“I drank so much that I couldn’t remember what happened afterwards, except I woke up in a stranger’s bedroom surrounded by empty condom wrappers and a guy snoring loudly next to me.”
The alcoholic will often claim “blackout”. We are supposed to take this as evidence that the drinker is compulsive and unable to control their intake. Excessive drinking to the point of memory loss is a symptom of the disease. After all, why would someone put themselves in that kind of situation intentionally?
In fact, the reason is simple. People put themselves in sexually risky situations all the time. And they do so with or without the help of alcohol. Some people do it because they are insecure about their appearance, and being wanted by another person provides validation. Some do it because they are terrified of getting older, or are desperate for human contact. In all cases they are hoping to find “the one”, but settle for something less for the night, and end up ashamed of their behavior. They prefer not to remember it. Claiming “blackout” provides an easy excuse to forget about it, and not be held accountable by others for their poor decisions.
It’s one thing to wake up next to a fat chick after a night of heavy drinking. It’s quite another to make out with her sober — and for others to see you doing it. Alcohol reduces our inhibitions. We are apt to think that this is an unintended consequence of drinking. And perhaps it is for the first couple of times that we imbibe. But we quickly learn the reality, and in fact many drink expressly for this purpose. The alcoholic, of course, will prefer that you think he drinks because of a compulsion for the taste and smell of booze. But it is usually a compulsion for sex.
There is a crystal meth epidemic in many gay populations. It is a public health problem because many men have unprotected sex while high. So, we might think that these are men who are addicted, and reckless behavior is an unfortunate consequence. In fact, it is the opposite: reckless sex is the purpose of getting high. Many men will repeatedly get drunk, then get high, then scour the internet for sex. The high increases the pleasure and reduces one’s natural level of disgust. So it’s possible to perform sexually with someone you would never consider otherwise. Of course, afterwards there is much shame about the encounter, so they claim “blackout” to try to forget it. (They want you to believe that they are ashamed because they are ashamed of being gay — internalized homophobia. But in fact, they are ashamed because the partner is unappealing. If the partner was good looking, they’d be proudly holding his hand walking down Santa Monica Boulevard!) And they repeat this behavior in the hopes that one day they will strike gold, and meet the man of their dreams. More likely, they will contract HIV.
In the movie Ted (2012), one of the characters (Patrick Warburton) claims to be experiencing blackouts and not remembering anything except getting really drunk and then waking up with bruises and finding texts on his cell phone about meeting someone in a hidden area. This happens repeatedly. Marky Mark suggests he’s into gay aggression, but he responds, “I don’t think so. I don’t remember what happened. I blacked out.” By the end of the movie we see him walking around a party holding hands with a handsome man.
The Big Book promotes the blackout myth repeatedly, but in all cases the blackout occurs for shameful behavior that the person would naturally want to forget, although it is usually unspecified. For example, in Personal Story #10 – Tightrope – a gay man describes regular blackouts:
For me, the idea of being homosexual – the word gay wasn’t then in common use – was unthinkable. Drinking helped me to forget and evade. Also, it provided some cover…. The struggle continued throughout years of unsuccessful dating and pretending. When I eventually decided to act on my desires, the guilt and the shame — as well as the drinking — increased…. After a few years I was a nightly blackout drinker…. at times I awakened battered and with my watch or wallet missing, or in the company of strangers whose names I did not remember and did not want to know.
Obviously he wants to have it both ways. He wants you to think that he’s getting drunk in order to overcome the shame of being gay (although elsewhere in the story he claims to have a lover). This is society’s fault. Your fault! But in reality he’s ashamed of the guys he’s hooking up with. If the guy was cute, he’d remember every second of it. And brag about it to his friends.
Later in the story he claims to be blackout drinking entirely at home. And yet he’s still waking up with bruises. Are we to believe he’s staying home? Even if he believes it himself, he can hardly be expected to accurately account for his whereabouts in such a state. Are we to believe he’s drinking because of an addiction to alcohol? It seems clear that he’s so desperate for a little action that he’ll take some risks. Keep in mind, a good alcoholic is trained to exaggerate his level of drinking and risk taking.
If someone claims “blackout” at the holiday party, you can be sure they made a pass at someone who they already knew was not interested. And they had wanted to do this for a while, and thought about it even before the first sip.
I call BS on “blackout”.