inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #76 of 111: Sarah Hepola (shepola) Tue 26 Jan 16 08:14
    
Of course no decade can or should be compressed into a glib
toss-off, but I do feel the need to clarify that my coming-of-age
was, in fact, NOT marked by Kate Bush, whom I'd never heard of until
after college. But perhaps yours was, which is very cool. 80s music
is awesome. 
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #77 of 111: Susan Sarandon, tractors, etc. (rocket) Tue 26 Jan 16 08:31
    
Fair enough. I just wanted to defend the musicians of that era -- women in
particular -- who were making powerful statements as role models.

It is cited as a regressive time but that was only the surface layer, the
Phil Collins and Bon Jovi layer. 

"O Superman" was named best song of the year by Village Voice, so not 
exactly obscure. At a higher profile, Tina Turner and Pat Benatar were 
shaking the foundations in their own way. The B-52s had great role models 
for girls and The Go-Gos were an all female band who played their 
instruments and wrote their own music.

So there's a lot to defend there. Those women -- in particular 
Siouxise and Kate Bush -- made records that gave rise to Grimes, Zola 
Jesus, Dessa, Ellie Goulding, and Wendy 0. They were important.
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #78 of 111: Peter Meuleners (pjm) Tue 26 Jan 16 08:35
    
My fully alcoholic drinking years were '82 to '89 (24-31 years old),
so much of the 80's are a self-indulgent blur to me.  And listening
to Super Freak thousands of times in bars can wear a guy down.  :-)
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #79 of 111: Susan Sarandon, tractors, etc. (rocket) Tue 26 Jan 16 08:52
    
That sounds like a serious bummer, <pjm> !

By the way this is not as much of a tangent as it may seem. Music
saved me from a lot of potentially bad outcomes, and having strong
role models was really important.

For example, we -- as teenagers -- knew not to touch heroin as it's
what killed Sid Vicious at 21. We also had a powerful role model in
David Bowie, who very publicly got clean for "Let's Dance" and
appeared newly tanned and healthy-looking. A subculture that was
really prevalent around me was straight edge, marked by the X on
your hand. "No drugs, no sex, no alcohol."

Now that seemed extreme even to me at 13, but the point is we had
loads of "cocaine = bad" examples (have you ever listened to the
Miami Vice soundtrack?) and role models are critical at that age.

To bring it all the way back, I wish that we had received better
information about alcohol. For example, it IS a drug, and should be
treated with extreme caution.

Cultural norms were not up for that one, and I wish that they had
been.
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #80 of 111: Paulina Borsook (loris) Tue 26 Jan 16 09:05
    

dont want to derail this discussion into one of 'feminism or lack thereof
through the ages'. and yes i am aware of do-me feminism and 'on our backs'
and sex-positive whatever. but yeah, i was shocked by the 1st rock videos i
saw --- wait, werent we done with saying that kind of objectification was
just fine?

anyway, as an outsider, it has seemed that maybe, like lots of things,
alcoholism is a mixture of both genes and culture; and some ppl may be more
genetically hard-wired and others more culturally susceptible.

i was introduced to the idea of the 'dry drunk' (i.e. the person who quits
drinking but hasnt changed the rest of his/her bevahiors); have certainly
known ppl like that (they have given up their substance but the same way of
operating in the world exists). and i remember the jokes about how much
coffee drunk and cigarettes smoked at meetings; or AA just replacing an
unhealthy dependency with a healthier one.

and sarah, i did read your 'blackout' essay --- and it was fascinating. i
had no idea; kind of reminds me of stories of ppl doing stuff on ambien that
they have no memory of.
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #81 of 111: Sarah Hepola (shepola) Tue 26 Jan 16 11:00
    
Re, “Susan, etc”: “I wish that we had received better information
about alcohol.”

Damn straight. One things that struck me as I was writing my book
was that NO major media story had been done on alcohol-induced
blackouts. We live in a media landscape that thrives on sordid tales
of how the new “drug of the day” works. I’ve read major magazine
pieces about heroin, crack, meth, molly. Hell, I’ve read stories
about moth balls. And yet I could not find ONE STORY that explained
the fact that when you drink too much, it could cause temporary
amnesia. It was a really weird blind spot. I’ve been shocked by how
many educated people don’t even know what “blacking out” means. This
is the most commonly used drug in our country, and we don’t even
know its effects? 

I was a real product of the “war on drugs” rhetoric. The
experimentation of the 70s and 80s left a body count, and drugs
scared the hell out of me. Do you guys remember when basketball star
Len Bias died from cocaine in 1986? The media line was: He tried it
once, and he DIED. But I understood that alcohol was SAFE. Well,
it’s not. It’s a drug, indeed, and while used moderately it can have
tremendous benefits, when abused, it can be devastating. We hear a
lot about drunk driving, alcohol poisoning, and lately, sexual
assault. But personal injuries are one of the largest negative
consequence of over-drinking. Falling off balconies, falling down
stairs (which I did a few times), walking into traffic, or off
cliffs. The danger of alcohol is far more varied than, “You could
drink so much that you die.” Though certainly that CAN happen. 

