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Hangxiety




I make sure to tell my children at least once a year that the only reason I had them is because it has been my dream, since I was very young girl, that one day I would have the opportunity to put sunblock on people who really REALLY don’t want to have sunblock put on them. And my three children, through the years, have made (in the application of sunblock arena anyway) all of my wildest motherhood dreams come true.

 

But there is another upside to having children, and that is the joy of being exposed to the youth of America’s ever-expanding and quite creative lexicon.

 

There are all sorts of new words that have been blended seamlessly into our language. Words that I’m not sure I’d ever have heard of were it not for my absolutely lovely, although slightly (despite my best efforts) sun-damaged offspring.

 

Here are just a few of my favorite new words which my children have kindly introduced me to over the past few years. These combined words, which I just learned after googling the word “hangry”, are called portmanteaus.

 

So let’s start with some of the most commonly used, in my household anyway, portmanteau words:

 

Hangry - adjective (hangrier, hangriest). Bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger. Early 20th century: blend of hungry and angry.

 

Frenemy - noun. A person with whom one is friendly despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry.

 

Mansplaining - noun. The explanation of something by a man, typically to a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing.

 

Bromance - noun. A friendship between two men that is close but does not involve sex (usually used facetiously).

 

Then there are words that I use frequently and didn't even realize were portmanteaus:

 

Motel - motor and hotel

Stash - store and cache

Internet - interconnected and network

Electrocute -  electricity and execute

 

The other day one of my kids asked me if I knew what hangxiety was and although I have not felt that awful combination of being hung over and anxious at the same time in over two decades, even just hearing that word, that new and interesting combination of hangover and anxiety, made the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up.

 

After hearing this word I went straight to my favorite frenemy - the internet - and looked up hangxiety, hoping to get a more scientific explanation for what exactly causes that “I wish I were dead” feeling the morning after a heavy night of drinking.

 

The ADF or Alcohol and Drug Foundation of America had this to say:

What causes hangxiety?

Hangxiety is partly caused by the chemical changes that take place in our brains when we drink. Alcohol works on the brain’s GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptor. This is what makes you feel more relaxed when you start drinking. As drinking continues, our brains also start to shut off glutamate (which makes you anxious), increasing feelings of calm and loosening inhibitions. But as alcohol starts to wear off, our brain tries to restore the normal chemical balance. It does this by both reducing the brain’s GABA (lessening calm feelings) and increasing glutamate (making us feel more anxious). It’s important to remember that many of the anxious thoughts or feelings we experience after drinking could be caused by the chemical changes in our brains. Some of us experience worse post-drinking anxiety than others. And we know that people who already experience anxiety are more likely to experience hangxiety.

 

My own hangxiety was almost never equal to the “harms” I had done while drinking. But in the last few years of my drinking, my paranoia about my alcoholism getting “found out” was at an all time red level alert high, and the anxiety I suffered the “mornings after” was crushing. And the hangxiety did not simply last for a day or two. It would linger, malevolently, like a mean house guest - one you are desperate to have depart, but are too afraid of their reaction to ask them to leave.

 

Maybe I slurred my words while giving a toast, or stumbled backwards a little bit while standing, or forgot someone's name, a name I should have remembered. Any of those measly offenses would be enough to send me into a tailspin of self-loathing - but I’ve met people who have done much worse. I have heard people share about waking up naked next to people they had never met (but had obviously had sex with). I know others, well-respected members of society when not drinking, who have awakened from a night out only to find themselves chained to a cold hard bench in a police station, facing a long list of felony charges. Felonies they don’t even remember committing because they were in a blackout at the time. I have met others who said such horrible hateful and vicious things while drunk to family members that their grown children may never speak to them again. As in NEVER. My offenses were minor compared to some of the stories I have heard, but the shame, the all encompassing, sticky, suffocating self-loathing, is exactly the same.

 

Sometimes I wonder if maybe that's what qualifies me as an addict. Someone who can really reap the benefits of a 12-step program. It’s not how much I drank, not how much I drugged, not even the things I did or said while under the influence of drugs or alcohol…it was the intense shame I felt after drinking that made me eventually have to stop. I could no longer live with the absolutely demoralizing feeling of hangxiety that haunted my days and nights. This hangxiety especially destroyed me the last year of my drinking. I was allowing myself to drink whatever I needed to drink every day, which meant that I woke up every single morning of that last brutal year severely hangxious.

 

I’m glad those days are gone. I still get anxious sometimes but I am never hung over. And I am so grateful that my children have never seen me take a drink and God willing never will.

 

What I hope they see (when not high-tailing it away from me and my sunblock) is a woman who knows how to make a mean “mocktail”, who enjoys a nice “brunch” and who has learned, after years of not being able to do so, how to “chillax” - without having to rely on alcohol to do so.



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