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Hangover Helpers

How to cope with the morning-after blues.



Understand something, if you have a hangover, then you have poisoned yourself. Maybe not in league with strychnine, but you've got some toxins to work through. Obviously, the best thing for a hangover is not to get gassed the night before. If you can't manage that, then cut this column out and stick it in the pocket of whatever it is you think you are going to wake up in on New Year's Day.

The ancient Greek god Dionysus is often pictured with a mitra around his head — a strip of tightly bound cloth to counter that pounding morning-after headache. If the god of the vine and ritual-madness can get a throbbing hangover, then mere mortals don't stand a chance. Barring an anti-hangover hat handed down from Mount Olympus, let's delve into some more modern cures.

Kingsley Amis helpfully wrote about both the physical and mental aspects a hangover. Sure, your stomach is churning and you have a splitting headache, but there is that other part: a sort of vague, paranoid depression. He suggests that if you wake up with a hangover, have sex with the person next to you: It gets your heart rate up and will "tone you up emotionally." Amis was a hard-won expert on drinking, but he doesn't appear to have known much about relationships.

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For more single-handed hangover cures, the most famous was penned 101 years ago by P.G. Wodehouse in his first Jeeves and Wooster story "Carry On, Jeeves." Bertie Wooster is feeling a bit ragged, and Jeeves appears at his door to whip up a cure of raw egg, Worcestershire sauce, and red pepper. "It is the Worcestershire that gives it its color. The raw egg makes it nutritious. The red pepper gives it bite. Gentlemen have told me they have found it very invigorating after a late evening."

Not prone to original thought, Wooster says "I swallowed the stuff. For a moment I felt as if somebody had touched off a bomb inside the old bean and was strolling down my throat with a lighted torch, and then everything seemed suddenly to get all right. The sun shone in through the window; birds twittered in the tree-tops; and, generally speaking, hope dawned once more."

I've tried it a couple of times (scientific method, you see). It never worked quite as vividly at as it did for ol' Bertie, but it did get the job done — and fast. This makes sense: the egg is a blob of protein to counteract the sugar all the alcohol has been processed into, the Worcestershire sauce has salt to help retain water (dehydration is the real enemy), and red pepper sauce opens up the snoot for more oxygen. The pepper sauce also kills the crud associated with eating raw eggs.

So will a shot of whiskey, which puts you into "hair of the dog" remedies. People swear by the Bloody Mary, but for a number of reasons we aren't going to suggest that route. Or a raw egg.

Almost nothing beats a painfully hot shower, Gatorade (lots of it), and going back to bed.

If you can't go hide under the covers waiting for the cold embrace of death, you'll likely run into other humans, which will aggravate the mental component of the hangover. Steel yourself to being cheerful — or at least likeably pathetic — despite your creeping cynicism about this grim world. This is not to lift your spirits, or anyone else's. The point of the friendly disposition, however fake, is to manage people's reactions to you. Social friction is not what you need right now. Honestly, if you already think that they are out to get you, do you really need proof?

My mother has never had a hangover, avoiding them with the obvious technique of simply not drinking. It's not in the spirit of this column, but I thought I should mention it.

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