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Alcoholic Blackouts: The Big Lie

Dr. Neill Neill

The subject of alcoholic blackouts is a controversial one.  The argument that a person was in an alcoholic blackout and didn’t know what he was doing at the time has been used in court successfully to help people avoid the legal consequence of their actions.  Lawyers have used the argument of the alcoholic blackout to help a man avoid the legal consequences of beating his wife to death or of killing someone while driving drunk.

For someone to be convicted of a crime he has to know the difference between right and wrong at the time of the crime.  When he goes to court and has no recollection of the incident, his lawyer argues that he was not conscious of what he was doing when he committed the crime.

A convenient lie!

There is no doubt that alcohol affects memory. When alcohol abuse continues for a few years and/or regularly leads to severe intoxication, the alcoholic gets to the point where he cannot recall some or all of the events of the previous evening of drinking. Blackouts are one of the symptoms of alcoholism.

The time about which he cannot remember anything — the memory blackout — is called “the alcoholic blackout.”  It is a gap in memory, and the more chronic the alcoholism the larger and more complete are these gaps in memory. 

I have been close to men who suffer alcoholic blackouts because of their alcoholism.  Most of the blackouts are benign, that is, nothing unusual happens while they are drinking. But they just don’t remember anything from the time they started drinking until they wake up at home in the morning. 

They don’t remember their very rational decision to go to another bar when it looked like there was going to be a fight in the bar they were in.  They don’t remember getting far too drunk to drive home and calling a taxi.  But they were quite conscious of what they were doing at the time.

Less benign was a friend (now deceased) who was very strong and generally dangerous, having spent more of his life in jail than not.  He would get into a fight while intoxicated and attempt to beat his adversary to death.  At the time, he said he knew what he was doing and he wanted to kill his victim.  He knew it was wrong, but he just didn’t care.  The only thing stopping him was his buddies physically pulling him away and restraining him.  The next morning he would remember nothing of what happened.

I knew another violent alcoholic who made arrangements with the local police to let him come to the jail and sleep it off if he was becoming too murderous.  Even when extremely intoxicated, he would make a conscious decision not to kill, but to go to the jail instead.  When he would wake up in the jail, he would have no idea of whether he had been arrested for a crime or had gone to the jail voluntarily.

In my experience the alcoholic blackout is about blocked memory alone, not about whether people know the difference between right and wrong when intoxicated.  They do know the difference, but don’t care.

Is the alcoholic blackout just a convenient excuse for bad behaviour? You be the judge.

 

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91 comments to Alcoholic Blackouts: The Big Lie

  • recovering alcoholic

    I have too suffered from blackouts during heavy drinking. I do things that I don’t remember. These things I do is against my better judgment. I would never even think of doing these things when sober. It’s like a dr.jeckle/hyde moment. I don’t recalll any of it, sometimes only blurred fragments, but it is not like me at all. I was physically abused from violence as a kid, and I think it may be a subconcience reaction. I love my family and friends.

  • Priscilla

    I think sometimes the drinker overdrinks on purpose (necessarily, you might say) to reach the point where he can exert extreme responses that he does not allow himself to exert while sober. I know “blackouters” who have committed violent acts and felony crimes then sober up to be very nice polite normal people. In my opinion, they need to learn to express and assert while sober, then will be able to get by in life without having to become drunk enough to let their angry side come out.

  • Rose

    Hi, I was searching for information on alcoholic blackouts. I’m 34 yrs old married , mother of 2. I will typically get a blackout between 1 or every other month. It is usually at a social event with friends or family. Those who have experienced this with me are shocked when it happens because they say I am functioning fine then all of a sudden, I start to pass out and throw up everywhere and scream at anyone who tries to help me cause I don’t want to be moved. I have no recollection of that or up to hours before I throw up and after. It shocking to hear the things I have said or done while in a blackout. People can’t believe it cause I am functioning to them. No one can seem to figure out my limit because sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. I do know that I drink pretty fast, I don’t sip. I try to think if I didn’t eat that day or what might have contributed to the blackout. I first had blackouts in high school, but not too frequent. Just in the past 2 1/2 years it seems to happen a lot…too much. I constantly call the next day to say I’m sorry for things I don’t remember. I know I should just quit drinking, but everyone I know does and they can have a few and be fine. I just keep going. Sometimes I can just have a few, I don’t know why every other or every other few times I go into a binge. I wouldn’t consider myself an alcoholic, I don’t drink everyday but out of all my friends and family..I am the only one who gets to the blackout stage. How can I control this? Any suggestions? Thank you.

