I was driving around yesterday, picking up obscure items like those things you stick to the floor of slippery tubs so you don’t fall while taking a shower and knock yourself out and drown. I saw a sign on a billboard on 28th Street. The sign read, “I Forget the Last Time I Forgot”.
That is the kind of brain teaser I usually can’t get out of my head. And it was especially meaty, because it was in front of a sad looking import shop. I can picture the boss saying, “Get a message up on the sign out front that will drive traffic in here.” And some poor guy, with a handful of plastic letters chose this unsuitable aphorism.
Maybe he’s a recovering alcoholic.
Because, this recovering alcoholic can relate. It occurred to me, it has been ages since I have forgotten what happened the night before, or blanked out a conversation I had or unrecalled buying a puppy on the internet. That horrible, hollow feeling when the kids are saying, “Mom. You said we were going to Disney World today. Remember?”
Why Does too Much Booze Make you Forget?
According to an article by Denise Cummins Ph.D. in Psychology Today, “When the body’s alcohol level rises too high too fast, memory functions are impaired. The hippocampus, a brain structure that is crucial for transferring information from short-term to long-term memory, is impaired at a cellular level. The resulting amnesia can be en bloc (can’t remember anything) or fragmentary (bits and pieces something can be retrieved with proper cuing).”
And females are particularly at risk for blackouts. Dr. Cummins says, “This is because females tend to weigh less than males and have less water in their bodies to dilute alcohol levels. They also have less of an enzyme called “alcohol dehydrogenase” in their guts to break down a small percentage of alcohol before it even gets into the body. Females also are more likely to skip meals to save calories when they drink, so there is less food in the stomach to help absorb the alcohol. As a result, more alcohol reaches the brain, where it plays havoc with sensory and memory functions.”
It is not exactly clear how alcohol creates a memory “blackout“. And the amount of alcohol required to impair memory and potentially cause a blackout, can vary. The type of alcohol, and the amount consumed is significant. If you are pounding moonshine, don’t expect to have sharp recall of how you got home (or to someone else’s home…). And the faster you drink, the more impact there is on the brain and memory.
Mornings are the BEST Part of Being Sober…
I have said it before, but I’ll say it again. Mornings are the greatest part of a sober life. There is nothing like opening one’s eyes and feeling clear, clean and honest. And my memory is sharp enough now, I’m the one who recalls the details and says, “Remember?”
There seem to be benchmarks in alcohol recovery. At three or four months, the effects of post-acute withdrawal (PAWS) begin to dissipate. At two years, or “advanced recovery” cravings and triggers have less impact. And at 5 years the relapse rate drops from a whopping 75 percent in the first year of recovery, to 7 percent. People who successfully complete a formal treatment program or an intensive outpatient program (IOP) have higher recovery rates than those who do not. And day by day, benchmark by benchmark, the brain rewires.
For me, at four years sober, yesterday was another benchmark – marking that I’d forgotten I don’t forget anymore. And for a minute, as I ran normal, everyday errands I remembered there was a time when I would have run the same errands with wine shooters clinking in the glove box.
Best not to forget that…
Today I’m not drinking, because I am remembering what I don’t want to forget…
How come you’re not drinking?
E2E Remember us…