"Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget", by Sarah Hepola - Book Review

Sarah Hepola shares her harrowing escapades as a blackout drinker in this unforgettable memoir. She yanks you into her checkered drinking history from the get go. The opening scene has her in Paris on a magazine assignment, out drinking with a friend. She writes about returning to the hotel, walking through the lobby and how, then, the lights of her memory go out.

Until she wakes up the next morning in the middle of having sex with a complete stranger.

The tale is so unsettling that I wasn’t even sure it was true until she circles back around to it later in the book. When she fills in the gaps, the finale is every bit as shocking as the opening salvo.

The vulnerability with which she writes this book must have been excruciating to experience on a personal level. She tells it all. Reliving those tales of her drinking disasters would have been too much for many.  To put them down on paper to be read by the world denotes a selflessness and empathy toward her fellow problem drinker that is almost unnerving.

She writes intelligently and lyrically about an ugly topic. Describing her romance with alcohol, she reminisces about her very first sip of beer, at age six, and how it felt like “stardust” on her face and “lit a fuse in [her] that burned for decades.”

This book seems almost like a mix between a memoir and a ‘how to’ manual. While much of the focus is on the drinking, Hepola takes a more reflective look inside herself to find the root causes of her issues. She touches on the genetics vs. environment argument and the clinical explanations for blackouts, but she considers those ancillary. Deep down, through her journey, she discovers that she will have to learn how to become comfortable in her own skin if she’s ever going to walk through the world sober and self possessed.

Addressing addiction requires a lot more than just putting down the drink, it requires coming to terms with who you really are. And she warns others of the same. “Because you can be a lot of things in this world, but you can never be another person. That’s the deal. You’re stuck with yourself.”


Published: 2015
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Elizabeth's rating: 4 1/2 stars