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How Waking Up In A Hospital Bed After a Night Out Led Me To Quit Alcohol

TWAS THE NIGHT OF DEC 31st 2014, I merrily exited my room at the Hotel Hugo in SoHo, tipsy from my signature Kettle one/Berry vitamin zero cocktail  , and beelined to my favourite dance party in Brooklyn. My plan was to ring in 2015 drunk dancing the night away, and if things went REALLY well, perhaps return to my 2-night SoHo residence accompanied by a new female companion. That was the plan.

9HRS LATER, I WOKE UP IN A HOSPITAL BED to the calming voice of my soft-spoken nurse asking me a series of trivial questions – by my estimation in an attempt to gauge my level of consciousness. I was still too intoxicated to panic, but lucid enough to register where I was after a quick eye scan of my body revealed two IV’s neatly tucked beneath my skin along with what seemed like a million medical patches on my skin under my hospital robe.

I managed to dress myself and gather my belongings (astonishingly all in tact – NOTHING missing) and order myself a getaway chariot back to my SoHo lair. On my Uber ride back to the hotel I tried desperately to piece together the sequence of events that landed me in a hospital bed being treated for alcohol intoxication. The last 7hrs were a complete blank. 3yrs later – I still have no idea about who got me to the hospital and how I got there. I fled the hospital so abruptly in a futile attempt to erase the sins of my night – I never gave the nurses a chance to fully explain what had happened.

I was relieved to be back in the comfort of high thread count hotel sheets with the ability to indulge in an uninterrupted coma-like sleep. In my decades of drinking, I’d had maybe 6-7 “disastrous” nights. This was not the worst of them. I woke up throughout the day, feeling the increasing wrath of the hangover, and returned as many “Happy New Year” texts as I could to loved ones so as to not alert them of what had transpired; I was cloaked in shame.

I stumbled upon pictures in my phone from the party that I don’t remember taking and engaged in a text exchange with the sender – the girl in the photos with me. I had met her in the first 10 mins of the party and we had immediately hit it off and she quickly inducted me into her group of friends. My last memory was buying the foursome a round of drinks and dancing seductively with her. Her concerned inquiry about “why the bouncers escorted me out” provided the only clue I have about how I made my exit from the party. I was cavalier with her about the whole incident, laughing it off and segueing into our previously discussed plan to hit Brooklyn bowl that night. She urged me to consider taking it easy that night. I pretended to heed her advice, but intended to do no such thing. As fate would have it, my inability to keep down any food/beverage made it clear to me that I was sentenced to a night in bed.

I was out of commission for the next 2.5 days. I wanted nothing to do with alcohol for at “for at least 2 weeks”, I told myself. 2 weeks passed, but the trauma of the hangover was still so fresh – I ended up extending my hiatus to a month. 1 month became two months. By the time I got to the end of my 3rd-month alcohol-free, I had re-learned how to have fun without it and grew to favour the clarity of alcohol-free living over the fleeting benefits of drinking. January 1st 2018 marked 3 years since my last drink.

I should clarify something: I was not an alcoholic – I was an alcohol abuser. The distinction is important to make because apart from resistance from drinking compadres who didn’t want to see me break away from the pack, making the transition was fairly effortless for me. I primarily drank(and abused) alcohol when I was going to hit the dance floor; I wasn’t dependent on it and didn’t experience any withdrawal when I went cold turkey. I was also incredibly lucky to have had nothing more than a handful of regrettable nights in all the years that I abused alcohol and with no real lasting impact. The journey is dramatically tougher for anyone who struggles with actual alcohol addiction. This NYE episode triggered my transition, but deep inside, the decision was more so driven by my desire shed a habit that I knew was becoming more and more high stakes.

3yrs later, since the vague memory of my last drink at the NYE party, I can say without reservation – giving up alcohol is easily one of the best decisions I have made in my adult life. Before now, there are maybe 4 people that have ever heard this story from me. I felt moved to chronicle my last of drinking in greater detail to paint a more accurate picture about how I went from being a habitual alcohol abuser to completely sober overnight. I don’t know what your relationship with alcohol is and if it’s an abusive one or where this anecdote finds you in your plight to purge it from your life – but I wish you all the strength, courage and discipline you can muster to make any change(s) you need to make before the alcohol (insert any vice) makes it for you in a potentially permanent way. Here’s to resolve and bad habits worth shedding

Epilogue: As I lay in the bed that pivotal New Years morning, hungover AF texting with my dancing partner from the night before, I said something to her like, “I hate that our night got cut short”, and she lovingly suggested, “You should hate that you ended up in the ER”. Touché. For some reason, those words echoed in my soul for weeks and challenged my indifference about having a catastrophic night at the hand of alcohol abuse. Every anniversary since, I message her to thank her for being the voice of reason and concern that morning and we briefly hi-five and encourage each other…until the next New Years day text


Written by Ed Wagaba

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