  • Stephen

    If you black out, that means you have a drinking problem or potential drinking problem. You dont know when to say when. Its not uncommon, in fact it is so common most people will not think that it is in fact a problem. When you drink in large amounts you impair your brain so much that you are erasing its ability to store memories of your owne actions. The only other thing that can do this is a serious blow to the head. So that gives you some clue as to the damage you are doing. Also, your brain probably hides some of the memories as you dont really want to know what you did. Then your friends call and tell you and you feel awful. If this keeps happening, you need to quit drinking or you will end up in jail or the hospital or maybe even the morgue. Sorry but the truth hurts.

  • danny

    if you want to control blackouts, you have to quit drinking, you cant ‘control’ drinking this way, i stopped because i was sick of not remembering and waking up in a panic, go to AA.

  • All Grown Up

    I had a friend who was a blackout drinker. He would turn into a raging bully and try his hardest not to let anyone leave the room he was drinking in while ruining their good time. Nicest guy in the world but when he drank he turned into a complete nutjob making everyone else miserable and ruining the party. What made him turn around was blacking out at a bar one night and waking up three cities away in an alley with a smashed up car and blood on him that wasn’t his. He had no recollection what happened. This was over two decades ago and he is sober and straight today and has been for a long time. A.A. changed him a long time ago.

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    There is no denying that AA, with all its problems, has helped millions of people.

  • AA al

    Dr Neill
    you are not an alcoholic,and you have not a clue what you are talking about.
    would you care to substantiate your findings further

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    I get this attack, “You are not an alcoholic” a lot from AA members. And you are right: I am not an alcoholic. But in my alcoholic days, I could probably drink you and your friends under the table any time. I am not “in recovery;” rather, I am recovered.

    The problem is that AA doctrine says that alcoholism is an incurable, progressive disease, so it would be impossible for someone to be an alcoholic and then later not be one. Therefore, if I am not an alcoholic now, I could never have been one.

    This AA belief, often held with religious fervor, goes in the face of social, psychological and medical research findings. A couple of US courts have even ruled AA to be a Christian religious cult.

    I don’t like saying this, because I know AA helps a lot of people when they are facing their addiction and wanting to change. I don’t want to detract from that.

    My son got a lot of help from AA with his severe alcohol addiction. His 12-step based treatment program and his months with AA probably saved his life at the time. He recovered and never returned to drinking. (He died 15 years later of liver disease and cancer.)

    You laid out a challenge. This is my answer. I will not enter into a debate because no one will benefit.

    As far as alcoholic blackouts go, it is a subject you cannot know about by direct experience, because, by definition, you can’t remember how conscious and deliberate your decisions were when you were drinking.

  • Paula

    I have a question…Is it possible to be an alcoholic and actually not remember buying liquor or drinking it? Does this happen like a blackout–a blackout before the alcohol is consumed?

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Yes. See my answer to you under Alcoholism Test.”

  • mike

    I drank a lot in college. I blacked out almost every Friday and Saturday night. After college I drank less and less. 10 years later, every time I have a few too many, which is less than once a month, it seems I have some memory loss. Not a total blackout like college, but blank spots here and there.

    I now have two children and I think if I had a problem with alcohol, it would have shown up in college. But, there are time when my kids are screaming that a few drinks really take the edge off and I’m a little concerned that a drink here and there is going to lead to constant drinking. There is a history of alcoholism in my family and I would like to believe that I’m comfortable with my drinking but I’m concerned that my family history could lead to uncontrolled drinking. I’ve been able to control my extreme drinking in college.

    Are blackouts here and there normal or something to be more and more concerned about?

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Hi Mike,

    I’m glad you have toned down your drinking since college. Good choice!

    Your alcohol problem actually did show up in college: the brain damage you caused by Friday and Saturday night binge drinking was already showing up in the form of blackouts.

    Family history won’t cause anything, but it may make your choosing to medicate stress with alcohol feel a little more natural and comfortable. Medicating with alcohol was the route I took and it eventually nearly killed me. So find other ways of reducing stress that are less risky.

