health

The horrifying truth: you don't need to pass out to blackout when you drink.

Blacking out when you drink alcohol is one of the most utterly terrifying things you can ever experience – in hindsight. The sickening shuttle of ‘what ifs’ is overwhelming.

Research suggests that consuming large quantities of alcohol, particularly if drunk quickly, can produce a blackout for a period of time. The effects are similar to amnesia, in that you can’t recall events, and that can be for a block of several hours.

An en bloc blackout is when you can’t recall any memories from that period of time, even if a friend is trying to fill in the gaps for you. Terrifyingly, you can be talking to a person having an en bloc blackout and not know it as they carry on conversations, keep moving around and appear normal. It’s believed that negative psychological effects of an alcohol-related blackout are often worse if you suffer from an anxiety disorder.

drunk woman sleeping on the sofa
"Awful things happened to me and I woke up believing that I had brought them on myself" Image source: iStock.

The scary thing about drinking alcohol is that you have no frames of reference aside from your own and if you’ve always experienced memory loss even if you haven’t consumed much, like me, you can be fooled into thinking that it’s normal. I know now that it’s not normal.

If you blackout, you’re not in a position to protect yourself. You’re easy prey, and believe me, there are plenty of people who don’t have good intentions. There are people whose sex drive will overtake their moral compass - at your expense.

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Blackouts were part of my drinking pattern and were at the very core of my alcohol-fuelled, shattered self-belief. I suffered memory loss as soon as I started drinking at 17 and it got worse. Plenty of “drinking buddies” found it funny and I didn’t know any different. Awful things happened to me and I woke up believing that I had brought them on myself. It’s a destructive spiral that pushes your self-confidence to rock bottom. I didn’t hate myself, I felt sorry for what I had become - broken.

When you drink, black out, and dire things occur, there’s a separation between who you really are, in the cold light of day, and what happens after the dark curtain falls. There’s a person you don’t recognise and hours you don’t recall.
Trying to piece events together after a blackout is traumatic. When I allow myself to go back there, I can feel the horror, fear and nausea. Much as you concentrate really hard trying to remember, there’s a cut off point and then a big, dark gulf. It’s like your memory has been deleted, utterly erased. You are searching, heart pounding, but there’s nothing to find.

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Black outs when you’re alone are dangerous in a different way to having them when you’re out. As hope spiralled downwards for me and I really wanted out of life, I reached for drinks that accelerated my memory loss. I reached for them because I was so desperately unhappy I wanted to escape. They were my fast track to freedom from a minefield of a mind. I reached for oblivion and I drowned myself there hoping I wouldn’t wake up.

I haven’t picked up a drink in over a year and I never will again. Why? Because it absolutely terrifies me; the situations I’ve put myself in make me feel sick. I feel lucky to be alive. I’ve broken the cycle and worked hard at re-building my self-respect.

Everyone woman needs to be aware of the powerful, destructive side effects of alcohol. They need to scare you to keep you safe. I want to keep you safe. It would break my heart if I kept quiet and more women were harmed. I don’t want any woman to be treated so appallingly and get to a stage where they believe that it’s all they deserve out of life. I’ve been that girl. You’re so much more than that.

This kind of drinking is not having a good time and it’s not how most of your friends drink. This is the incredibly dark side of alcohol. This is a million miles away from blame and entirely about protecting yourself because you are precious.

For more from Corrine, follow her on Facebook.

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