Paulina brought up Ambien sleepwalking, which is super-creepy. That
reminds me that another important thing to point out is that
alcohol, when taken with any benzodiapene (Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan),
has a "roofie" effect that will also shut down your longterm memory.
This happened to a friend of mine, who had taken a couple Xanax
prior to a wedding (she was going through a divorce), had a
terrible, hours-long blackout, which had never happened before. Why
don't people know about this? They should.
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #82 of 111: Paulina Borsook (loris) Tue 26 Jan 16 12:27
    

again, generational shift. many in my cohort felt alcohol was a horrid thing
abused by our parents generation (close enough to 'mad men' that we rebelled
against it). instead, emphasis on 'life' drugs, such as pot and lsd. and
when foodie-ism started up in calif, wine wine wine. many of my cohort are
-stunned- by the binge-drinking of young ppl (again, hadnt we moved passed
that? answer: no)

but yeah, i had No Idea about blackouts (even though i had heard of things
like 'lost weekend') --- i didnt really understand what they were. i
misunderstood 'blackout' to mean 'drink so much you pass out. not 'drink so
much you appear to be functional but you are actually being a zombie/posssed
person and arent -really- awake/alive/conscious'.
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #83 of 111: Susan Sarandon, tractors, etc. (rocket) Tue 26 Jan 16 12:29
    
"The Days of Wine and Roses"
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #84 of 111: Sarah Hepola (shepola) Tue 26 Jan 16 14:09
    
Oh, the cultural pendulum swings. One generation correcting the
mistakes of the past, only to introduce new problems for the
following generation to clean up. 

I want to clarify one thing about blackouts: People in a blackout
are actually conscious. They make decisions. They crack jokes. They
respond to questions that you're asking them. It's actually *not* a
zombie state; you're a drunk person presenting as a drunk person
will -- some people will be falling down, and others can remain
surprisingly functional -- but your longterm memory is not recording
the moment. It's a strange condition. I've seen people in a blackout
that were CLEARLY wasted, and then others who could tell stories,
and operated just fine. But the blackout doesn't derange you, which
is why it's not an excuse that works in court. It does, however,
separate the drunk from his or her own behavior. You think: Oh, I
didn't do that, because you have no memory of it. 
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #85 of 111: disclaimers and disentanglements at gailwilliams.com (gail) Tue 26 Jan 16 15:28
    
Glad you liked the radiolab episode, Sarah.   

Blackouts.  

I have to admit that even though I worked as a bartender for a few
years when I was young, and I now write some articles about craft
beer, your description is like a secret decoder ring for me. I had
no idea.  Thank you for writing so eloquently about them.

For example, a few years ago I had a bar owner offer to host a Well
party during a conversation and a few toasts late one night. It was
the end of the evening, and we agreed that I would visit before
opening time two days later to walk around, plan the event, figure
out minor costs, etc.  I showed up at 10:00am sharp.  I had lots of
other work stuff on my mind on a busy, intense day.  I pounded on
the door, and the janitor let me in. Nobody else in yet.  I texted
the owner. No reply.  Fifteen minutes later I phoned, feeling guilty
for being pushy in redeeming a generous favor, but also annoyed. He
answered, very genial. Said he had no memory of having made an
appointment with me. When I told him had indeed prosided to be
there, but I could reschedule, he said he'd be right over. From
about half an hour away. I went for a walk around the neighorhood,
looking at email on my phone, calming down. 

When he arrived, he didn't say he was sorry, but he offered to buy
me a drink, (which I didn't want or accept since I still had to go
into work for a good 6 hours or so ASAP dammit).

Then he told me that late night is full of memory holes.  I remember
he counseled me, as if a wise businessman kindly mentoring me. He
felt that I should not trust late night verbal promises.  And then
he said couldn't offer the space free, nor at a discount or for
barter anyway -- hadn't done that for years.  

So, just one of those things, for him.  Blame "late night."  And
rather shocking, insulting, and a waste of half of a very busy
workday, for me.  

Do many handshake deals seem like total fiction to one party in the
morning?  

