The Cure

There's a fix for every hangover, but there's a catch.

click to enlarge ALKA-HOLIC: Sometimes Alka-Seltzer just doesn't cut it. - Scott Harrell
Scott Harrell
ALKA-HOLIC: Sometimes Alka-Seltzer just doesn't cut it.

"But that's all I recall

'Cause when I woke up in the hall.

I was alone and softly groaning

And I lost my keys and I lost my phone"

—Fountains of Wayne, "The Girl I Can't Forget"

There are few things in life so righteous, so just, so quintessentially and inescapably well deserved, as a really bad hangover.

I'm not talking about that cotton-headedness and slight nausea you feel the morning after you drink four beers and a shot while watching the game with friends, that sour sort of befuddlement that makes you a half-hour late for work and is gone by lunch.

I'm talking about that completely incapacitating, full-body trauma that only follows heroically stupid overindulgence. The one that feels like somebody removed your eyes while you were passed out, shoved a chunk of dry ice with a pulse deep into the gray mess of your toxic brain, and then put your eyes back into the wrong sockets before punching you in the gut a few times and absconding with your money and sunglasses. The one that lasts from about 40 minutes before you fully regain sobriety until 16 hours later, when you can finally escape into something remotely resembling real, restful sleep. The one that robs you of the ability to do anything other than crawl from the bed to the bathroom to the bed, that renders the very idea of eating, smoking a cigarette or setting yourself right with a late-afternoon Bloody Mary a stomach-churning proposition.

Thankfully, that kind of hangover is, for most of us, a pretty rare thing. But when it happens, it's incontrovertible proof that nature works, that the universe finds harmony in balance.

Because the really bad hangover isn't a bolt from the blue, an unfortunate random occurrence — it's a direct result of actions you took less than 12 hours ago. You don't get the really bad hangover because God is out to get you. You get the really bad hangover because you started drinking beer before you ate dinner, and then you decided to skip dinner altogether, and then somebody bought you a cocktail so you switched to liquor, and then you went through a pack of smokes in about four hours, and then you switched to beer and liquor. By the time you started making out with an ex-lover at the bar, or picked a fight with the guy with the teardrops tattooed under his eyes, or hit on a co-worker, or cried because, well, for no good reason, actually, the really bad hangover was a foregone conclusion. Whether it's chemistry or karma is immaterial; you did it to yourself, pal.

It's been said that there is no cure for the really bad hangover, that you just have to endure it until it's run its course. Personally, I don't believe this. Years of experimentation in the field of doing patently idiotic things have taught me that every hangover is curable.

I'm not saying, however, that I've perfected a quick fix for the nastiest of post-revelry repercussions. There's a catch.

It's been my experience that the amount of effort and procedure required to remedy a hangover increases in a direct ratio to the intensity of the hangover itself. Wake up with a nagging but manageable headache the morning after you put away a sixer? Take a couple of aspirin. Wake up with a splitting headache and a mouth that feels like marshland that dried up while dinosaurs still roamed the earth the morning after you drank steadily until midnight during the workweek? Take a couple of Extra Strength Excedrin, drink two quarts of Gatorade and do something that'll make you break a sweat — run a mile, do a quick Pilates workout, take a half-hour schvitz in the sauna, whatever. Wake up with a blinding headache, nausea, desert-mouth and general all-over body-ache the morning after you drank heavily until last call, then fell off the rim around the fountain while walking/dancing back to your buddy's car? Two Goody's aspirin powders, a gallon of iced tea, a hot bath, Chinese food (preferably soup and something fried; McDonald's or fried chicken will do in a pinch), a nap after eating, and one (1) Peter Sellers movie.

And so on. The worse the hangover, the longer and more involved the remedy. The problem is, there comes a point when the list of stuff you need to do to rid yourself of the hangover gets so involved that (a) it takes too long to get through it and (b) it seems like such a hassle, you might be better off just toughing it out. (In further evidence of the universe's balanced nature, the point where there's too much shit to bother with is almost always the point where the hangover is so bad it renders one incapable of making the effort anyway.)

So yeah, every hangover is curable — eventually. But the increasingly involved processes that go along with curing increasingly debilitating hangovers just illustrate the aforementioned bottom line: if you're going to flood your body with wildly excessive amounts of alcohol, you're going to pay the price.

Every hangover isn't just curable; every hangover is preventable, as well. And drinking two beers and then going home may not be as fun as waking up and being sure that whatever the hell happened last night must've been worth finding yourself with no job, one less friend and an upcoming court date, but come on, dude. It's fucking Tuesday. You don't have a whole Wednesday to waste wishing you were dead.

Save it for the weekend.