Once again, I am experiencing the torture that is waking up after the night before. My pillow is filled with broken bricks, my mouth is devoid of any moisture, my stomach is churning, and the idea of any movement is complete anathema.
As I lie here, trying hard not to move and trying hard to focus, there is one thought in my head: "How do I get rid of the pain?"
It is this thought that prompted me to approach friends, colleagues and complete unknowns to research how others deal with their alcoholic excesses. However, before detailing my findings, I would like to caveat these with a health warning: The severity of your hangover may increase instead of decrease should you undertake any of the recommendations I have unearthed. I can offer my deepest sympathy, but refuse to accept any responsibility should your condition worsen after trying one or all of the following...
Once drunk, stay drunk
This suggestion came from a very old friend of mine who quaffs gin much in the same way that someone abandoned in a desert might approach a glass of water. Whilst her suggestion is not entirely practical for those trying to hold down a job or operate heavy machinery, we are all very aware of the 'hair of the dog' approach to drinking. It is no accident that a Bloody Mary is one of the best hangover cures known to man. The body takes a long time to metabolize alcohol, but the fructose in the tomato juice speeds up this process. In addition, tomato juice is very rich in Vitamin C, thus addressing the depletion caused by the alcohol. Of course, the vodka will also top up the alcohol levels in your system, meaning that your hangover symptoms will also be staved off for a brief honeymoon period.
Part of the dreadful feeling brought on by an excess of alcohol is the body's reaction to dehydration. I tend to avoid fruit juice of any kind, and instead I drink plain water - gallons of the stuff. Dioralyte was also recommended for reasons that will be obvious. Another good rescue remedy is Berocca, a lovely cocktail of vitamins and other good things and, of course, most people swear by strong coffee. As coffee can be a diuretic and a laxative, I have to question the wisdom of its use with an already sensitive digestive system, however I do recognise that for most, coffee is an absolute necessity in struggling through the morning after.
Most of the sensible suggestions I received suggested drinking a pint (or two) of water and taking two ibuprofen before retiring for the night. A slightly alternative view was to drink a can of regular Coke and eat a Mars Bar. I have not tried this particular option, however am assuming that since alcohol, after causing an initial surge in blood sugar, tends to cause blood sugar to fall, then the effect of the Coke and the Mars Bar must do wonders in staving off this sugar drop. Whether it is advisable to have such a sugar rush just before going to sleep is debatable, but a friend of mine swears by this approach.
For the most part, there was one simple rule: carbo-load continuously throughout the day. I can personally recommend the Starbucks Breakfast Panini. Chock full of eggs, bacon, mushrooms and ketchup, the sight of one of these after a particularly challenging night can bring tears of happiness to my eyes. Other suggestions included salt and vinegar crisps, hot and spicy Nic Nacks, and fruit salad. Chips of any sort, curry, pasta, doughnuts, pizza, chicken soup and any form of food that can be prepared and served in under three minutes. The proportion of synthetic constituents contained in the food item is in direct proportion to the efficacy of the product.
For me, my first port of call is Milk Thistle. This is a herb that protects the liver from the damage caused by alcohol and ideally should be taken before venturing out. However, I find it very effective the morning after as it really does seem to quickly alleviate symptoms. A hot bath with lavender essential oil added also seems to help, be it the heat from the bath speeding up the elimination of the toxins or just the smell of the lavender. Eating raw cabbage can be used to alleviate headaches, although eating raw cabbage would seem to bring with it a whole host of associated problems, so please consider others before trying this remedy. Finally, good old-fashioned sleep. Passing out does not generally provide a good quality of repose, hence why a quick cat-nap during the day can have a wonderfully restorative effect. Of course, if you are at work, a siesta is not generally acceptable, however friends of mine have been known to catch a bit of shut-eye within the privacy of a lavatory cubicle.
Another great mate of mine, this time male, gave me his version of how to cure a hangover. His exact comments would require far too many asterisks to repeat verbatim, but I will paraphrase as follows: "Get on the pot and then get a girl on top". He also advised me that men with hangovers become even more sex-obsessed and lascivious. He said it was quite normal for him to head to the pub for a lunchtime pick-me-up and stare at women with evil intent. Strangely he is not single, which enables me to console my single friends very credibly as clearly there really is a somebody for everybody out there.
Other helpful remedies included drinking pickle juice (a favoured approach by the Poles) or, from Ireland, burying yourself up to the head in river sand. (This latter approach was one I found particularly comforting, although given the severity of my last hangover, I would probably be tempted to include my head.) Brisk walks and physical activities are also heartily recommended, however perhaps the best approach for a hangover is prevention rather than cure. When the point in the evening arrives that you are feeling happily merry, when no one is crying and telling you how much they love you (girls) or slinging an arm around your neck and repeating the word 'mate' continuously (boys), this is your moment. When some friend looks up and says, "Come on then, let's have one more for the road," this is your cue to hit the road.