It was wine coolers — cherry-flavored, I believe — that first drew me into the world of booze and its unfortunate consequences: dry heaves, headaches, bad decision-making. The next day I told myself I would never drink again. Little did I know I would find myself uttering this phrase frequently in the years to come.
My beloved, then-college-age older brother purchased the libations for me and my squirrelly 16-year-old friends. The temporary absence of parents and an empty house was just the abetment we needed.
“Just don’t drive, OK?” he said as he handed me the brown bag containing four liters of what was, to my teenage mind, pure liquid rebellion. Quite frankly, my middle-class suburban upbringing left little for my Sandra Dee-like self to rebel against, but even a square needs to get her kicks where she can get ’em. The story is rote, the ending predictable: What went in came back up. The next day, I suffered.
I would like to say that my experience with hooch has since become more refined — my choices more mature. Yet many of my most infamous nights of adult partying are simply a modified version of that inaugural bender.
Nowadays (as I accept that the lessons most reasonable people learn about the virtues of sobriety have eluded me), I embrace my proclivity for drink and consider myself a happy, albeit less-active, sot. As such, I feel eminently qualified to conduct some highly unscientific tests in search of empirical evidence so I may offer you a few tips on how to (and how not to) assuage the pain of one of man’s most masochistic malaises ... the hangover.
For those who don’t know, hangovers are caused by the buildup of poisons in your system. One of the most pesky malefactors is a chemical called acetaldehyde, which causes dehydration. Congeners (impurities created during the fermentation of many alcohols) can also be blamed for post-party blahs.
Chaser: This caplet-form dietary supplement that uses activated calcium carbonate and vegetable carbon (activated charcoal) to absorb toxins claims it can all but guarantee “freedom from hangovers.”
Sound too good to be true? It did to me, but, lo and behold ... it worked. After an evening of vodka and tonics (eight, to be exact), I woke up feeling pretty darn good. Not perfect, mind you; I did experience a disconnected feeling and some fatigue. But, I am happy to report, I did not suffer either headache or nausea.
Bonus: A guilt-free morning.
Drawback: Because Chaser needs to be taken before and during a drinking session, it can be a little high-maintenance for the lazy drinker.
Drinking a glass of water after every alcoholic beverage: This particular method is useful for a couple of reasons. Not only does it help in the prevention of the natural dehydration caused by alcohol, but it also reduces the number of drinks one can consume. After a night of beer-drinking, augmented by one shot of Jägermeister, I can report that the consistent stream of H2O did, in fact, prevent a morning headache. Sadly for me (and my tummy), the nausea remained. In addition, the frequent pee breaks and the distended belly bogued some highs.
Bonus: This method decreases alcohol intake.
Drawback: This method decreases alcohol intake.
Sports drinks: At this point in my unscientific test, I was bordering on weary. Back-to-back nights of drinking began to make me feel guilty. But I soldiered on, and after a bottle of Merlot and some quiet conversation, it was time to pass out. When I awake, a cold bottle of electrolyte-laden blue stuff awaited me. I choked it down like a linebacker. Though the drink quenches my thirst, no other therapeutic effects are evident.
Bonus: Drinking something bright blue makes you feel like you are 11.
Drawback: Unnecessary calories and an eventual sugar-high crash.
Hi-carb, greasy food (coney dogs, specifically): By this point, I am seriously considering the advantages of a 12-step program. Hitting the sack the night before with nothing but a gut full of Guinness, I knew I was in for a rough morning. This turns out to be only half-true. The “morning” as it were, passed right by. I wake up at 12:30 p.m., a feat of somnolence I have not accomplished since I was 20. Falling to such a dismal state as this is revolting, I know, but not nearly as revolting, folks, as the archaic, frat-boy, food-fightin’, beer-bongin’ John Belushi-esque remedy that I was about to test.
After waking up predictably miserable, I made my way to the local coney island and ordered the recommended “two with everything.” Almost instantly, the wrath of pig byproducts did its bidding. The description of this remedy stops here.
Side note: May the friend who recommended this cure suffer frequent and painful gastrointestinal distress that includes frantic visits to the loo. You are not forgiven.
Bonus: It’ll do in lieu of a colonic.
Drawback: I think you get the picture.
Hair of the dog: After the prior day’s miseries, it is hard to believe that I would attempt yet another exploit, but no hangover cure test would be complete without the analysis of one of the most-oft prescribed solutions … “the hair of the dog that bit you.” Suffice it to say I drank, I slept, I felt like crap … when I woke up, I made myself the only drink that seemed even remotely tolerable, a Bloody Mary. I almost hate to say it, folks … but, well, it kinda worked. I didn’t feel great, certainly, but I was markedly better. Though the hangover symptoms subsided, I cannot responsibly (hah!) recommend this solution. Seems to me, this “cure” simply prolongs the inevitable, (not to mention rationalizes all-day drinking).
Bonus: I felt a little better.
Drawback:This remedy is a sure-fire way to commence a very bad habit.
The only true cure
Abstinence: On my last night of what my friends and I began to refer to as “Boozequest 2003,” I stayed in and rented a flick. I drank nothing more than water and green tea. Not only did I catch up on some much-needed REM sleep, but the time alone helped me to contemplate the goings-on of the past week. Binge drinking is not the way to go. But there is no doubt in my mind that within a few weeks, the memories of these aches and pains will dissolve and I will be back in the saddle again.
Bonuses: Helpful in preventing headaches, nausea, weight gain, unfortunate sex choices and most unplanned pregnancies.
Drawbacks: Many lost merry times.
All this said and done, I cannot help but be reminded of one of my favorite jokes: A man walks into the doctor’s office and says, “Doc, I want to live forever. How can I do this?” The doctor replies, “Well son, avoid sex, alcohol and rock ’n’ roll.” The patient rejoins, “And that will make me live forever?” The doctor responds, “No, son, but it’ll seem like it.”
Happy holidays, all.
Check out more Holiday Survival Guide stories:
Surviving the gatherings of the clan.
Season for sharing
How to help those in need survive the holidays.
Giving on the cheap
Or should we say "inexpensive?"
Pass (on) the stuffing
Ways to keep the holidays from becoming too weighty.
Blue for Christmas
How to battle the holiday blahs.
Presents from tinsel town
What would the season be without its flicks?
Avoiding Xmas bling bling
You needn't sell out to the corporate juggernaut.
A gift guide to underground recordings.
Oh, holy naught
This year's Xmas sounds like the hour 13 lineup on the Jerry Lewis Telethon.
Silent night, sober night
How to stay on the wagon.