Most guides to surviving hangovers are as useless as guides to surviving asteroid impacts: badly underestimating the scale of the catastrophe, and full of technical details you won’t be able to focus on. If you’re able to blend beet juice with turmeric and vitamin B6 first thing in the morning, you’re not hungover, you’re a vegan who feels guilty about staying up past midnight.
That’s why this hangover survival guide is all about attitude.
Be warned: I am not a trained doctor. What I’ve done to my body over the last decade qualifies me as a health-hazard, masochist, and violator of the Geneva Protocols. But the Vikings weren’t trained travel agents either, and they still cut through every problem in their way.
That’s the attitude you need.
Take It Head On
The most important part of tackling any problem is actually tackling it. Hiding in bed until something nasty goes away is the choice of the cowardly child, but for an adult it just gives it more time to steal from you and destroy your stuff. You have to leap out of bed and split that headache right back.
Trying to stay asleep sounds like a good idea, doing an unconscious end run around the hangover, but the keyword there is “trying.” Which means “not.” If you’re awake enough to make the decision you’re already awake, so get up and get on with it. The sooner you start helping your body recover, the sooner you’ll both feel better. The longer you lie, the more pain you’ll endure. If nothing else, staying in bed is unfair to your bladder. Ignoring that never works. You’re using a chemical weapon as a snooze timer and turning a vital part of your own plumbing into an agony balloon.
Getting up will be hard, and it’ll hurt. Just like most things that make you a better person. Simply standing kicks the recovery into high year, then the bathroom purges your body of poison. Piss, crap, and shower to sluice away the poisons. Remember that the skin is an excretory organ. If you don’t clean it off, it can’t keep getting rid of the rest of the rubbish in your bloodstream. Also, we hope we didn’t really need to remind anyone to shower. If you’ve got a proper hangover, you probably smell like something from a distillery’s armpit by now.
Eat and drink because you’ve already been merry, for yesterday’s bit about “tomorrow you die” only feels like it came true. Your body is rebuilding itself. Which means that if you don’t give it something to work with, you’re going to be made of acid vomit. Get over any feelings of nausea and get some solids inside you. This convinces your digestive system that it’s still alive, and that it had better get on with its job.
The Matrix Option
If you have to work, that’s enough to get you going, but what if you have the day free? You’re awake and fed, but it still feels like someone has replaced your brain with a tangle of rusty nutcrackers. So leave it behind. Leave your flesh to finish restarting itself and inject your brain into a new body which is highly trained, incapable of hangovers, and usually carrying four hundred rocket launchers. Which are the only things that could simulate the feelings inside your skull at that moment. Video games are the ultimate escape mechanism.
Steer clear of multiplayer, unless you feel like giving your enemies a few easy kills, because right now your reactions are simulating exposure to a nerve agent. But a single player game – especially a life-eater of exploration like Skyrim or Fallout – means you get to avoid your own pain while inflicting it on armies of enemies. And you’re spending a day having fun instead of begging your pillow for unconsciousness.
Make It Worth It
When someone swears that they’ll “never drink again” they’re only admitting that they haven’t done it right yet. The hangover is an honest trade. It’s practically a sacrifice to Bacchus, god of drunken revelry, the only god cool enough to let you pay after you getting the goods.
Hundreds of hangover guides recommend drinking less. Also, their first aid advice is “don’t get hurt” and their favorite method of contraception is chemical castration in a remote single-sex monastery. The key isn’t to think in terms of less, but more. Doing more. Enjoying more. There’s no point in jackhammering your own head for another night staring at the bar’s big screen TV, so get out and meet new people and places and drinks with both. If you’re going to break your own brain, it should only be from overuse and endorphin overload. Because that hangover is happening. It’s even surer than the sunrise, because there’s a fair chance you’ll miss that.
The key is to make it worthwhile.