Hungover for the holidays
Durangoans offer remedies for the age-old ailment

Michael Kuhn, left, and Chris Cannelis share stories over a beer recently at the El Rancho bar. Durango bars will be home to many a holiday reveler this weekend, looking to start the new year with a bang. And for those who prescribe to the hair-of-the-dog remedy for the morning after, the bars could also serve as a handy hangover helper./Photo by Jared Boyd

by Renee Johns

'Tis the season to be jolly. The season for Christmas cookies, wrapping paper, caroling and all things holiday. ’Tis the season to put up lights, spend time with loved ones and to stand in agonizingly long lines waiting for the new and improved 2007 Tickle Me Elmo, which not only giggles and rolls around but can juggle and accurately predict sound investments for the upcoming year.

There is however, a “not so jolly” characteristic that also goes hand in hand with the holidays: the hangover. The morning-after effect that’s responsible for leaving you with a dull and unwavering headache right behind your eyes; causes you to wear sunglasses indoors and wince when someone turns on an overhead light; the culprit behind the numerous trips to the bathroom that leave you feeling about as capable and intelligent as one of the boxes under the tree.

Even a quote in the Bible pays homage to this most unpleasant of afflictions: “Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink” Isaiah 5:11. Loosely translated: Waking up the morning after drinking a lot the night before … really sucks.

Medicine defines a hangover as: “A nonmedical term for the disagreeable physical effects following excessive consumption of alcohol.”

The word disagreeable does not seem to fully encompass nor do justice to the feeling that accompanies a “fun night out”…perhaps a little too fun of a night out.

Although there is no definite cure so-to-speak for a hangover, there are definitely measures that can be taken to make the journey more bearable.

Amy Ehlenbeck, 22, admits to having her fair share of experiences with hangovers. Some tolerable, some severe enough to have her reassessing the need to drink at all and thinking that all in all, prohibition might not have been such a bad idea. Now that is a serious hangover.

“I recall that the first time I had a hangover and what really hit me was being shocked at how mentally incapable I was,” Ehlenbeck states. “I like to spend those days when I have to be at the office filing, something repetitious that keeps my mind relatively occupied but doesn’t necessarily involve a whole lot of thinking.”

Ehlenbeck, although fairly new to the drinking game, in the legal sense, has already noticed her body rejecting the nightly partying she was accustomed to only a year ago.

“When I first turned 21, my recovery time was very short. I don’t even really remember having to deal with hangovers.”

Now, at the ripe old age of 22, Ehlenbeck admits she does indeed ascribe to some tried and true methods that have gotten her through some tough times.

“Something that has always worked for me personally is an ‘Emergen-C’ packet and lots of water,” she divulged. “I also couple that with a pizza and then attempt to eat as much of the pizza as physically possible.”

Yvonne Brado carries a few plates of the Durango Diner's finest earlier this week. The downtown greasy spoon caters to the red-eyed morning (or afternoon) crew with its green chile and cheesy egg concoctions./Photo by Jared Boyd

As far as what actually causes a hangover, the only thing that those in the medical profession can agree upon is that it stems from an over abundance of alcohol. It has been hypothesized that the liver’s inability to break down the toxins and preservatives within the alcohol leaves one with those daylong “disagreeable” symptoms. On the other hand, others conjecture that it could be the liver and the brain teaming up to wage war on the body and punish you mercilessly for that embarrassing karaoke rendition of that Tom Jones song performed the night before.

Ehlenbeck, who was suffering from a hangover as of this writing, acknowledges that her physical suffering and overall feeling of lousiness was of her own doing and she “maturely” accepted full responsibility. “I was thinking to myself this morning when I woke up to go to work that I know better then to be out the night before and drink so much…but at the time it was so much fun.”

And therein lies the rub. It is fun. So much so, that one rarely thinks about the consequences that inevitably face them the morning after said night out. There is no time to acknowledge the bleary eyes, the stomach that is performing an acrobatic circus sideshow or the consumption of one glass of water after another, wondering when it is finally going to be enough to warrant one trip to the restroom. Nope, there is fun to be had and you are next in line on the karaoke list to crucify one of Madonna’s top hits from the ’80s. You will deal with tomorrow when tomorrow arrives.

Seth Lander, age 25, has also had run-ins with the “morning-after monster.” Lander has been bartending for about a year now and has heard a number of “cures” from the throngs of loyal customers. However, he prefers the time-tested “hair of the dog that bit you” remedy. Lander recalls the hangover of all hangovers that although, years ago, still warrants a visible shudder. After spending some time that fateful morning “praying to the porcelain god,” Lander found himself wondering if he would even make it through the day. “I don’t remember anything from the night before, but I did find myself curled up in a ball on my front porch rocking back and forth.” Lander says. “That was a rough morning.”

“I suppose what I have always found works is that you wake up, and keep right on drinking,” he concluded.

His logic is almost undeniable. If you don’t stop drinking, you remain drunk, but not hung over. Yet just another way to postpone the inevitable side effects of one too many.

Perhaps in a perfect world, where no one had to drive, hold down a nine-to-fiver, or assume any responsibility or obligations, that just may work.

But even Lander acknowledges this may not be the best route to go, even if you can even stomach it.

“A friend of mine keeps a beer open by his bed when he finally goes to sleep, and then in the morning, wakes up, chugs it down, and hops into the shower” Lander smiles. “In the morning it’s warm, flat and completely chuggable.”

For those who feel the above lacks palatable appeal, there is really only one way to go that universally, everyone can get behind as being the one and only 100 percent, undeniable cure: drinking in moderation.

For, no matter how many glasses of water, miracle vitamin packets, greasy breakfasts, ibuprofen tablets and warm beers you may slug down, these remedies fall short of really getting the job done.

Yes, moderation may lead to parties that lack that little extra something. Parties sans the table dancing, the out-of-tune singing, the occasional fight over whether another “Rocky” movie should be made. But, wouldn’t that be better in order to avoid the lousy feelings that will greet you with the dawn?

Or would it? Because what is a party without all of the above elements, including a really good/bad hangover? •