posts like this and I felt comforted that I wasn’t the only person who felt that way after a night out. Given my partner was always out with me, or we quietly got drunk at home, he always reassured me by saying, “nothing bad happened.”
Nothing bad happened, sure, but I felt terribly about myself.
After a party with his law school friends, I blacked out and became furious at him. I was supposed to have one drink and drive us home, but my nervousness of being an outsider and the waves of celebratory shots that I was offered— I drank every one. It was embarrassing, but everyone was drunk, and they told me it wasn’t a big deal. Another girl at the party got sick and had to be cleaned up. At least I wasn’t as bad as that girl, they joked. This didn’t help. I felt ashamed for my behavior and absolutely mortified for the other woman.
I remember nights of sitting and having drunken conversations and taking notes on my phone to try and help myself remember the next day. I felt like it was important at the moment, but in the daylight, it’d all be a haze. I’d have lost it and even in remembering the loveliness of whatever we talked about, I would text my friends “sorry for last night” and they’d tease me and respond I had nothing to apologize for. So why did I feel so down? My friends never texted me apologies like this the morning after.
Well, it has to do with our brains readjusting and sobering up. Detoxing from booze and the emotional withdrawal is our body trying to rebalance itself, so we feel even more anxious and jittery than before we had a drop to drink. Alcohol artificially produces dopamine so we “feel good” at the time, but the morning after? The dopamine levels are down, and so are we.
A common response to this was, for me, well I’ll have less to drink so I’ll remember everything and won’t feel this anymore. If you can successfully do this or haven’t felt this surge of self-hatred and insecurity after a night out, that’s wonderful! I, personally, can’t relate.
However, if you are sick of this feeling despite having a rather middle-ground/”healthy” relationship with alcohol, that is a totally fine reason to stop. While I understand using the term “alcoholic” since my father went through AA, it evokes a certain image for some. It’s that guy at the dive bar. He’s haggard and drinks alone. While there is power and community in calling or accepting oneself as an alcoholic — it isn’t necessary to give it up. Alcoholism manifests in so many small, invisible ways. It’s surprisingly easy to hide. Anyone can struggle with substance abuse.
You don’t have to be an alcoholic to stop drinking. You don’t have to call yourself “sober curious” and you don’t have to label or explain yourself at all. You don’t have to stop drinking forever if you one day decide it isn’t serving your best interests anymore. If waking up full of hangxiety is making you feel bad about yourself, you can take a break. Just start with smaller goals, whatever you want. It doesn’t have to be deeper than that.
I can promise you will still have fun.
You will create better, more vivid memories.
Even if you “don’t do anything bad” if alcohol is making you feel more unhappy than happy — you deserve to wake up after a night out with friends happy and headache-free.
You deserve to think good thoughts about yourself.