We’ve all been there at one point in time or another. Waking up and peeling your eyelids open and wondering at what point during the previous night did you eat a cat. The light hurts, your stomach spins, and you pray to whatever you believe in that, if you could just hold onto the bed long enough to keep the world from spinning, you’ll never ever have another night like the one before. Until you do.
We often think of hangovers just in terms of alcohol consumption, but the reality is that we more often that not have hangovers that have nothing at all to do with booze. We have mental hangovers, emotional hangovers, anxiety hangovers, trauma hangovers. Those hangovers, believe me, are just as much of a bitch as the happy juice kind, maybe even more so because alka seltzer, a nap, and a greasy cheeseburger don’t do a damn thing to help them.
They say “hair of the dog” is what will cure you when you’ve had too much booze. You know, the whole concept of “what got you in will get you out.” Not so with the other kinds of hangovers. While we might do things that feel or sound good or appropriate at the time, eventually the moment of reckoning comes and all we’re left with is doubt, guilt, shame, anger, anxiety, fear, or any combination of those. In those circumstances, doing what got you there most certainly will NOT get you out, it will only get you in deeper. It can be a horrible cycle of trying to explain things and that only makes things worse. Kind of like when someone doesn’t understand what you’re saying, it does no good to clear up the situation by simply repeating yourself over and over again or, my personal favorite, saying the same things LOUDER.
For years, I have taught “hangover yoga” the day after traditional days of celebration: New Year’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day, Homecoming, Halloween, etc. Those classes were centered around asana that would cleanse the body of toxins, lots of twists, pranayama, forward folds, gentle inversions. About 6 weeks ago, I realized that we all need to detox from our emotional and mental hangovers as well. We need to learn to stop beating ourselves up over and over again. We need to let go of the shame or anger we feel for ourselves or for others. We need to let go of the poison. We need, in other words, to get the toxic shit out of us so that we can forgive and move on. I can’t speak for anyone else, but forgiving myself is the hardest thing in the world to do. I often do things in the heat of the moment that cause me to feel shame or regret the next day or next week or next whatever. It sucks. It REALLY sucks and I have long moments of absolutely hating myself for it, but you know what? We all do that. We all do that because we are human.
Oddly, it’s not the original act that hurts us the most, it’s the squirrel cage circular thinking that does the most damage. There is a basic tenet of yoga called Ahimsa which essential means Do No Harm. Listen, like I said, we’re human. We’re going to fuck up. The sooner we accept that, the better we’ll all be. BUT here’s the thing, we don’t have to keep harming ourselves over our fuck ups. We don’t have to make the situation worse on ourselves by reliving our mistakes over and over again. We don’t need to keep beating ourselves up. If we keep ourselves filled with shame, there is no room for acceptance. And if there is no room for acceptance, there is no room for love. We have to learn to let it go. We might never ever be able to remedy what we have done. Somethings just can’t be fixed, sadly, but we can keep the experience from hurting more than it already does. Sadly, there is no AA for emotional / mental hangovers. They are going to happen. We have no choice over that matter. What we DO have control over, however, is how we deal with them. Feel the pain. Feel the shame. Feel the embarrassment or anger or anxiety or whatever it is, because if you don’t feel it, it will come back to haunt you. Feel it, and then step away. Ahimsa – don’t pour salt on the wound. Salt is for margaritas.