    The minor blackouts are an indication of the damage done in college days. You should probably choose to limit your drinking at any one time to one or two drinks, always keeping it below the level that leads to memory gaps.

    It sounds like for the present at least you are able to drink a bit without becoming dependent. Just keep an eye on it never believe you have no choice.

    Best wishes,

    Neill

  • symarie

    I am a recovering alcoholic, and I went through five years of what I call blackout hell before I got sober. For me it was AA, and the 12 step program that saved me. I say this because I am a blackout drinker of the worse kind. I blacked out from the first time I drank, at 14. And towards the end, I would black out after two drinks, and sometimes they would last a week. They weren’t bits and pieces I lost, they were long segments of time. Like I said, sometimes a week or two.

    I was extremely self destructive during my blackouts, and I won’t even begin to tell you how many close calls I had. The ER was my second home. I had two DUI’s (ten years apart), the second one in a total blackout, and thank God, I didn’t hurt or kill someone. The reason I didn’t have more DUI’s is because I took precautions when I knew I was going to drink because of my black out history. I would give someone my keys prior to drinking, or I would tell the bartender to call me a cab and give him my keys if I stopped off somewhere unplanned and decided I wanted a drink.

    I was in total fear of myself, because I had no clue of what I would do, but my alcoholism was at the dependency stage and once I started I couldn’t stop without intervention from the ER. Having said all that, my opinion on this subject is that no matter how serious my blackouts are, ONCE I make the decision to pick up a drink and put myself accessible to my car or car keys, there is absolutely no excuse. To me it is no different than someone who has epileptic seizures, on medication and decides not to take the medication and then gets behind the wheel of a car and has a seizure and someone gets hurt or killed. That person knew he had an illness, has to be treated for it, refused to take the treatment, and made himself accessible to a 2 ton weapon putting him at risk of having symptoms of his illness while driving.

    If you know you have an alcohol problem, but make the choice to drink when you are prone to blackouts, and then put yourself in a situation where you have access to a vehicle, then you are responsible and should be held accountable for whatever happens when you are having symptoms of your illness. Before you started drinking you had to be sober at one point when you chose to take that first drink. Obviously I understand the struggles of an alcoholic, but it doesn’t give me the right to go out and put your children and my children in danger, just because I have a "disease". It may not be curable, but it is treatable, and treatment for me, is abstinence. When I received my second DUI, I was so grateful I didn’t harm or kill anyone, but I was nevertheless, extremely careless and irresponsible that I allowed myself (blackout included) to be put in a situation where I was accessible to a vehicle when I KNEW beforehand the effects that alcohol would have on me once I took that first drink.

    In my opinion, I cannot, with a clear conscience use the "oops, I had a black out, sorry, I killed your son – I just didn’t know what I was doing" excuse. I knew exactly what I was doing the minute that drink went to my mouth. If that drink meant so much and yet I still failed to take precautions, then hell yes, I am totally responsible, in my opinion.

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Hi Symarie,

    Thank you for making it so clear that each of us is responsible for for our actions, including whether or not we take the first drink.

    My mother died in a car crash many years ago, because someone did not take responsibility for their decision to drive.

  • nameless

    I am prone to blackouts with at least one a year now if not two or three. I would black out each night since I was 19 and that lasted a couple years. Pills and Alchohol and Herb has been a combo I have used for ten years. I am responsible with great job, but every so often when I have unlimited access to alchohol, well intentioned or not, I completely blackout hours of the night, meaning I was a raging beast of negativity. I realize that stopping completely may be the only proven avenue of sobrity, especially for someone looking in, when someone blacks out and terrorizes his family and puts himself at risk of death each and everytime. Is it risky or stupid or lazy to keep drinking, is it a care, is it deep rooted. I have no idea. All I know is I haven’t “wanted” to black out EVER!!!! But have since shortly after starting to drink and abuse everything else under the sun. A daughter a Son, everything that I have asked for, a beautiful wife who is loving and kind, but still I choose to keep on drinking just one. No matter the promise, no matter the prior damage, just keep on trying to drink “one or two”. Lost. Isn’t it normal to drink, and isn’t it lame to not drink, honestly. Am I just no getting the picture?

  • Leslie

    I do understand taking responsibility for one’s self and actions. However,I also believe that many people do commit terrible crimes and social injustices without having come to the realization that they have a problem. It was easy for me to convince myself and my friends would concur because they too had the experience of "blackouts", that it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are an alcoholic. My actions had only embarassed myself, never hurt anyone else. However, my normal personality was not in charge.

