Book Review // Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola

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BlackoutIt took a few weeks before I decided to start reading after surgery — I was desperately trying to fill my time and avoid sitting on the couch staring at the TV, lest my mind should begin to dwell on depressing things. In early March, I was drawn to stories with flawed characters: shows like Nurse Jackie left me content, but trying to start watching The Office grated on every nerve. Therefore,  I chose this book to read first. And I’m really glad I did because I loved it.

According to Amazon:

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 twenty-first-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.

I’ve never been a big drinker and I’ve never experienced a blackout so it worried me I wouldn’t be able to relate to Hepola’s story. However, the overarching theme of trying to find oneself and be comfortable in your own skin is easy to relate to. Most especially, as she’s figuring out how to live without alcohol, I found myself nodding at what she was saying.

“I wanted to fast-forward through this dull segment. I want to the part when I was no longer broken and busted up. Was that day coming? Could we skip this part and get there soon? I’d spent years losing time, nights gone in a finger snap, but now I found myself with way too much time. I needed to catapult into a sunnier future, or I needed slink back to a familiar past, but what I could not bear was the slow and aching present. Much of my life has been this way. A complete inability to tolerate the moment.”

Being stuck at home, trying to figure out ways to fill my day while I recovered from surgery was starting to weigh on me. I felt well enough to do things around the house, but was still trying to figure out what to eat, when to eat, how much to drink, and how all these things affected me. Through all that juggling I lamented that I couldn’t return to the months before surgery and I kept counting the weeks and days left until my next surgery. I’m still working on remembering my life hasn’t stopped, no matter how much I feel like I’m in limbo.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. Hepola is wonderfully candid and brutally honest. She’s straightforward and to the point and it’s hilarious. I gave it 5 stars on GoodReads – highly recommended.

Goodreads // Amazon

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