Have you ever woken to that horrible feeling of WHAT HAPPENED? You open your eyes, look at your car keys as if they are some foreign object (they are usually on the floor beside your pants, a party hat and a wad of credit card receipts) and wonder, “Oh, God… Did I drive?” Your mind is a black hole – no recollection of the night before…
Memory blackouts occur in the hippocampus of the brain, when large amounts of alcohol are consumed quickly, creating a rapid rise in blood alcohol content. Alcohol impedes the ability for information to transfer from short-term memory to long-term storage in the brain, hence the gaps in recollection. Two types of alcohol-induced blackouts have been identified: en bloc (total) or fragmented (partial). I can’t decide which is worse, remembering nothing or remembering a snippet – shit…there was a dance-off, and broken glass and a pet monkey, I think…where’s my left shoe?
Blackouts are different from passing out and are more dangerous. When passed out, a person basically stops functioning and curls up with their head on the lap of a stranger, appearing to fall asleep. In a blackout, a person appears to function “normally” because they are able to use working and short-term memory to carry on conversations (yikes) and participate in a wide variety of activities which they don’t remember doing afterwards, such as vandalism, texting an ex, unprotected sex, driving a car and spending money (double yikes).
College students (shot, shot, shot) and women are most susceptible to blackouts, but social drinkers can experience them too, if they forget to eat before drinking and drink too quickly. There is evidence that blackouts occur regularly after the first manifestation, so it is advisable to get off the sauce for a while if you experience a blackout.
I communicate with a woman who says she used to write things down while she was drinking, so she could “fake remember” what had happened during an evening with her husband. Isn’t that sad? I got good at asking people to “refresh my memory.” I was like one of those sham psychics who “cold read” for clues: I see a dark haired man in your future – no wait – his hair is blonde… a sort of reddish blonde?
A friend of mine and I were talking about blackouts yesterday, and he said, “I drank the highest percentage of alcohol to get drunk fast. I was not a social drinker. I drank to kill my mind and hopefully make another day disappear. Blackouts were so common, but I welcomed the world letting me off…”
Stop the world. I want to get off. Is that why we drink to oblivion?
My favorite thing about being sober is the morning. I no longer wake with that OH–OH feeling. There is no moral or psychical inventory necessary (I used to run a finger over my porcelain veneers every morning to make sure they were intact). There is no headache and no shame. I remember everything.
Stop the world. I want to get back on…
Today I’m not drinking because, I like the feeling of remembering what happened last night…
How come you’re not drinking?
For more information on what happens to the brain during a blackout, read this fabulous article on GIZMODO.