Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 3.52.24 PMby Eric Ginsburg

The first four hours were the worst, but I didn’t feel like myself again until the next day.

By most metrics, I’d ushered in the new year in the right way — a little dressed up, several drinks in, surrounded by a couple close friends and at a small bar that I love. Better yet, we had champagne, sparklers, found a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle themed deck of Uno cards and shortly after midnight, my girlfriend and I grabbed a pair of microphones for a Backstreet Boys karaoke duet.

When I went to bed that night on a borrowed air mattress in a friend’s Winston-Salem apartment, I felt pretty victorious, despite the fact that someone else in our party thrown up twice from drinking too much.

I blame what happened next on the Triad’s lack of public transit.

I’ve spent all of my drinking years living here, which generally means that since graduating college, I very rarely drink heavily. Minimal public transportation means that after meeting friends at a bar, I’m generally forced to drive home. I became a master of buzz management, meeting at venues with food, drinking quickly early before switching to water and limiting my intake so that a few hours later, I’m sober.

I don’t flirt with drunk driving, like far too many people I know, in part because a childhood friend died as a passenger in a drunk driving accident. Likewise, I’d prefer to be in control, and even when I’m not the designated driver, I often end up cutting myself off early to take over for a driver who’s enjoying the party a little too much.

So when the infrequent opportunity to go out and revel with friends when nobody is driving arises, I seize it. Especially if it’s New Year’s Eve.

A few years ago in Manhattan, my sister and I welcomed the new year at a friend’s apartment, knowing we’d be taking the train home later. Someone puked, and it wasn’t me, but I still felt drunk as we sat on a bench awaiting the subway sometime after 4 a.m. Last year, I walked to a friend’s house and passed out on the couch after a new year’s house party where I’d helped take over a beer pong table and danced until standing up seemed like a bad idea. I drank probably 16 cups of water before bed, a portion of it straight from the faucet I’m told, and woke up in the morning with my head throbbing.

This time around, six of us crowded into oversized Ubers, the only form of reliable and convenient transit for those of us too smart to drink and drive in the Triad but who still want to party uninhibited.

When I woke up on Jan. 1, I felt like I could still be drunk. We’d put back champagne at home before going out, where I’d switched to gin with the house ginger syrup, and I think a friend behind the bar might’ve been generous with his pours. I’d slept for a reasonable amount of time, maybe seven hours, but soon after climbing out of bed, the puking began. The kind that comes out your nose too, burns your throat and returns unexpectedly for several hours.

I’d never before puked from drinking, a point I prided myself on, considering it a sign of self-awareness and responsibility. Subconsciously I probably put myself on a pedestal. But public transit wasn’t really to blame, though the Triad really needs it — I am.

Spending the morning throwing up and occasionally feeling like I was dying wasn’t the way I wanted to kick off 2016, and it ruined plans I had to host a New Years Day brunch with a larger group of good friends. I didn’t feel fully right again until the following morning. But even as I lay there, holding a wet washcloth to my forehead and trying not to think about the trashcan a foot from my head, I had already discerned some meaning in it all.

It’s hard to feel self important or infallible when there’s puke in your beard and the color leaves your face. I’d planned to launch 2016 with a raucous welcome, but instead I accidentally forced myself to take a more humble approach. And while I don’t intend to repeat the experience, I appreciate the humility it provided.

I won’t stop drinking this year, but I do plan to tone it — and my ego — down.

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