The sweating starts before you even wake up. You toss and turn as morning’s first light creeps in through the blinds. With every pose your body makes, the pillow and mattress conspire to ensure your neck crooks precisely at the angle that causes the maximum possible throbbing of your headache. Your tongue feels fuzzy. Your eyes feel swollen.
The high temperature is the result of rapid heartbeat. This classic sign of a hangover also contributes to poor or decreased sleep. Basically your heart is screaming at you for drinking too much last night and your mind is saying, “Well, we can’t sleep until someone quiets down all that racket.”
Unable to fall back to sleep, at least for any meaningful amount of time, you start trying to add up the drinks you had last night. Was it four shots or five? Was it eight beers or nine? Then a blurry scene plays in the theater of your mind. The images come in fast, short clips, like a Michael Bay film without the big studio budget: a look, a smile, a toast, and a kiss.
Decreased ability to concentrate is another classic sign of a hangover. This one is like your mind saying, “I will not cooperate if you keep drinking so much.”
Your eyes flash open. You quickly roll over, half-expecting to see someone lying next to you on the bed. When you realize nobody is there, you’re relived, yet disappointed at the same time. Then the emotional pain starts.
You begin to feel sorry for yourself because you’re in so much pain. Then you begin to hate and question yourself. You think to yourself, “This isn’t your first time drinking. You know better. Why did you keep telling yourself one more, one more?”
The hate turns to shame and your inner monologue continues, “You’re too old for this. Are you ever going to get your life figured out? Maybe you just don’t have what it takes to make it in this world. Maybe that’s why you keep waking up alone. Maybe people can see right through your cool façade and see your weaknesses and how poorly you deal with stress.”
Mood disturbances, such as depression, anxiety, and irritability commonly occur as part of a hangover. This is like your body telling you, “If I don’t get to feel good, you don’t get to feel good.”
You try to take a deep breath and refocus, but the pounding in your head steals that breath away. The pulsing star of pain in the center of your skull selfishly consumes all your focus.
After poisoning your body with alcohol all night long, the headaches and muscle aches that accompany a hangover should come as no surprise. You beat-up your organs, now they’re punching back.
Recalling any details from the previous night proves impossible, so the questions remain. You wonder to yourself, “Did you really kiss someone last night? Who was that anyway? Was it a man or a woman? Were you even attracted to that person or did you just need attention? What drove them away? Wait, what’s that taste in your mouth? Oh, no. Did you puke before or after you kissed that person?”
A night of heavy drinking puts a lot of strain on your stomach to digest the sugars contained in most alcoholic drinks. That added workload, combined with your body expelling any remaining alcohol, leads to nausea, vomiting, or stomach pain. Your body is physically repelling more alcohol. It’s tapping out, begging for mercy, and holding up a giant sign reading, “I’ve had enough!”
The thought of vomiting illuminates your nausea. Time to make another sacrifice to the porcelain god. Getting up accelerates the spinning of your head. You run for the bathroom.
Dizziness or a sense of the room spinning often occurs when you consume a lot of alcohol. Think of that as your brain zipping around inside your head looking for a way out of your skull and a way out of the abusive relationship it has with you.
After several hefty heaves, your gag reflex forces your empty stomach into a few more dry wretches, just for good measure. With the shape your body’s in, that little physical exertion completely exhausts you. You lay your head on the cold tile floor and pass out for a few minutes.
Exhausted from processing poison all night, your hungover body will be susceptible to fatigue and weakness. Your muscles are basically “tapping-out.” They’ve had enough. Haven’t you?
You awaken and wipe the regurgitation residue from your cheek. Your head still pounds, but you manage to get to your feet and swish a bit of mouthwash. You choke down some water and a single piece of toast, followed by a couple ibuprofen tablets. You start a pot of coffee and swear to yourself for the umpteenth time, “I’m never doing this again.”
Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it saps moisture from your body. Drinking a lot of alcohol will leave you with a lot of thirst: thirst for water, thirst for sleep, thirst for relief from the pain and discomfort, and a thirst for changing your way of coping with your problems.
This story highlights the symptoms a hangover. Every one of them speaks to a different part of your body begging you to quit drinking. Sadly, you hear every one of them, but still haven’t stopped. You keep telling yourself this is the last time, but when life, loneliness, and the pursuit of happiness overwhelm you, you either forget about what your body told you or you choose to ignore it. It’s time to listen to its pleading.
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