And does that mean late night declarations of love or marriage
amidst flowing libations can vanish down the memory hole, too?  It
probably does, it must. You'd think we'd all know that could happen,
and be deeply hurtful.  Weird.  Where is the folklore and the pop
culture to warn us?
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #86 of 111: Paulina Borsook (loris) Tue 26 Jan 16 15:49
    

it's so interesting in a terrible kind of way: during blackout you are a
conscious being --- BUT YOU SIMPLY WONT REMEMBER WHAT YOU DID. it explains
much, i guess...i really had no idea; am familiar with the 'dialing when
drunk' i.e. drunk friend calls you longdistance late at night --- and i
never really thot about it, maybe they dont remember in the morning having
done so.

as for the propaganda from the war on drugs: hadnt considered this would
make someone think 'but hey, alcohol is fine instead!". i remember when 90s
and 2000s cocktail culture came in --- and it kinda reminded me of
flapper/prohibition alcohol love, the same sort of -delight- with the
drinking...when it's just a drink, after all, why get all excited about that
1st martini of the day...
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #87 of 111: Sarah Hepola (shepola) Tue 26 Jan 16 15:56
    
It can be deeply hurtful to someone when one party doesn't remember
an intense conversation. A friend tells the story of coming to visit
me in New York, and we stayed up late drinking, and I ended the
night BAWLING over my ex-bf, and the next day she was like, "Are you
OK?" And I was very casual and shrugging. I had no memory of it. She
told me about it years later, because I was sober, but how many
other similar exchanges have I forgotten over the years? What
declarations of love have I made only to forget them? It's scary. 

A friend of mine was a fellow blackout drinker, and any business she
did at night HAD TO BE over text, because then she had a trail of
evidence the next day to find out what decisions she made. She
(successfully) ran two clinics. Heavy drinkers go to such extreme
measures to try to keep their shit together. 

You see blackouts referenced in 80s teen movies ("Sixteen Candles"
has one) and Katy Perry has two hit songs about blackouts, "Last
Night" and "Waking Up in Vegas," which are both party anthems whose
basic thrust is: How crazy is it that I can't remember anything?
"The Hangover" is basically a blackout movie, except the characters
take a pill that steals their memory, but that movie gets referenced
by young drinkers when they're talking about their blackouts. It
reinforces this idea that blackouts are hilarious, kind of the
wild/funny/extreme end of drinking. 

A lot of country songs and pop ballads talk about drinking to
forget, or forgetting what you drank, but it usually sounds more
metaphorical than factual. More recently, "Girl on the Train" --
which was one of the biggest fiction titles of the last year -- was
about a woman who may or may not have committed a crime in a
blackout. 

So, the pop culture is out there, but it's more recent, and a lot of
it is geared toward a younger generation with a winking tone. The
blackout often symbolizes a romantic oblivion. In truth, blackouts
are not romantic at all, and they create a shitload of pain and
confusion. People who live and love drunks can assure you --
blackouts are not good times.
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #88 of 111: Renshin Bunce (renshin) Tue 26 Jan 16 16:02
    
I knew a woman who came out of a blackout swinging a pool cue at
some guys in a biker bar.  It scared her so much, she got sober.
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #89 of 111: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 26 Jan 16 16:04
    
I did some binge drinking in my life, but never forgot anything.
Sometimes I wished I could forget, though...
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #90 of 111: Lena via lendie (lendie) Wed 27 Jan 16 02:50
    

I remember a time in the 1970s when my Dad who was an alcoholic disappeared.
Didn't come home, didn't go to work, just poof gone and couldn't be found.
Day 1, ok, worried but figured he'd show up.  Day 2, I call the police.
Later that day, I'm pretty freaked out.  Friends started making calls for me
to the morgue and various hospitals.  Nope, not in any of those places.  Now
I'm beside myself.

About Day 4, I get a phone call from my Dad sounding very scared and puzzled
with a story about how someone gave him a Mickey.  Best I can tell it was a
mickey named Black Out.
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #91 of 111: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 27 Jan 16 07:15
    
I've wanted to bring this up: there are people who have issues with
alcohol, but aren't alcoholics. My Dad used to talk to me about
"knowing how to drink," and I didn't really listen. For years I
would binge drink, drink more than I should, lose inhibition in
contexts where inhibition would have been helpful ... 

In the 1980s I was concerned that I might be an alcoholic, stopped
drinking, attended AA meetings - attributing anomalous and
problematic behaviors to potential alcoholism. At the meetings I
heard stories that were far more extreme and difficult than any I
could tell, and I would question whether I was truly an alcoholic.
Recovering friends would warn me that I was flirting with denial,
that any belief that I was not alcoholic would torpedo my recovery.
There's a lot more to that part of the story, but you get the gist.

Flashing forward to now, I'm clear that I'm not an alcoholic. I
drink, but never more than a glass or two, and not daily. When I
look back at those years when I thought I might be an alcoholic, I
realize that the problem was not my relationship with alcohol, but a
combination of ego and immaturity. But alcohol was a facilitator and
amplifier of whatever other issues I was having (or, more
accurately, causing). And as my Dad would've said, I "didn't know
how to drink."

