Sunday, August 30, 2015

Blackout: Remembering The Things I Drank To Forget by Sarah Hipola

Sarah Hipola (pictured) loved being a drunk. I loved Sarah Hipola being a drunk too.

The title of Hipola’s book, Blackout: Remembering The Things I Drank To Forget is ironic because, in fact, she remembers practically everything, and tells us all about it in prose almost too good for the topic. I guess when you’re as clever a wordsmith as Hipola, who has been writing for for years, you just do.

Like some people who are more interesting when their drunk, Hipola seemed more interesting when she was talking about being drunk. Her drinking-and-drunk stories had the intensity of creeping by a really bad wreck on the highway. Her getting-sober stories felt more like born again navel gazing.

Raised in Dallas in a stereotypical middle income family, Hipola claims she didn’t start drinking when she was seven years old because of abuse or some other childhood trauma. She started drinking because it was there, and she liked the taste. Her first blackout (a space in time erased by alcohol poisoning) was when she was 11-years old.

She continued to drink, relatively unnoticed, through junior high and high school. Then it was off to the University of Texas in Austin, honing her writing skills at The Daily Texas (where the sign on the door said, Where GPAs go to die), and The Austin Chronicle, where being high was practically a job qualification. In spite of, or perhaps because of, her drinking, Hipola managed to survive and even hold down jobs. But at some point, the bar scene wasn’t enough (and too expensive), and it became just her and her cat and her wine bottles, in bed, for days.

Over a period of about seven years Hipola staggers back and forth between Alcoholics Anonymous and drunkenness, cigarette chain-smoking, stinky clothes, ugly sex and lost time. Eventually AA and the alcohol both wear her down, and her story starts to sound like the AA script (There’s nothing to see here folks. Move along). And we stick with her to the end, out of respect for her fortitude.

One thing I want to add is the issue of drinking and sexual consent, which was brought up in Hipola’s book several times.  Although Hipola doesn’t specifically blame alcohol for her pretty messed up sexual experiences, before and after sobriety, she does talk about it a lot. More and more I see cases of rape, particularly involving college-age kids, where blame is placed on alcohol – he or she drank too much and lost their judgment.

And then there’s the blackout expert who says to Hipola, When men are in a blackout, they do things to the world. When women are in a blackout, things are done to them. When we tell our daughters and sons to be discerning about when and how they have sex, we’re assuming they won’t be drunk. 

I recommend you read Blackout because Sarah Hipola can string words and stories together in exquisite ways – even when she’s talking about a disease that wrecks so many lives every day. And I recommend you read it because it is a reminder there are family, friends and strangers struggling with alcoholism in ways we can’t even imagine – and that will hopefully make us more empathetic and kinder, and lord knows we always need more of that.


  1. Once again we agree one hundred per cent about BOTH books. So, that means we're right. Right?
    I REALLY wish I was going to be in town on Sept. 12th cuz I want to meet EVERYONE who follows you! Alas, I'll be in Dallas.

    Sniff-sniff, Sarah

  2. We are soooo RIGHT!

    Thanks for commenting cowgirl.

    hugs, besos and sniff, sniff


  3. I just stumbled across your blog today, and I love it! What a great tribute to the memory of your mom. It's funny, a lot of the things on your list, my mom also used to say to me. I lost her 10 years ago and still miss her so much!

  4. HI Tanya. Thank you so much for commenting. Yes, we never get over missing our mammas. SueAnn