a severe headache or other after effects caused by drinking an excess of alcohol.
a thing that has survived from the past.
Last night I joined a friend for a couple beers. I had not seen her in forty years. We ran in the same track circles in high school. Later in the company of the man she’d marry, she migrated to the same college I attended in Iowa.
A couple beers at The Forge in Sycamore, Illinois. Kind of a nice way to celebrate a longtime association, share some memories and compare lives.
On the way home I felt fine. Two beers consumed slowly with food (a Margherita Pizza, mind you…) was not something to put me in an impaired state.
Yet I woke up at 3:30 in the morning with a bit of a headache. Some of that was likely the forced air heat in our home. That’s always dried out my sinuses, often driving headaches.
But this was a beer headache too. Certain beers give me headaches. I’m sure there’s a science to all this, but lacking either the resources to conduct such studies on my own, I’ll offer what suffices for expertise these days. This bit of insight from the website Hangoverschool.com serves up a set of beer-drinking warning signs about hangovers.
But I’m drinking less beer lately. So it’s not just beer that I worry about. Then again, I joined my wife for a cocktail party next door at our neighbor’s house. They have a long, beautiful granite bar and a real laminated menu of drink options that is twelve pages long.
It was a Friday and Sue was late getting back from Denver on a delayed flight, so I sat there and drank with some neighbors. The drink names were funny, which always makes me drink a little more. By the time she got there I was three cocktails ahead and having fun.
The night ended and we walked next door to go to bed. The next morning we got up to run a five-miler and frankly, I was dreading it a little. I was a bit hungover, you see.
By the time the first mile was over, I was feeling fantastic. How strange, I thought. How very strange. We ran the next four miles and I felt like I was floating along. Like I was twenty years younger. Forty years even.
Now you cannot count on that type of sensation every time you drink. I seriously wondered if I was somehow still a little drunk. My senses were clear. My legs felt great. So it wasn’t being drunk that made me feel so good.
At the most I have more than one drink once or twice a week. Typically it’s wine with dinner, and a bit after. The beer purchases have gone down because the stuff makes me fat. Right. Around. The Middle.
My fave drinks are Long Island Iced Teas. Simple and clean. Have a kick. Very few hangovers.
This is not to say that I have not overdone it anytime in the past. During my freshman year in college I likely nearly died from alcohol poisoning. My liver could have failed the night of our annual cross country party. It was insane to drink so hard, but a naive nature will sometimes take you where you should not go.
One other time I feared for my health from drinking. That was during a weekend junket with a college girlfriend. We drank so much I fell down in a Lacrosse, Wisconsin McDonalds and almost could not get up.
Drinking is dangerous. It can also be addictive. Fortunately I was largely more addicted to running in my 20s than to alcohol or other substances. Not all my running buddies were so lucky. One or two succumbed to alcoholism over the years. The party habits that were a joke back in the day became too real over time.
These days I seldom come close to getting drunk. Yet it only takes a glass of wine or the wrong glass of beer sometimes to get a wicked hangover. Then it’s a slog through the morning hours.
I still find jokes about “day drinking” funny for some reason. It’s all about self-medicating in the end. Human beings deal with all sorts of stresses in life, and drinking is just one of potentially not-so-healthy-all-the-time coping mechanisms.
It’s also a little sad that a hangover is nothing more than the echo of dead brain cells rattling around in your noggin. The blood-brain barrier is supposed to keep bad things out, but the brain needs blood of some kind to keep functioning, and alcohol goes along for the ride. That’s what makes us drunk. Naked. And stupid. Or all of the above.
I’ve ridden and run off a few hangovers in my days on this earth. It can start out so bad and then by the end, you’re kind of laughing that compared to how shitty you felt when you started, life looks pretty good. Call it the flushing effect. Alcohol is the lactid acid of the brain.
So what’s that about a hangover? You can have a hangover from too much sex, or even a little sex if you suffer from sexual headaches. There is such a thing. Some come on fast, to coin a term, and go away just as quickly. But some people get sex hangovers, with a headache that can last hours or even days. And fuck, along with a four-hour erection, that’s a real bummer.
You might not have noticed a mention of something in the hangover definition shared at the beginning of this blog, an alternate definition of the term “hangover.” It also means this: a thing that has survived from the past.
We all have headaches from our past, it seems. Relationships that didn’t work out. Painful breakups. Work crashes. The list goes on.
One could make the argument that if you think about it long enough, life itself is one long hangover from the last bad thing that happened to you, like a breed of nihilism in that nothing in the world has a real existence. Is it really all just one long headache? A long hangover until you shrivel up and die.
Not if you get out there and run and ride and swim. Honestly these are the types of things that can knock a hangover for a loop. So don’t lie around wondering what comes next. Life doesn’t have to be one long hangover.
It’s much better to drink of the sensations you gain from getting out there and doing what you love best. Moving. We run and ride and swim for a reason. No hangover should last forever.