You’ve felt this before. You know it all too well. The suffocating nausea, the stifling regret, the pounding headache that feels as if your skull might crack from the pressure of hot and boozy blood inside your head. The dreaded realisation that the day ahead (or what’s left of it) is one of pain and self-pity. The added memories and embarrassment of last night’s fun. A fun which has been subtracted from your day today – as if nature only loans you a finite amount. The universe’s balance sheet.
It’s a hangover.
‘Well that’s a little melodramatic’, I hear you say. I defy you to say this after experiencing a severe hangover. No, not just a mild ache of the head or a slightly unsettled tummy. It’s not just feeling a little tired. Hangovers are beasts. Almighty and unstoppable. They demand superlatives. The force of a severe hangover sweeps you off your feet, like a tsunami: the mammoth wave makes its impact as you first open your eyes, only, in panic, to be greeted by its thump to your feeble body.
A hangover feels like a throbbing and pulsating organism, almost nuclear, volcanic. Closer to the brink of eruption every moment. You can lick your wounds with platitudes: ‘Lots of water and I’ll be ready to go’, ‘A glass of Berocca and I’ll be fine’, and a personal favourite of mine: ‘I’ll never drink again’. Yet we all know hangovers are part of the package.
Select people don’t get them. We all know them, they’re always vocal, perhaps a tad sanctimonious; ‘I don’t really get hangovers’, or ‘It’s just not something I seem to suffer with’. These people are not just fortunate, they’ve been blessed. The gods of pleasure and drink, and Dionysus himself, have bestowed them with immunity. These people are hand-picked, the chosen ones; destined to live a life ignorant of the pain. They sleep guarded by hepatic angels after a night out, only to wake up to a purity of health and freshness of attitude that’s sickening to those of us who are convulsing from cold sweats.
There’s always one supreme hangover. The one you refer back to. To remind yourself that what you’re experiencing is a luxury, a pleasant summer’s day in comparison to that hideous storm. Was it a Christmas party that caused it? A few too many drinks during karaoke? Your first taste of tequila? All hangover survivors have them. The one that lasts a week. It requires you to process it days after. A junction in the road. A marked point in time for you to cautiously label before and after.
How do you wade through the thick swamp that is a hangover? Here’s a new take on tips for keeping the light at the end of the tunnel:
Cancel all plans.
I know this is easier said than done, given no serious commitment will stop for a hangover. No lecturer responds with sympathy to an email saying: ‘My limbs are so achey that honestly I’m just fighting for survival at the moment, due to a hangover.’ What a world it would be if having a hangover was a valid excuse. But if it’s that supreme hangover, that seminal day, then sometimes it has to be done. But don’t quote me on that. As a friend with said ailment remarked: ‘I think I’m just going to curl up in my bed and watch Downton Abbey all day.’ And there’s no shame in that.
Eat well, but not too well.
A hearty cooked breakfast helps some; the thought of it sickens others. By eat well I mean feed the beast; by not too well I mean don’t over do it. Rich foods can make you feel queasy, so all in moderation. (This applies to drinking too. Start as you mean to go on, right?)
Have a little fresh air, and stretch those achey limbs.
Getting outside really does help. The cold air can be restorative, and a short walk – even if you’re hunched over and limping – will help. Wear dark glasses if need be.
Moan to friends.
When else can you obnoxiously whine without turning the world against you? Mention it to anyone, a passer-by, a fellow pedestrian, and they’ll have a piece of wise advice or sympathy. Call up your grandparents, I’m sure even they have some memory of a hangover. Gain strength in solidarity. Most friends will be feeling it too, so whimper together.
You can’t skip this step, it’s the only effective cure. Sleep off the soreness of the day, let it fade to a distant nightmare, enveloped by the warmth and comfort of your bed. The morrow will greet you soon, and you’ll feel a new human. It’s an easy way to be more grateful for your health. A reminder of what a blessing it is to be fit.
I hope these tips help to make your day more bearable, although you might just have to soldier on through the effects of this one. I’m yet to find the secret cure, the answer to the million dollar question, a potion to remedy the side-effects of hangovers (Stop drinking, I hear you remark). This is, in the end, a reminder that drinking – although often fun in moderation – is an indulgence and like all things is meant to be enjoyed as such. As written on the blog Man Repeller on an article discussing hangovers:
“A hangover is, after all, a physiological alarm bell. It’s helpful feedback, not unlike the pain you feel when you touch a hot stove.’’
So from time to time, it may be worth toning it down if you’ve had a particularly bad one, it’s up to you. But remember the hangover will pass, just in time for the next night out, and life will go on…