I woke up this morning with a bit of a sore head, an upset stomach, dehydrated, and an overwhelming sense of angst. It was one of those moments again, I was hung over.
My relationship with alcohol has always been a love-hate one. During my late teens my alcohol consumption was pretty high, as this felt like one of the main aims of life; to inebriate the senses and let loose. Every week I would look forward to the next weekend to get all of my mates together and drink until hilarity set in.
Fast forward into university life, drinking alcohol is obviously a common part of that. You are in a new city, meeting lots of new people, and so its understandable that the way we form new relationships is by getting the awkward out of the way as quickly as possible. I’d say that my alcohol consumption increased even further, drinking heavily at least one night a week but more often than not it would be two or three times, at least in the early parts of my studies.
I feel as though I developed an unhealthy relationship with alcohol during all this time. I would drink too much, do something a bit stupid, and be felt with pure regret and one big hangover the day after. My body would be severely dehydrated which would go away in time, but the mental negativity I would inflict on myself would become the most detrimental part.
The guilt and regret for me was too much to want to handle it any more than one in a really long while, and so since leaving university I have focused on spending my time on doing more productive things rather than shutting down my body for a couple of days. This isn’t to say I don’t like to drink alcohol, and enjoy it with friends on a fun social occasion.
The difference is when the outcome doesn’t make up for the good times you had, if you wake up feeling huge regret afterwards then that can often outweigh the fun. For me, heavy drinking would often result in such an occurrence. So one of the main considerations I take in life is to think of my future self, and the damage I may be doing to that person, when making decisions in the now.
Before I embark on a heavy drinking session, I’ll genuinely consider all of the consequences before agreeing to it – most of the time. For a start your physical body is dehydrated by the process, and it takes several days before it returns to its normal working condition. If I’m focused on my strength training then alcohol can be something I’ll easily decide against, due to the time it takes to recover to be back at my optimum.
If however I am deciding on letting loose for an evening once in a while, then there’s a few rules I always stick by to be back in action as soon as possible:
- Drink water in between alcohol. By just having a glass of water after every couple of alcohol drinks or so, you vastly slow down the effects of alcohol. You’ll still get drunk, but at a steady rate and without such a bad hangover at the end of it.
- Eat a good meal before alcohol. This is pretty obvious to most, but it’s hugely important to have that main meal before you decide to drink alcohol. In my experience, drinking on an empty stomach has meant very bad results.
- Eat whilst you drink. I find that eating snacks whilst drinking alcohol is a great way to steady its effects too, your body is actually being given nutrients it might need to deal with the alcohol. I suggest salty foods, to replenish the electrolytes.
- One final big drink of water before sleep. At the end of your drinking session, drink a glass of water. Personally I try to drink somewhere around a pint, but that doesn’t mean ‘down in one’.
- The day after, drink a sports drink and soup/broth. I’ve found these to be great to get nutrients back into the body without worsening symptoms too much. The sports drink helps replenish the salts/electrolytes your body looses trying to process all that alcohol, and a soup or broth (chicken broth, or veg are great) gets some actual food into you in a form that your body can process easier without having to break it down first.
There is also an optional day after rule; watch the entire LOTR trilogy and wait for this all to blow over.
Despite having a bunch of rules, and being seemingly very picky about when I drink, I also allow myself to enjoy life and not take everything so seriously. It’s important to know yourself and make your own decisions, but sometimes it’s also important that when your best bud suggests a few drinks, or everyone’s enjoying a drink at a birthday party, that you allow yourself to be one of them too and not let guilt overwhelm your choice.
I’ve had some really great times drinking alcohol, and I’ve had some really great times needing nothing but the outdoors. Too much, or too little of, anything will have negative impacts, and alcohol is one of them. It’s all about balance.