    Then one evening after excessive binge drinking and during several blackouts, I did something horrible; something that I would never have morally been able to do in a sober state or even a very drunken state. But, during a blackout, you don’t own your actions or statements. When I was told of my actions, I fell into a horrible depression because I could not change what I had done; everything that happened was so out-of-sync with my deepest values. I had lost a friend forever because of my actions. At that moment, I realized that if I could say and do what I had done during that blackout, anything else was possible. Maybe I could have lost my temper and hurt someone fatally. I could have killed someone with my car.

    The fact that I had compromised my personal integrity and acted against everything I valued in life made me realize that I could never allow alcohol to take over again. I know that there was no decision making on my part involved in what I did that night. I could barely live with the realization of what had happened the next day. It really is like you in your body walking around conscious but not under any control of your conscious mind. Some of us are fortunate enough to have a wake-up call that makes you want to ensure you are never under the control of alcohol again; that only you are in control of your actions. Others find that they have killed someone.

    I know it is difficult to have empathy for the person who commits the crime but I do think that alcoholism is a disease that, like many others, by the time it is diagnosed, some terrible damage may have already occurred.

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Dear Nameless,

    It must be pretty obvious to you that alcohol has profound negative effects on your brain and perhaps other parts of your body. Although my symptoms were very different from yours, the bad effects were there.

    Conclusion: It would be really lame for either of us to drink. So to save my life I stopped drinking completely and made all the life adjustments that followed. Will you?

    My experience is that there is not only life after alcohol, but a much bigger life.

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Leslie,

    Thank you for sharing your story. Most of us former alcoholics could tell stories parallel to yours. I could have killed someone with my car…I could have…

    The fact is, when I was 16, my mother was killed by a driver I was told had been drinking, so I should have know better.

    Although alcohol does indeed cause disease, alcoholism itself is not a disease, but a choice. I know well it causes disease: in the past three years I have lost two sons and a daughter to complications caused by their addiction.

    If you remember that alcoholism is a choice, you will be less likely to use the disease excuse for continuing to use or for any lapses.

  • John

    I think referring to alcoholic blackouts as a Big Lie is rather inaccurate. As you said yourself no-one knows what you are feeling during a blackout or whether it is actually you. I know I’m no expert i have only gotten drunk a few times sometimes drinking a whole bottle of vodka and a bit of arak i cud remember being so totally drunk to the point of vomiting everywhere and motor skills at an all time low not even being able to stand up and passing out though i always had some control over myself and was self aware i might do some stupid stuff but never anything criminal even in the drunkest stupour i would be able to tell the difference between something cheeky and something plain outright wrong.

    Then I had my first blackout which is possibly the worst thing that ever happened to me. i did things i would never even conceive of sober or incredibly drunk. I am absolutely convinced that what takes over isnt simply your drunk self without short term memory but a kind of unconscious self, a loss of higher order consciousness leaving only the bare instincts and impulses in control of you. I think should you commit a crime you should be held accountable but only if you drink to get to the blackout state or are aware that you are prone to blackouts or have blacked out before. I had previously never heard of blackouts and never experienced them before and i felt as innocent of what i had done as if someone else had done them, from then on i have not touched a single drop of alcohol and encourage others to do the same who knows what you could do during a blackout, because it is definitely not you.

  • Renae

    I am not an alcoholic but don’t know where else to go. I recently was drinking with family and friends. I was getting a light buzz around 11pm and decided to switch to cranberry water and go to bed early. I asked someone to make me another cran/water. The next thing I remember was waking up the next morning still drunk. A friend told me I was up until 5am drinking and doing shots. I don’t remember any of those 6 hours. I don’t know how I got from a light buzz to waking up drunk. I drink casually. Usually only one or two at a time. I have been drunk before and have never experienced anything like that. Is it possible that someone put something in my drink or is this normal?

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Renae,

    As I was reading your piece, it was occurring to me that someone might have spiked your cranberry water. Then you raised the question yourself. It may well have happened.

    In the future, serve your own drinks at a party. Alcohol can lead to some very stupid decisions, like adding a pill to someone else’s drink. People have been killed that way.

