I used to drink a lot (not a boast, I'm just saying) and there is a moment on waking up after a good night that other convivial drinkers will recognise, when you mentally check yourself over and think 'it's OK, I got away with it, just a few bruises,' and then the memories come crashing in - all the awful things you said, the risqué jokes, the improper behaviour, the insistence on something or other that doesn't seem nearly so important the following day.
I have tried to manage the outcome in a couple of ways. One - not the preferred method, although it seems to work - is to go without drinking. The other is to try to switch off the feelings of embarrassment by pushing the limits - to go further and further so that you use up all your shame reserves or, if that fails, so that when you eventually rein things in, your behaviour doesn't seem so bad by comparison with earlier times. This has never worked for me, although Lord knows I have tried it often enough. All that happens is the next time you drink, all the accumulated memories come crashing down like heavy toys from an overhead cupboard when you wake the next day.
It seems, however, that there might be a third way: Last night, after a blameless evening in which I did voluntary work with refugees then came home and watched a recording of Blue/Orange on TV, I went to sleep sober, not having touched a drink for about a month. But I woke up with the cringe-making memory of having said to someone 'courage, mon brave' at some point in the night. I don't know who I said it to, although it wasn't well received. Obviously, it was a dream. How awful, who speaks French in their dreams, especially in such a patronising way?
But in trying to deal with the embarrassment of it all, a solution to my hangover horrors presented itself. Why not attribute all shameful memories to events that have taken place in my dreams? That time I tried to lie on a tramp's bed, explaining that I too had been homeless and could feel his pain. That time I.... well, never mind. The vehemence, the sex, the smoking - what if I could say it had all been a dream?
Ach well. I'm off to a party tomorrow night. I'll let you know on Saturday if this new approach works.