"It's such a savage thing to lose your memory, but the crazy thing 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."
For Sarah Hepola, alcohol was "the gasoline of all adventure." She spent her evenings at cocktail parties and dark bars where she proudly stayed till last call. Drinking felt like freedom, part of her birthright as a strong, enlightened 21st-century woman.
But there was a price. She often blacked out, waking up with a blank space where four hours should be. Mornings became detective work on her own life. What did I say last night? How did I meet that guy? She apologized for things she couldn't remember doing, as though she were cleaning up after an evil twin. Publicly, she covered her shame with self-deprecating jokes, and her career flourished, but as the blackouts accumulated, she could no longer avoid a sinking truth. The fuel she thought she needed was draining her spirit instead.
A memoir of unblinking honesty and poignant, laugh-out-loud humor, Blackout is the story of a woman stumbling into a new kind of adventure - the sober life she never wanted. Shining a light into her blackouts, she discovers the person she buried, as well as the confidence, intimacy, and creativity she once believed came only from a bottle. Her tale will resonate with anyone who has been forced to reinvent or struggled in the face of necessary change. It's about giving up the thing you cherish most - but getting yourself back in return.
©2015 Sarah Hepola (P)2015 Hachette Audio
"Blackout" is an intimate portrait of alcoholism that explores the nuances of female addiction in our culture of "empowerment." This is the most relatable description I've read of the vulnerability and stubbornness of alcoholism and of the hope and struggle of sobriety.
"There is scarcely any passion without struggle." Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays
"What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call [her] up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though." J.D. Salinger
I ran across this quote accidentally yesterday and thought of this book, which I've been holding off reviewing because it moved me so much that I felt like I couldn't do it justice. I think, though, that Salinger's quote is the highest compliment one can give an author of a memoir.
Through raw honesty and her wonderful way with words, Sarah Hepola has perfectly, poignantly and humorously captured the true essence of the hole in the soul I've seen in so many addicts/alcoholics. I was prepared to quote numerous passages from her book about "Martini math," and switching bodegas so no one of the guys would catch on to purchasing patterns, and her experiences with strangers when she was drunk (and could remember), but I think one best paints the picture for anyone considering buying this book, of her moment of finally "quitting":
" [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 finds sobriety at first, day by day and tough for maintaining optimism. Yet, she now sees that sobriety in her life's story is "not the boring part, it's the plot twist."
The audio version was particularly compelling because of Ms. Hepola's soft, though at times lively, voice and her gut-wrenching archival tape recording of herself at 13 discussing drinking and her experience with an 18-year-old boy, a statutory rape.
I hated to finish this book because it felt like a friend telling me her whole life story, sharing and stirring in me such raw emotions, and then ... I couldn't talk back.
Hepola is the perfect narrator for her own book. I limit the number of addiction memoirs I read for a number of reasons. Mainly that they are repetitive even within themselves as you watch the protagonist fail to learn from their mistakes over and over, and addicts are such self absorbed people that I tend to get tired of them. This book is like the others in those respects and she definitely got on my nerves, but she also entertained me. I was also interested in the phenomena of blackouts, which as Hepola points out really do not get discussed nearly as much as they should. As someone who has experienced this and been concerned about it, I was very interested in that topic. As you can imagine, we follow Hepola through her drinking adventures, lots of poor decision making and sex. Then she eventually gets sober in AA. I did not find the end too preachy and I liked her a lot better at the end. You clearly see when she talks about her cat that she finally has looked outside herself. That said though I sort of wish she hadn't gone into her post alcohol sex life. I had hoped that her experiences would have gotten her to a place where she showed more self respect. Still, overall was a good book.
I purchased this audiobook with pretty low expectations. It seems that every month, there's another book released by a recovering alcoholic. But this one is actually entertaining, mostly because Hepola has a great sense of humor. While the book starts to drag toward the end once she attains sobriety (again, rather inevitable--when you've quit drinking, you have no more drinking stories, and all that's left is to philosophize about life for three chapters), I'd still recommend this one.
I was sober for 13 months and went back out. I started an IOP today and picked up my desire chip at lunch. I started the book yesterday and could not stop listening. I went in to group today with a clear purpose and full of hope. Thank you Sarah for your honesty. It reminded me yet again that we are not alone.
This was a great story! I enjoyed it. Funny, emotional!
I never write a review, as I should, because I do love a lot of books.
BUT this one was THAT great I chose to share!
As a guy that has hone through the hell of addiction, the slamming into my rock bottom, and the slow journey to the sober man I am today, this story told from a female perspective is absolutely gripping. I could not stop listening even through parts that reminded me of my own dungeons. This is one of the best and most inspiring audiobooks I have ever heard, and every word is true.
Alcohol has always fueled my social interactions. In the past few years my drinking has become worse and my blackouts more frequent. Sarah expressed how it feels to not know when to make an exit. I'm glad she wrote about her journey and it makes me excited to start one of my own.
Yes--its like watching a movie in my head esp late at night like 3:00 AM in the morning. Sarah's living voice esp brings out the sneaky, sneaky way alcohol takes over one's life.
The Lost Weekend by Charles Jackson. But it's like comparing apples and oranges since one is fiction but both are good. Jackson, whose long winded narrative style is too, too long--even preachy, and Sarah Hepola's writing: short and (if you can read between the lines) sweet and bitter.
Sarah with her, remorseless comments about her drinking self, steals every scene. She must choose either the exciting, brilliant in full cinematic color, writer who writes better when inebriated and does horribly, shockingly, embarrassing things when drunk and then completely forgets them . . . or everyday, daily Sarah Hepola-- in the mirror, ordinary Sarah Hepola. Which Sarah do you love?
I savored each scene like a a meal so rich you can't eat it all at once. I'm waiting a reasonable interval maybe a year, so I can read it again.
Yes, one scene, early on in the book, where her boyfriend looks at her nude in the bathtub (after a heavy night of drinking for both) and finds her fat and unattractive made me gasp for her pain and the terrible loneliness of imagined love--and it is love story, not a drinking story.
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