I think AA was the right move at the time; spending time in those
meetings gave me a perspective I never would've had otherwise. And
if I had convinced myself at the time that I was not an alcoholic,
and kept drinking, I might not have taken the path to where I am
now. 
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #92 of 111: Paulina Borsook (loris) Wed 27 Jan 16 09:11
    
jon, how did you realize that you werent an alcoholic per se and it would be
okay for you to drink with the moderation you now have?
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #93 of 111: Elizabeth Churchill (leroyleroy) Wed 27 Jan 16 09:48
    
Gail that story about the bar owner made the hairs on my neck stand
up. Just wow.
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #94 of 111: Sarah Hepola (shepola) Wed 27 Jan 16 12:53
    
Jon, I have a few friends who have had similar experiences. They
came into AA in their youth, after seeing red flags, and found the
experience of the rooms educational, but ultimately not what they
needed. I read a great story recently in Vox (it was also featured
on "This American Life") about a woman who came into AA at 13, and
rose in the speakers' circuit. She was AA all the way. And then when
she became an adults, she realized she wasn't actually an alcoholic.
It's a pretty beautiful story about how AA can be the wrong fit, in
the end, but still the thing you needed at that time. 

http://www.vox.com/2016/1/7/10724738/alcoholics-anonymous

This is another reason why you have to look skeptically on stats
about the "success" rate of AA. If you go to a meeting, learn
something, and realize you don't actually have a problem -- isn't
that a success?

As I say in the book, alcoholism is a self-diagnosis. It's something
you must know in your gut. This leaves a lot of room for people get
it wrong, or change their mind. (Though we should note that medical
professionals misdiagnose people all the time, too.)

I came into AA at 25, and decided after a year, it was not for me.
Like Jon, I thought my problem was simply immaturity and youthful
indulgence. But, well, we see how that turned out. Some people are
right when they say they don't need it, and some people will show up
ten years later, and take their seat again. Such is life.
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #95 of 111: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 27 Jan 16 16:26
    
<loris> asks how I figured out that I wasn't an alcoholic. 

It wasn't something I quickly figured out, exactly. I quit drinking
for six years, then started again thinking it would be okay, but I
still had times that I would drink myself stupid, but as time went
by, I just got control of it and realized I didn't, as you hear in
AA, feel powerless over alcohol. I could drink or not drink. I could
have one drink and stop, have one drink a week and stop, or drink
one or two a day for several days, and then stop. Thing is that I
could stop, and it was no big deal. No sense of a real addiction, no
sense of being out of control. And that came with maturity, and with
dealing with other problematic aspects of my personality.

But I would never advise someone who's drinking too much and
wondering about it to "wait for maturity." I wouldn't ever
discourage anyone with a jones for alcohol from going to AA.  I've
known alcoholics in and out of recovery, and I know it's a
struggle... AA is great because, as Sarah has said, it's drunks
helping drunks. You go to a meeting, and everybody there wants to
help you with your struggle.
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #96 of 111: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 27 Jan 16 16:32
    
Sarah, it's clear from the book how hard you've worked on your
recovery. You deserve a round of applause for doing it, and opening
up about it the way you have. I'm going to bet you've helped whole
droves of people. Are you hearing from people who say your book has
had a life-changing effect on them?
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #97 of 111: Sarah Hepola (shepola) Thu 28 Jan 16 06:57
    
I do, and it’s one of the greatest parts of this whole experience. I
probably hear every day from someone who tells me the book helped
them find the courage to quit, or to stay sober, or to pursue some
other passion entirely. The book is about drinking, yes, but it’s
also about becoming the person you were meant to be. Sometimes I
don’t know how to respond. This woman tweeted at me once, something
like, “Sarah Hepola, your book saved my life!” And I said to her,
“You are saving your own life, but I’m grateful I could give you an
assist.” 

I’m so relieved not to be struggling with alcohol on a daily basis,
but life brings different struggles, and those messages lift my
spirits like nothing else. This winter I fell into a depression,
probably a bit of postpartum on the book, but it was the first bad
emotional pitfall I’ve experienced since the early months of
sobriety, and I can’t tell you how much it helped to hear from
people who needed that book. It made me feel useful. Their letters
to me did the same thing the book had done for them: It made us feel
less alone. So I feel like the life-changing goes both ways. Maybe
we’re all saving each other, all the time. 
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #98 of 111: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 28 Jan 16 11:47
    
Love that thought!
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #99 of 111: . (wickett) Thu 28 Jan 16 19:56
    

I haven't read the book, but I've learned a lot and been rivetted by this
discussion.
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #100 of 111: the view from prescription hill (cjb) Thu 28 Jan 16 22:23
    
Ditto.
  

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