I used to get the world’s worst hangovers. After a big night, I’d wake up the next day feeling like I’d been run over by a concrete truck and somehow glued back together all wrong. It seemed like all my brain juices (if indeed your brain does have juices) had been siphoned out of my head by the hangover monster while I slept. After I came to, my brain felt like it was smashing against my skull every single time I moved my head, which was revoltingly unpleasant. My wallet hurt, my head hurt, even my eyeballs hurt.
But today I celebrate 365 days without a hangover. And because I am a charitable type of person, I’m going to share my secret with you. The thing is, the key to a life without hangovers involves some sacrifices, which not a lot of people are keen, nor need, to do, but that’s okay, too.
Over the past year, I haven’t been on a special diet nor have I made sure I drink 10 glasses of tap, sparkling or mineral water on Friday nights. I haven’t become a devotee of B12 vitamin shots or Berocca. I don’t make sure I eat a lot before, during or after my Saturday nights nor do I endeavour to go to bed before 1am to keep the hangover fairy at bay.
That said my year without hangovers has been one of a certain amount of wonderment. I’ve learned that there are actually two days in every weekend, which finally seems like enough time to get all my jobs done as well as to spend time with the people that I love. I now know that a long weekend doesn’t have to include at least one day curled up in the foetal position fighting a hangover that was all of my own making. I’ve learned that without hangovers in my life, I don’t get sick or rundown as much as I used too because my body is no longer trying to shake off the damage I’d inevitably done to myself in just one night. I’ve more reliable because I don’t cancel catch-ups (especially those pesky weekend breakfast get-togethers that always seemed like a good idea – on a Tuesday) because I can’t get out of bed for fear of vomiting. I no longer eat junk food – ever. And I’ve learned to like and respect what I see in the mirror every single morning of every single day because my eyeballs are no longer bloodshot nor kind of sad-looking.
You see the secret to my life without hangovers is that one year ago today I gave up drinking. I didn’t think it was planned at the time, but as I look back now it appears that I’d been preparing for that day for years. Back then, after 28 years of being a party animal and mostly loving it, I’d changed my social calendar and also literally retrained my brain to not head to the bottle shop every Friday night just because it was, you know, a Friday. I took up Latin dancing, went on “dates” with girlfriends to keep me busy and walked thousands of kilometres with the tunes turned up loud. All of this I did before that fateful day when out of the blue I said goodbye to hangovers.
Unlike other blogs and stories about temporary ‘sobriety binges’, I’m not going to write trite platitudes about the wholesome benefits of a specified period of abstinence nor that I’ve had a revelation that I didn’t really enjoy all those years on the piss. That is simply not true. I mostly had oodles of fun – just not at the end of the night and certainly not in the mornings. And I’m not going to celebrate today by having a drink having gone “without” for a year and therefore feel like I should reward myself for good behaviour. You see, a year off the grog hasn’t taught me to be a social drinker. That will never happen. In fact, in my opinion, anyone who feels like they need to take extended breaks from alcohol (which was me for years) or who worries about their inability to control how much they drink when they do, probably should consider morphing those periods of temporary sobriety to something with a little more permanence.
But during my year without hangovers, I’ve learned that life is still life. There’s still the same amount of crap you have to deal with – just without alcohol to ‘take the edge off’ feeling your feelings. That is not easy. The last year has probably been the toughest of my life but somehow I’m learning to face life on life’s terms with all its brutal myriad of highs and lows.
So, my cure for hangovers is not to have that very first drink. Seems a pretty simple philosophy really but a lifetime of habit takes more than a year to break. I know that to be true. So, just as I have for the past 365 days, I think I’ll stick to my simple hangover-free plan just for today and hopefully for a few more tomorrows too.