I have a cold.
It’s pretty annoying.
But it could be worse.
I used to feel sick every day. Lethargic, achy, usually with a headache. Sometimes I’d have heart palpitations. Or maybe my teeth would hurt, or I’d feel nauseous.
Those were the good days.
On the bad days, I literally couldn’t get out of bed before noon. Or 4pm. I missed meetings, and appointments, and friends’ birthdays, and flights. Those were the days when the symptoms until late at night, or even into the next day. Times when none of the purported hangover cures worked – not even hair of the dog. Drinking on a hangover just made me feel even worse, and made the next day’s hangover-hangover twice as bad.
I’m not sure if it’s because I drank more than most people, or if there’s some other physiological explanation, but my hangovers always seemed far worse than everyone else’s. Even on days when I wasn’t officially hungover, my baseline feeling was blurgh. Or perhaps urrrrrkkkkkkk.
I was not a well man.
Then one morning, a few weeks after getting sober, I woke up feeling great. Better than great. Spectacular. It was as if someone had crept in during the night and injected me with whatever that spider injected into Peter Parker. The sun seemed to shine brighter, food tasted better, and my skin and hair had lost their greasy sheen.
It took me a couple of days to realize out what was going on: There had been no radioactive spider; my body had just finally gotten over its decade-long permahangover.
This, I now remembered, was how non-alcoholics felt when they wake up in the morning. Un-sick, un-nauseous, un-palpitatey. Just bright eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to face the day.
Since getting sober, I rarely feel sick. I don’t have any allergies, I don’t suffer from migraines, I almost never get colds, and somehow I even manage to avoid whatever virus Eli and Evie bring home from school. It’s as if my body got so good at keeping me alive as a drunk that I now have a super-charged immune system. (Note to doctors/scientists reading this: I’m aware I’m starting to sound like Bill Shine’s wife. For the avoidance of doubt, I don’t think getting sober is good for the immune system.)
On the rare times I do get sick, it feels like a strange déjà vu. When Sarah and I went to Mexico for this past New Year, I was struck down for 24 hours with food poisoning. I spent those 24 hours mostly curled up in a ball in our apartment, only uncurling myself for frequent sprints to the bathroom. As my body purged itself of everything I’d eaten and drunk in the past 24 hours, I thought back to all the times I’d been similarly sick during my 20s, but put the symptoms down to a particularly nasty hangover. Had any of those episodes actually been food poisoning? Statistically I suppose they must have been, especially given how frequently I traveled and the crap I used to eat.
Come to think of it, how many other times had I misdiagnosed other actual illnesses or viruses as hangovers. Had any of those daily headaches been honest-to-god migraines? Might the heart palpitations have been something more serious?
A few weeks ago I wrote about how, when I was drinking, I automatically assumed that every argument was my fault. How jarring it was, on getting sober, to learn that occasionally other people can be assholes. It required re-learning how to argue and, more importantly, how not to argue.
Similarly, it’s good to be reminded that even non-drinkers can get sick, and that getting sober is just the first – definitely not the last, or only – step towards taking care of myself.