How to Get Drunk After Age 28

Sorry kids: One bright, punishing morning sometime in your mid-to-late twenties, you're going to wake up after the usual night of pounding the brews with a truly brutal hangover. Not the hangover you're used to — you know, the kind you can sleep through, still go to work on, joke about, or reverse with a cup of coffee and a breakfast burrito? I'm talking about the new reign of terror in your life: Adult Hangovers. No matter how you slice that lime, you just can't get drunk like you used to. But all is not lost. With this totally responsible plan for drinking that almost takes every bit of the fun out of it, you can still get your buzz on and stay functional.

First, questions: Are you old now? Is the party over? Will you ever be able to do a shirtless human pyramid with your 12 closest buds again?

  • Yes.
  • No.
  • Yes, but please don't.

Obviously, something is happening right now inside your body and brain as you pass from being Unquestionably Young into being Merely Alive. Guess what? You're human now, no special asterisk. And that means you feel the sweet pain of gravity tugging at your mortality like a frayed bra strap threatening to pop. You can't snap back from routine injuries and bad choices like you used to. That bounce-back factor you took for granted in your recently younger youth just high-tailed it out of here in a cab and took last night's best Twitter jokes with it.

I'm sure there's a scientific explanation for this madness, but who cares when your head is pounding? Fine, here's the explanation:

  • The enzymes we use to process alcohol decrease as we age.
  • You're old now.
  • You're also dehydrated.
  • You drink shitty booze because you're broke. And the cheaper the booze is, the harder it hits you, because there are higher amounts of shitty chemicals in there — called congeners — that your body has to work harder to filter out.
  • You probably ate a bunch of garbage to soak up the alcohol, or worse, ate nothing at all.
  • You're sleep-deprived.
  • You pissed out a bunch of electrolytes and didn't put them back in.

But unless you're a doctor or paramedic or someone who lives near this new Chicago clinic offering a hangover cure, you can't just pop in an IV full of saline, vitamins, headache and nausea meds every morning and revitalize before your big meeting. Nope, you my friend are going to have to learn how to drink more responsibly.

Take it from me: After years of drinking the wrong way and getting away with murder on my organs (debatable!) I have finally learned how to Gently Party. Here's what I have begrudgingly been forced to do:

Start early.

Oh, I know. Don't think I don't know. Who goes out at 7 p.m.? Senior citizens and people with children, that's who. People with interesting lives don't even make plans until 10 p.m. But if you're going to get a buzz on, it needs to be peaked and valleyed before 1 a.m. if you want to actually function tomorrow. Sorry. Them's the breaks. Tell it to your old, protesting liver.

Eat dinner. A real dinner.

You gotta eat something decent as a base to blot up all that booze so the first round doesn't hit you so hard. Make it nice; make it enjoyable. Eat it slowly. Chew it well. Shit matters.

Stay on the same drink.

Gone are the days of shots, beers and a glass of wine to finish it off. Pick one thing, and stick with it for the duration.

Drink water in between.

It's so obvious, it's such a lifesaver, it's literally the difference between a manageable "I feel like I drank a little last night" and a brutal, miss-a-day-of-work hangover that you could be feeling into the next fuckin' week. AND YET! People flat-out refuse to do it. I refused! For years! It is so stupid to not drink one glass of water for every drink of booze. This is the easiest math you'll do all night. It is also the trick of many perceived heavy drinkers.

Drink vodka.

Apparently you're going to pay for drinking two-buck chuck, cheap beer and liquor in more wicked hangovers. According to a recent study, lighter-colored liquors are the key to fewer hangover effects. And top-shelf liquors are better. But you don't have to be rich to avoid a hangover: I drink craft beers a lot when I go out (because they are everywhere here) or mid-priced wines when I stay in. I have no idea how "nice" or "filtered" they are, but because I am doing the eating and the drinking water and the sleeping, I don’t have to know. (Related question: Is there room for alcohol in a "clean eating" lifestyle? Some people say yes, and you guessed it, it involves organic, biodynamic wine.)

Don't drink as much; avoid personal booze pitfalls.

Duh, boooo, I get it. This is the hard part! Don't drink as much. And also, know what fucks you up. You know if you get drunk faster and have wicked hangovers on white wine. One thing I've definitely learned is that I can never, ever, ever, ever, no matter what, don't feed-them-after-midnight, drink moonshine without debilitating hangovers. Oddly, it is offered to me more often than you'd think.

Get your buzz on in the middle of the evening, sandwiched between the eating and the pacing later.

Let's get real here: If you can't feel a little bit tipsy at some point, what is the fucking point of drinking? Zero. So after the nice dinner and the one drink, I drink two drinks a little more quickly together. Because that feels good for a little while, and that is why I am drinking. And then I slow it down, water it up, eat some light snacks, and go home. I know, call your mom, you just turned into her.

Water before bed.

As the oft-given advice goes: At night, before you go to bed, pound another water while you still feel like pounding something that isn't your ill-advised booty call.

Sleep.

That thing I said about 1 a.m.? I meant it. If you don't get sleep at night, your body can't recover from what you just did. Get six hours at least. Try for eight.

Eat breakfast.

The only way to drink more responsibly than you did last night was to not drink at all. And yet, you might still not be out of the woods yet. That's right! Coffee and a good breakfast (and in my experience, carrot juice with ginger) the next morning may still be critical to pulling this off. But, the good news is, at least you CAN pull it off. You can actually get out of bed and procure sustenance for yourself and don't have to beg your ex-boyfriend to leave work and hand deliver you a bagel. And more importantly, you can face your Correct Adult Life with dignity.

Image by Jim Cooke.