Updated: Sep 24, 2021
I remember when I first got drunk and when I first blacked out from alcohol. Not surprisingly, they were the same night.
I took 8 shots of Jack Daniels in less than thirty minutes on a Saturday night in high school. After running around in circles laughing for an hour with my friends and stupidly decidedly to swim in my clothes, I then spent the next twenty four hours hiding out in my friends pool house puking. I don't remember the majority of the night, from 9pm on. I was fifteen years old.
I recall being genuinely surprised to hear that my friends weren't stumbling around all night missing chunks from their memory the next morning like me. My friends didn't all black out too? They all definitely get as drunk as me, maybe they didn't drink as much as quickly, but they seemed to remember everything. Every detail. They told me about the swimming and the running around the yard. They told me stories of all the embarrassing things I did and how I got naked in the pool. I just figured the dark fogginess happened to everyone who drank. I learned fast, that it was not normal.
But for some reason, learning this fact didn't phase me in the least and I kept drinking through high school, college, and through my 20s and 30s. And blacking out happened to me quite a bit. I grew accustomed to not remembering my evenings by the end. It was a regular occurrence these last few years.
I guess I always had friends who filled in the blanks and people always told me what happened. Where I had been. Who I had been with. And I would always remember most of the events leading up to my night, sometimes the way the night ended or snapshots of the ride home in the cab. It was rare that the entire night was ever erased from my memory. But, it happened. There are memories, traumas from my past that I can't remember at all and wish I could. Tiny fragments here and there. I wish I could, just to be able to tell my side of the story. But the memories aren't there...
Scary memories that are foggy for me... Partying in high school on Paradise Island at the Atlantis when I was 16 years old. Stumbling down stairs in college. Puking in bathrooms. Alcohol induced raves in Acapulco senior year. Flashing lights. Running from men. Drug induced club hopping in Miami. Terrifying nights in New York City after college. Traveling through Europe for over a month, waking up in random youth hostels... Only pieces. Snippets... It is amazing I am alive.
But I kept drinking. Even though horrible things happened and I often couldn't remember any of it, I continued to drink and find excuses to keep alcohol in my life. Why? Because it is an addictive drug. It was a cycle that I couldn't escape for years and years.
I wrote about blacking out earlier on in my sober journey, and Gill helped me understand blackouts on her "Sober Powered" podcast. I guess I experienced fragmented blackouts on a regular basis. She explains that, "Alcohol slows down the communication between neurons in the hippocampus, which disrupts the ability to form memories correctly. With enough communication disruption, no new memories can be formed." When you think of it as the alcohol preventing your brain from actually even forming the memories in the first place, it makes a lot of sense. It made me sad to think though that it was almost like I never really experienced so many great things too. I missed out on so much.
It frightens me to think how much I would black out by the end of my drinking. I would often avoid simple conversations with my husband, for fear that he would call me out on the fact that we had spoken about it the night before. If I brought up a subject that we had already covered, he would get that look on his face. "Kim, we JUST talked about this last night at dinner. Do you NOT remember this conversation?" I started to use my kids as pawns and would quietly suggest to my daughter to ask her dad a question for me, innocently using my children to get information that I needed from him. I went to great lengths to avoid the disappointed look on Evan's face. The disapproval. All to avoid confronting the bigger issue that I knew all along in the back of my mind. Alcohol was a problem for so many years, and I allowed it to completely infiltrate my life.
It is so freeing to wake up every morning and never be completely stricken with panic about not knowing where I was the night before. I always wake knowing where I have been and who I have been with, where my children are and how I got home. I never have to experience the fear of blacking out ever again.