A hangover. Splitting headache, vile taste of alcohol in your mouth and a nausea that won’t subside. How many times have you woken up with a hangover and then said,“UGH! I’m never drinking again!” Now, how many of those times did you actually quit drinking for more than a day? A week? A month? If your answer was a day or a week, then you are one of the many who experience a horrid hangover, but still continue to turn back to the alcohol that was the enemy only a few hours or days before. What is it that makes us come back for more, after feeling so awful? According to psychological researcher Diane Logan, we turn back to alcohol, the source of the problem, because we just didn’t learn our lesson. We rationalize the splitting headache, claiming it isn’t really that bad and getting rid of it by taking Advil. We downsize the disgusting nausea, and lie in bed for a while understanding that it will subside eventually and looking back to the more positive parts of drinking. We engage in what is sometimes called “euphoric recall,” in which we chose to remember the “awesome” night we had instead of the current hangover. Who wouldn’t prefer recalling positive associations instead of negative ones? Drinking is all fun again.
For a lot of us, drinking has become the social sport we engage in to have a good time. We have accepted drinking as part of our life and have let this “sport” become something that we almost must do in order to fit in. Hangovers can teach us something about our bodies – like knowing when we have pushed ourselves too far - if we are smart enough to listen.