This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
In honor of St. Patty's Day, let me tell you about my hangovers.
My hangovers are epic affairs. I have spent whole days, sunrise to sunset, roiling around in my bed, rubbing my stomach, moaning, and begging a merciful spirit to end the nauseous agony consuming me. This suffering is only interrupted by an hourly excursion to the bathroom for a bout of vomiting so violent it feels like my skeleton is going to come shooting out of my mouth. The kind of puke that is just as strong the fourth go-around when there is no food or liquid left so you just end up heaving up this toxic looking bile that I'm pretty sure is actually pieces of personality and important memories.
What I'm saying is my hangovers are next-level trudges up the slope of Mt. Doom, no spacesuit on the surface of Mars, code red-type hellish exercises in physical and mental endurance. Any of my friends who have witnessed these bleak spectacles, like the ones who watched me run out to vomit on a front lawn due to an occupied bathroom—and then continue to lay there as the cool grass soothed my blistering head and because movement seemed impossible anyway—will agree I know hangovers. I am an expert in morning after suffering.
So to all of you preparing for this St. Patty's Day weekend and its socially encouraged drinking followed by morning afters filled with folk-song levels of misery, I thought I would go through the most common remedies for hangovers I've tried when I feel like how Johnny Cash looks in the video for "Hurt." I set up a simple scoring system for each cure: a 1–10 scale for effectiveness and a 1–10 scale for difficulty, followed by subtracting the difficulty from effectiveness for a scientifically precise overall score to determine what has provided me the sweetest of sweet reliefs.
Hair of the dog
This one used to work for me. When I was young and not as not-spry as I am now, I worked at a restaurant where one of my co-workers would make these amazing Caesars. Very spicy, loads of horseradish, and possessing the restorative powers of personal possession from a particularly persecuted saint. I would start a shift a delirious mess and end it just below normal human functionality.
Alas, those days are no longer. One, if I want a Caesar in Toronto, it's going to cost like $25 and come with a whole chicken claw or some shit sticking out of it. Secondly, more booze just makes my hangover more mean. One sip of alcohol might as well be a gallon of putrid, self-brewed Medieval mead. Just the vapor of alcohol when I'm hungover makes my skull feel like it's going to cave in. A better plan for me nowadays instead of opting for the hair of the dog treatment is getting mauled to death by a pack of wild dogs.
Sweating It Out
One summer, when I was a younger man attending university, I worked for a slightly pathetic, small-time carpenter. My boss, a deck specialist, would eat feta cheese out of the container for lunch, get way too real about his severe financial troubles with me, and reminisce about meeting former Canadian prime minister Kim Campbell.
He also would pick me up at six in the morning, and it was during this summer where I would try the classic blue-collar hangover solution of just sweating it out and working the fuck through it. This would usually result in a day of mind-numbing torment for me and some incredibly shoddily built decks for some unlucky homeowners in the Kawartha region.
A Big Greasy Breakfast
This is your classic solution, probably the most frequently prescribed whenever someone sees me hollow-eyed and booze gaunt. "You just need to eat something, something greasy, you'll be fine, just coat your stomach with foodstuffs," they say. There are two big problems with this solution. One, leaving the house on an expedition to get said greasy breakfast is its own special hell. As I stumble toward potential pork-based salvation, I resemble a confused time traveler, staggering around, head pressed against throbbing temples, constantly looking out for the most appropriate alleyways for a quick public upchuck.
The other major issue with this strategy is that if this hangover is worth a grain of salt (or the thousands of grains of salt I'm about to eat) my appetite will be nil and eating will prove impossible. No matter how delicious the food is, it will taste clammy and bland, as if I'm munching on my own mortality.
This leads to a very common scene from my hangovers: After two bites of $24 breakfast followed by 40 minutes of holding my head and peering into my half-drunk orange juice looking for answers, a server will come by and ask if I need anything, to which I will respond, "Please, can I take this to go? I am about to expire on your premises." Then I stagger home, no less hungover or more full, but carrying 100 percent more styrofoam and soon-to-be-cold eggs.
Sitting Down in a Hot Shower
I love doing this. I drag my sweaty, traumatized ass into the bathroom, crank the tap to hot, and hurl myself into the soothing embrace of some steaming-hot water. At first, I begin the shower standing, the beat of falling drops against the back of my neck reducing the shrieking torment in my head while I'm leaning against the wall and straight up brooding like some kind of vigilante planning out vengeance on the bar owner who didn't clean his taps properly.
Soon, though, the legs begin to tire. But I'm not ready to exit my soggy sanctuary, and in a desperate time, I take the desperate measure of sitting down in the shower. Oh, the glory. This is how life should be all the time: the heat, the water, the relaxation removing me from my pained bodily existence and letting me imagine myself becoming one with the water—a sort of amphibian spirit.
The problem with sitting in a hot shower is the pain relief is illusory. It only lasts until the temperature of the water cools, and I'm forced to leave my cozy rainforest and reenter the real world where I feel like there's a private 30 Seconds to Mars concert happening inside my body.
Chugging Water Before You Go to Bed
Who hasn't been told by loving partners, doctors, dried-up former drunk mentors, and other assorted people who care about you: "Make sure you drink some water if you're going to booze, preferably at a one-to-one ratio." Normally during carousing, however, I quickly lose track of the water and then return home, plastered with only a dull thrum of concern alerting me that I have work to do in the morning, and if I don't drink water now, I'll end up spending the next day marooned on an island of suffering.
The problem is that for some reason when I'm drunk, drinking water before I fall asleep seems like such a chore, a burden. Why? I don't know. But wasted-me hates water so much I'm surprised he hasn't been recruited to work in Trump's EPA. If I can convince myself to put in the effort, my move is to fill up five or six glasses of water, put them on the counter, slam them back consecutively, and tumble toward oblivion hoping against hope that the spirit of alcoholic vengeance will not be visiting me at dawn's break.
Puking Before You Go to Bed
Forcing oneself to puke either with fingers down the throat or just heaving into the night before unconsciousness arrives is the "break glass in case of emergency" option. I've found that I normally feel pretty good in the morning if I did this the night before, as though I merely had a strange, heavily puke-themed dream. The problem is it's also one of the lowest-feeling behaviors one can indulge in and should only be administered if a promotion or close personal relationship are at stake.
Smoking a Joint
Ah, yes, my old faithful. The one piece of effective relief that I can, unless things are truly hopeless for me, count on. The fact that marijuana can assist with my doomsday hangovers has always been all the proof I need of its effectiveness as medicine. It soothes my nausea, restores my appetite, lets me fall asleep, and helps me forget about the torment of my insides as my mind is distracted by worrying about why all my friends decided to be mad at me at the same time.
The one problem with marijuana is that the preparation can be difficult. My preferred smoking method is the joint, which during a pain-free day is a joy to prepare—the ritual of the roll a balm to my troubled soul. But in the midst of a hangover, when weed seems like the only thing that can save me from 12 hours of hell, searching for a pipe or trying to roll a joint becomes an exercise in shaky desperation. I basically have a window of five minutes in between stomach evacuations, during which I have to find the necessary instruments, grind, and twist before a wave of nausea renders me prone and immobile. So I gather everything and frantically attempt to roll the shittiest joint I can, losing a good gram on the ground in the process to shaking hands and blurred vision. It feels like I'm the hero in a horror movie, desperately trying to start my car before the monster gets me, but my hands are too shaky to get the keys in the ignition, and the monster is my many regrettable decisions.
Uh… maybe next year.
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