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230 pages, Hardcover
First published June 23, 2015
Once I'd gotten so blasted at a party I woke up in a dog bed, in someone else's house.
"Do you think you got roofied?" my friend asked me.
"Yes," I told her. "I think someone slipped me ten drinks."
Sex was a complicated bargain to me. It was chase, and it was hunt. It was hide and seek, clash and surrender, and the pendulum could swing inside my brain all night: I will, no I won't; I should, no I can't. I drank to drown those voices, because I wanted the bravado of a sexually liberated woman. I wanted the same freedom from internal conflict my male friends seemed to enjoy. So I drank myself to a place where I didn't care, but I woke up a person who cared enormously. Many yes's on Friday nights would have been no's on Saturday morning. My consent battle was in me.
It's such a savage thing, to lose your memory, but the crazy part is, it doesn't hurt one bit. A blackout doesn't sting, or stab, or leave a scar when it robs you. Close your eyes and open them again. That's what a blackout feels like.
The blackout scattered whatever pixie dust still remained from the night before, and I was spooked by the lost time. I had no idea this could happen. You could be present and not there at all. Those first few drinks gave me hope for escape. But I knew from Stephen King stories how hope could boomerang on a person and what looked like an exit door turned out to be the mouth of a more dangerous maze.
And people in a blackout can be surprisingly functional. This is a point worth underscoring, since the most common misperception about blacking out is confusing it with passing out, losing consciousness after too much booze. But in a blackout, a person is anything but silent and immobile. You can talk and laugh and charm people at the bar with funny stories of your past. You can sing the shit out of "Little Red Corvette" on a karaoke stage. You can run your greedy hands over a man whose name you never asked. The next day, your brain will have no imprint of these activities, almost as if they didn't happen. Once memories are lost in a blackout, they can't be coaxed back. Simple logic: Information that wasn't stored cannot be retrieved.
When men are in a blackout, they do things to the world. When women are in a blackout, things are done to them.
I've never liked the part of the book where the main character gets sober. No more cheap sex with strangers, no more clattering around bent alleyways with a cigarette scattering ashes into her cleavage. A sober life. Even the words sounded deflated. Like all the helium leaked out of your pretty red balloon.
It's funny how I used to think drinking made me a grown-up. Back when I was a little girl, I would slip a crystal wineglass off the shelf of my parents' cabinet, and the heft of it felt like independence. I played cocktail party, not tea party, because that's what glamorous adults on TV did. But drinking was actually an extended adolescence for me. An insanely fun, wonderfully complicated, emotionally arrested adolescence. And quitting drinking was the first true act of my adulthood. A coming-of-age for a woman who came of age a long time ago.
1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3 drinkWhile this is an important memoir by a Party Girl blackout alcoholic, I found it even more significant for Ms. Hepola's brilliant and sassy style in profoundly and provocatively addressing the prevalent problem of young women and alcohol on university campuses.
1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3 drink
1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3 drink
Throw 'em back, till I lose count
I'm gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier
[t]he need to hold onto booze was primal. Drinking had saved me. When I was a child trapped in loneliness, it gave me escape. When I was a teenager trapped by self-consciousness, it gave me power. When I was a young woman unsure of her work, it gave me courage. When I was lost, it gave me the path -- that way, towards the next drink and everywhere it leads you. When I triumphed, it celebrated with me. When I cried, it comforted me. And, even in the end, when I was tortured by all it had done to me, it gave me oblivion.Ms. Hepola found sobriety at first, day by day and a state in which optimism does not come easily. She now says though that she sees "sobriety" in her life's story as "not the boring part, [but] the plot twist."
. . . the need to hold on to booze was primal. Drinking had saved me. When I was a child trapped in loneliness, it gave me escape. When I was a teenager crippled by self-consciousness, it gave me power. When I was a young woman unsure of her worth, it gave me courage. When I was lost, it gave me the path: that way, toward the next drink and everywhere it leads you. When I triumphed, it celebrated with me. When I cried, it comforted me. And even in the end, when I was tortured by all that it had done to me, it gave me oblivion.I felt Hepola’s memoir was less successful in part two, her recovery period.