ok you came to the right place.
In august of this year I took the autotrain from Virginia to FL. Yes a room would be awesome but I just had a normal seat and I survived without issue. First of all they don't search you AT ALL. They have a dog that sniffs every car (you give them your keys beforehand) but not the individual passengers. I had a least an 8th and my flask full of Jim Beam in my backpack and all was good. Make sure you bring your own booze because its mad expensive at their bar and they close at 11pm. They had a smoking car which was full of black people and my one-hitter made me a ton of friends. All you need is a movie or two, a fully charged ipod and maybe some tylenol pms and it's not bad at all. You can even move around because they don't check your ticket after you board.
Seriously its 17 hours but it's not as bad as you think.