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Blackouts are one of the worst possible outcomes of over-drinking.
I would wake up in the morning and have an overwhelming feeling or terror. My heart would start to race and my breath would get shallow and I would freeze in bed.
My mind would start forensics on the night before: where was I, who was I with, who did I talk to, what did I say, what did I do, how did I get home, where are my kids, is my husband mad at me, where is he? And then I would realize that there was nothing to gather, no information to pull from, just a big black hole of lost time.
It’s a feeling of fear and loss of control that is hard to comprehend.
A blackout is a temporary condition that affects your memory but can have a lasting blow to your confidence and self-worth. A blackout can occur when your body’s alcohol level spikes quickly, for instance when you take shots of tequila. It can also happen when your body’s alcohol level remains high after hours and hours of drinking.
Normally, an important process takes place between your short and long-term memory. Your brain is constantly encoding certain short-term memories and downloading them as long-term memories. This process is happening all day every day, and it is how we remember details of our past.
When we drink too much, the alcohol actually shuts down this crucial encoding and downloading process, making it impossible to remember anything. Blackout—a term meaning “in block”—is like shooting an entire video and then realizing that you never pressed the record button. You can still work the camera, shooting all different angles and takes, but nothing gets captured.
That’s one of the most confusing parts about a blackout episode. I wasn’t passed out or unconscious—actually quite the opposite. When I was in an active blackout, I was completely conscious; I could appear to be totally “fine.” I could still manage to articulate, carry on full conversations, act out complicated tasks, take off my makeup, brush my teeth, and even have sex…and not remember a single thing in the morning.
Blackouts became more common as my addiction got worse. They didn’t happen all the time, but toward the end, it wasn’t unusual for them to occur a couple times a month. And the more they happened, the more comfortable I became with them.
Big. Red. Flag.
I always had an excuse: I didn’t eat, I didn’t eat enough, I didn’t drink enough water that day, I was really tired. I also remember telling myself that I just needed to trust myself more (insanity); it’s not like I ever did anything “that bad” in a blackout. I mean, I just can’t remember. It’s not like I become a totally different person…
Make no mistake about it—that was the alcohol talking. I was no longer in the driver’s seat; the alcohol had the wheel, and I was headed in the wrong direction.
Blackouts, while they are frightening, can also be wake-up calls.
I was playing a nasty game of Russian roulette. If we notice that we’re experiencing blackout episodes more and more, this is a sign that we are not okay. There is nothing normal or fine or cute or funny about a blackout. It is our body’s way of screaming: you need to stop drinking alcohol.
I stopped drinking before something “that bad” happened in a blackout. I took the wheel back before it was too late. I changed my direction and I’m not looking back.
I’m a retired blackout artist now and proud of it.