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Before I talk about drinking someone, you should know some things about me: I also loved beer. Beer and bourbon and red wine and tequila, neat and martinis so dirty with olive juice that they sipped down the ocean. Sometimes I forgot parts of an evening. It could be a fragment of a memory, a minute here or there, or it could be an hour-long period of time. I tried to ignore these missing parts. If I do not remember anything, hey, maybe it did not happen.
It was a long time before I realized the damage of my blackouts. It took a long time to understand blackouts, period, because most of us do not. I've found that a surprising number of people think blackouts are the same as fainting, but these two activities are very different. An unconscious person is unconscious while a person in a blackout may be conscious, but has no memory of events the next day. A blackout is a transient memory loss that is likely to be triggered when the hippocampus stops storing information in the long run. It is the brain version of the failure.
Not everyone has power outages. The connection may be genetic, but the environment also plays a role. Blackouts are widespread in raging circles, as they are caused by a rapid increase in alcohol in the blood. So it depends not only on how much you drink, but also how fast you drink. College provides an ideal landscape for power outages. Shooting competitions, beer bongs, all those cute-clever games that compel diligent students to hunt the mysterious blow of red solo trophies. Drinking on an empty stomach can increase the blood alcohol content and lead to a blackout; Drinking before going out to drink more before playing is a good example. Social drinkers experience more power outages than people once thought, and a survey of college students conducted at Duke University in 2002 showed that about half of them had a power outage at some point in their lives. Subsequent studies have underpinned his findings. (Yes, it was not until this century that the medical industry began to see the pervasiveness of blackouts, even though the drinkers themselves were familiar.) College kids did a morning ritual, scrolling through their camera rolls and laughing at it The antics that you Brain did not record. When I mentioned this recently at a dinner party, a skeptical friend called her 20-year-old son to confirm it. He blushed and told us the name of his latest frat party: Blackout or Back Out.
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Society has not studied this surplus too much for decades. College kids drinking; that's what they do. One problem with such an attitude is that many of us stick to these habits that already took place after graduation. I left a trail of empties in my 20s and early 30s as my social activities and circles of friends became more and more dependent on the bar. I moved to New York, where I never had to worry about driving, and one guy I drank with was calling our blackouts "time travel." That sounded nice to me. We did not drink so much until our brains shut down. No, no, we had a superpower.
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That blackouts are both morally and medically dangerous and yet are touted as a badge of honor is a strange paradox. Somewhere along the way, extreme drinking became a rite of passage, a sign of courage and displeasure for some, a mask of coolness for nerds like me. Drinking has alleviated my social anxiety, my nagging feeling of never being smart or pretty or brave enough. But the blackouts have overcome the anxiety that alcohol should create. What did I say last night? Do I all hate now? At age 35, I finally cried uncle, and in the years after I quit, I decided to write a memoir about my drinking. People wanted to talk about women and their power failures – that sounded dangerous, maybe so bad – but they rarely asked about the men, even as the men showed up in my mailbox to report the damage torturously.
Walls hit. Punching friends punching girlfriends. All questionable kind of verbal and sexual assaults. DUIs, prison sentences, divorces. I have heard everything, and I can promise you that none of them resemble this great tiger scene in The Hangover. This 2009 comeback comedy has probably helped more than any other movie to turn the fantasy of forgetting into funny hijinks. But in real life, the hangover is no fun. The horror of power outages is that you do not know what you did. You become an unreliable narrator in your own life. Just because you do not remember anything does not mean that you are not responsible.
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It is clear to me that no one wants to have criminal liability for the Kegger. However, we have evolved to a moment when it is not just a failure of decency not to discuss the effects of excessive alcohol consumption on men. it's stupid Heavy drinking and power cuts are like a river raging under today's headlines: campus sexual assaults, fratricidal deaths, the #Metoo movement, an epic dispute over a Supreme Court candidate, not to mention the less sensational but no less tragic number of personal injury and alcohol deaths that literally happen every day.
And here's the thing: you do not have to drink so much You also do not have to stop drinking. You can just drink differently. Skip the shot competitions, drink water between cocktails, and try to limit yourself to two or three drinks a night instead of ten or twelve. (Can anyone imagine ordering 12 pieces of cake?) Stop bringing each other into oblivion. No more chugging, no more eating.
Our culture lied to young men. We told them the more they drank, the more impressive they would be, but take a look at the guys who are facing probation for the death of their brother, or the college students who are forced to complain of sexual violence that they've committed in a blackout or the adult men whose ruthless past has come up for revision. Excessive drinking is riddling a future much faster than it ever builds. Impressive is the man who knows his limits. Who has learned to enjoy the moment, does not disappear in him.
Sarah Hepola is the author of the bestselling memoir Blackout: Remembering the things I had to forget.