Ah, Hangover.
Where to start? We've certainly had our run-ins in the past. Remember the time I was found by my brother passed out in the bathroom, empty whiskey bottle in hand and only one sock on foot? I can honestly say that I don't, but if my brother's story is to be believed, and if you showing up the next day was any indication, then I'm sure it was all good times. And by good times, I mean to say that you had me praying for death by noon the next day. Fortunately, I wasn't granted my wish, and I lived to meet you again on the field of blotto.

You've never shown up unannounced though, you classy bastard. Your arrival is always heralded by nights (and if it's done right, days as well) of either sky-high enjoyment or bottomless despair.

The night could start out with such promise; a round of barhopping with old friends, hitting the party circuit on the night after the big game, or throwing a fancy to-do where only the top-shelf bourbon is sipped, and monocles are available to the guests in a box at the door. In any case, the anticipation of getting soused amongst those who know me best and will match me drink for drink is one of the purest and most satisfying senses us drunkards are still capable of feeling.

The other side of the coin, of course, is when I'm dealt the wrong hand in some way and decide to lose myself thorax-deep in the cheapest and most available form of ethanol within arm's reach. If I've learned anything from you, dear Hangover, it's that you will rear your vengeful head in the quickest way if I grab a bottle of rail gin (read; the gin that has no use in bars other than to kill mice. That stuff has got more impurities than a black market kidney), put on some Neil Young, and ride that weird, terrible train 'till the tracks run out.

No matter the initial drinking reason, Hangover, you're the one that is there when all is said and done.

Party guests go home. Bars around here close at 2. Even white-knuckle sorrow benders have to stop when consciousness declares me an unfit client. When the last drink is drank, when the last shot is shot, and when the last beer is unbottled, and sleep or coma take over, you slip in like a thief in the night. But unlike the thief, you don't take, oh, no. You give.

You, beloved Hangover, are the bringer of cottonmouth. The bestower of the migraine. The vessel by which nausea has led many a poor, misguided soul to contemplate swearing off hooch for good.

Yes, Hangover, you can be a cruel mistress. You can turn me every which way but loose, kick me in the ass, and make me wish I had a leg to stand on. Reliving the night before, wondering if I only had the cognitive function to drink a glass of water after all that demon rum, would you still be here? Would one wise act in the midst of all my debauchery and hedonism have kept you at bay, if only for a little while? Before I can answer that, however, I catch a whiff of the stale rum and coke by my bedside and realize that my stomach contents would be better suited outside my body.

And for this I thank you.

Why? Because you put me in my place. Because you remind me of my limits. Because for every one of me, there are a hundred other people who would quit alcohol altogether, and you are the lone operative that serves to weed out the dastardly traitors to this fine, tanked task of being a respectable drunkard. We're better off without them, and AA is accepting new sheep all the time, so everybody wins.

You, Hangover, are a badge of honor. I might not be too happy when I wake up to a foghorn and realize it's my own brain clawing its way out from the inside, but like the child whose parents wouldn't let them go to the party that eventually got shot up, I'll be thanking you later. Strength of character never comes through easy living, and you are proof of that. 80 proof.

So thank you, Hangover. I'm sure I'll be seeing you again quite soon.

“Learn to appreciate hangovers. If it was all good times every jackass would be doing it.”
– Frank Kelly Rich, the inspiration for this post and accomplished boozer