Last Saturday, I went out to the lakeside for beers with a friend, Mandy. I had just gotten out of what was a particularly stressful day in lab, and I also hadn’t slept well all week, so I was planning on just spending minimal time with Mandy, 3 hours max. I had already cancelled last-minute on her twice in a row, and since then I’ve felt obligated to say yes anytime she asked me to hang out so I feel like less of a shit person. Still, all I really wanted to do was stay at home, decompress, and prepare for another shitty day in lab.
We end up having a really good time by the lake, indulging in two pitchers between the two of us (which comes out to roughly 6 beers each, but it was spread out over time). We talked about general life stuff, mid-westerners, TV shows, horrible work people, and then we watched a little bit of a French Canadian band playing on a nearby stage. It usually ends up being really nice talking to her because she is literally my only friend who isn’t a chemistry grad student. I really appreciate that because it’s a nice mental break from all the lab shit.
We got together around 4, and the band had started playing around 8. By 8:30, we had enough of their loud music drowning out our conversation. I thought we were going to call it a day, but then she said the dangerous M word. Margaritas.
I can never say no to margaritas even on my strongest days, but I especially couldn’t on a day as fine as this one. We went downtown to a cute little hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant. Two jumbo-sized margaritas and one order of chips and queso later, it’s 12:30 and I’m neck-deep in a drunken rant about a cookbook I just bought. It was time to go home.
When I got home, I realized that I never ate dinner, and the chips and queso were incredibly small portions. I was completely out of leftover food and far too drunk to cook something, so I ordered a pizza. It wasn’t until it showed up that I realized I had accidentally ordered a large instead of a small, but that’s definitely not the worst mistake I ever made. After that, I watched some TV, responded to some lab emails (because my coworkers never sleep), and fell asleep around 3am. Not a particularly terrible night.
However, I work up the next morning physically aching with guilt about the night before. Yeah, I had to get into lab early to do surgery on an animal, but it’s an invertebrate, so the surgery is very easy, and I was going to be working with someone else. And it definitely wasn’t the first time I’ve done one of those surgeries hungover (because I usually schedule them for Sundays). My head felt fine, my stomach was confused by the massive amount of undigested pizza probably still hanging around, but otherwise okay with the situation, and I was tired, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary. Still, I felt so fucking awful about the night before. I woke up at 6:30am (2 hours before my alarm) and just lay awake regretting everything had done. Why did I have to tell her about the awful person I work with? Why’d I let the conversation go to bad Tinder dates? I shouldn’t have paid for the margaritas because it cost $40 which is too expensive. I shouldn’t have ordered pizza that night, and at the very least I should have made sure to at least order the right goddamn size. I should have gone home way earlier and gotten more sleep. I should have stayed sober so I could pop into lab and make sure everything was good to go for the next day.
These thoughts didn’t just bother me that morning. They stuck with me throughout the entire day, giving me this sense of dread that gnawed away at my stomach. Even after rationally going through each bad thing I felt like I did, I couldn’t put myself at peace. I replayed every conversation that stood out in my mind, and I’m fairly certain I conducted myself in an appropriate manner and adequately reciprocated the tone of the conversation. The dinner I made the previous week was hella cheap to make ($0.75 per meal) and the girl I went on a date with Thursday paid for me, so I got free dinner on night of the week, so I financially could afford to pay for Mandy’s margaritas. She drove everywhere, paid for parking, picked me up, dropped me off, and waited patiently while I took an extra hour and a half to finish up in lab, so it wasn’t an absurdly nice gesture. Also, she’s about to start law school, so she’s going to be poorer than me real soon. As for the pizza, I hadn’t eaten dinner, so I had to have something, and it was the weekend so why not treat myself. Also, there was enough so that I could also adequately stress-eat on Sunday, so it all worked out. Finally, there was no reason to go back into lab because everything had been set up and I’d be spending an entire day in lab on Sunday, and had worked ridiculous hours the week before, so not going in was a better contribution to my overall wellbeing. So why did I feel so guilty about everything the day after?
I get this feeling a lot after a night of drinking. Sometimes it even lasts two whole days. I hate it because it’s such a rare thing for me to go out and have drinks and I want to enjoy it, but the next day just ruins any good memories I might have made and even long after the guilt feelings are gone, the memories still feel tainted and I don’t enjoy thinking back on them.
It’s definitely true that alcohol contributes to my mood. When I drink alcohol, I get a nice buzz that makes me feel happy, but once that wears off, I get sad. It’s a dangerous cause-and-effect because then I drink more to keep the happy and it only serves to make the sad so much worse when it inevitably comes. It’s the main reason why I cut back so much on drinking this year. Still, there has to be a way to not feel this way every time I drink. I don’t want to feel this guilt about something that already happened and I can’t change and I can’t even learn from because the guilt has no realistic justification. The only solution I can see is to just completely stop drinking, but where I’m at, to stop drinking would be to lose what little social life I have. It’s not that my friends pressure people to drink, but often times alcohol accompanies what we do, and if I stop going to those things altogether, I’ll be seen as one of the not-fun people. I mean, I’m already one of the not-fun people, but with the drinking culture, I can at least fake it. Also, I don’t want to completely give up drinking because I really love drinking, especially day drinking (which is when the guilt is the worse, probably because the drinking ends up being spread over a much longer period of time).
Even though I don’t have an answer for why I get these guilty feelings or how to stop them, I think it helps that I can recognize them as irrational. It doesn’t make the feeling go away, but it helps me deal with it because I know that within a day or so I’ll feel better.