The Black Out

For the uninitiated, the ‘black out’ is a term for ‘not remembering anything’ the night after overindulging your taste for the goddess ‘alcohol’. Blacking out isn’t reserved for alcoholics and college sophomores, and for many the first time you realize you don’t remember anything, it is hard not to envision that early onset Alzheimer’s as finally reared its head.
I managed to nearly make it to 40 until I experienced the black out, and it was terrifying when it happened. By the time my head was out of the toilet, I was Googling ‘brain tumor’ and wondering if I’d be spending my days surrounded by Post It Notes a la ‘Memento’. Luckily a friend with worse tolerance than I, handily suggested that I wasn’t featuring in a personal ‘Awakenings’, I’d ‘just blacked out’. Oh relief. I’m not dying, I’m just an alcoholic.

I have a confused relationship with alcohol. In the UK we start young. Lets just say that my mother drank a Guinness a day throughout her pregnancy (‘for the iron’) and used to soak the teet of my bottles in sherry ‘for teething’ (apparently Oragel wasn’t invented in 1971). I was apparently raised with a warm glow in my stomach and a vague headache the morning after. I had my first illicit cocktail of vermouth and white wine (as disgusting as it sounds) around the age of 14 in the local graveyard (the only place our local copper wouldn’t go – he was nervous around the graves), and by the time I was 16, all of my friends were regularly hitting the pubs of our nearest town for a few ales. With a culture of ‘no id’ in the UK, bouncers just rolled their eyes at your braces and waved you in.
Pubs were just part of ‘what you did’ and by the time we all hit college (and the legal drinking age of 18), it was old hat. College wasn’t so much the anarchy that I see in US movies, more raucous laughter and story telling around pints on a Thursday night. I only drank beer and generally the only puking anyone did was as a result of a bad curry eaten at 2am.

It was all quite responsible really.

Fast forward to my post divorce mid 30s and here’s where the problems start. Aided by newly developed medical problems, a burgeoning panic disorder, and pumped up on so many pills that I rattled, I discovered that even two drinks sent me spiraling into a ‘Hangover’ type scenario. And I very quickly learned that meds + alcohol = blackout.

The first time it happened I had a couple of glasses of wine and woke up at 2am during a house party. I was later informed that ‘nothing happened’ but my friends took much delight in telling me what I might have done (and it took 2 years for me to learn that I hadn’t made out with my boss). Fucking friends. He thought it was hysterical when I finally mentioned it.
The second time it happened I was hosting a dinner party. My friends bought along an incredibly hot single guy for me to meet, at which point I don’t remember anything. On a good note, they all had a great time and they did the dishes for me. I got a date out of it. But really??? How old am I? Apparently the old phrase ‘ two drinks and she’s anyone’s’ actually applies to me.

After consultations with my doctors I learned that not only do my meds keep me from exploding/sleeping 16 hours a day/bleeding to death/dying/worrying about dying.. they also cause me to black out after a few drinks (3 seems to be my limit). My doctor reassured me that this was a fairly benign side effect ‘its the seizures, heart attacks and gout you need to worry about’. Great. Bring on the gout.

Its a simple thing to fix. Stop after 2 drinks.

So these days I rarely drink and when I do, I tend to make sure I’m at home or with friends who understand my lack of tolerance. I try to stop at 2, and if I make it to 3, I head home as quickly as possible before I can get into trouble. But sometimes you want to celebrate. Sometimes you become an American. Sometimes someone buys you a shot which you can’t turn down and all of your reasoning goes out the window.

So, did I miss anything on Friday night?

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