  • John-Barry Murphy

    I am a recovering alcoholic, and have been sober for over 6 years now. In response to your thoughts on “alcoholic blackouts”, I can promise you that I honestly know what it is like to have genuine blackouts. A drinking alcoholic who has a blackout can not remember some or many things that happened or that he or she has done or said during the alcohol induced blackout, & the alcoholic only becomes aware of what has happened if told by another person. To give you an example, about ten years ago, I remember walking along a street in Dublin with another chap. We had been drinking all day, and we were on our way to an off-license to buy cheap, strong booze, and then the next thing I remember is waking up in a cell in a police station. When I was let go from the station, I was told that I was arrested for my own safety and to this day I do not remember what actually happened during my blackout!
    Pray to St Jude and ask God for help. I did and now I am sober.

  • Clint Wirth

    Alcoholic Blackouts are very real, but shouldn’t be used as an excuse as it is the person’ choice to drink and/or get drunk. Alcoholic Blackouts are also very disconcerting as how can one defend oneself against something about which they have no memory.

    Alcoholic Blackouts, it can be argued, are a function of alcoholicism as a disease. If one subscribes to the disease model, it can be used, in some cases, as an excuse to explain away behavior. However, alcoholism as choice vs disease is an argument whose outcome is far from decided

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Clint, Actually, the evidence is very heavily weighted against alcoholism being a disease. However, I agree "disease" is a very convenient excuse for bad behavior when drinking.

  • dmaria

    DO NOT DRINK AT ALL! That would solve your problem!

  • Anthony

    Dr.,

    My wife has blackouts. She will also do things she won’t when sober. It’s an alternate personality or assimilation. I’m very interested in this effect. It’s definately not the same mind set as when sober. I’d have to agree these are not the same people as when they are sober. Her sister answers to a diffrent name when intoxicated. Alcoholism is prevelant in the family. My wife consumes less then 5 beverages per month on average. Has had a period of beng drinking; however, I see no corrilation to that and blackouts.

  • Duane

    I have a drinking problem. I dont drink all the time but when i do i dont know when to quit. I have blacked out and been abusive to my wife and woke up and dont even remember it. Im seeking help through aa and if you have any suggestions ill try that too. I used to have a drug problem and i quit and started drinking. I have had enough of this. I really love my wife and i dont know why i would do anything to hurt her. When im sober i do not behave like that and it puzzles me because other people around me drink and are fine. I have come to the conclusion that i just cannot take another drink. period.

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Smart man, Duane! Many guys waste years looking for a work-around.

  • sonia

    I black out extremely often I would say 70% of the time when I drink. I this never used to happen to me until about 2 years ago. now it seems like almost every time I drink. I’m gonna try just drinking beer and see if it reduces or stops my blackouts if it doesn’t work I will quit drinkin. I used to use methenphedamine for 2 years I been clean 5 years. Do u think my past drug use may be a factor in why i’m having these blackouts now so bad?

  • Dr. Neill Neill

    Hi Sonia,

    Anything’s possible, but continued alcohol abuse alone could account for the worsening blackouts, without the meth.

    Alcohol is alcohol. It doesn’t matter much what form you drink it in.

  • george

    blackouts are now a regular occurrence , from strip bars to pub brawls to hookers in motels , once a week or once every 10 days. it’s a doozie. kinda sucks. the fun is now gone. guilt, no glory.

  • It’s your choice, George, although it’s a life choice most wouldn’t take.

  • Scott

    I’m not an alcoholic and have never had a blackout. My wife is currently in a rehab facility. My wife and I went out on a date one night had a couple of glasses of wine, came home and went to bed around midnight. After I fell asleep she got out of our bed with me, snuck out of the house and went to a bar. She continued to drink, met a man she didn’t know and followed him home and had sex. She told me she blacked out and had no idea what she was doing. She would never do this sober. My questions is do they know what they are doing is wrong when they are doing is this “blackout” stage? I tend to think alcoholism is about getting the next drink and that you still have your morals and you know what is right and wrong when you do these actions. Can you help me with this?

  • Hi Scott,

    The blackout is not about doing things while unconscious; it’s about not remembering what you did. Moral choices are still there when intoxicated. However, inhibitions are down and the willingness to act impulsively is increased. Perhaps the two glasses of wine removed her inhibition about going out. She understood the moral issue, or else the would have told you she was going out, not sneaked out. If she could remember, and if she were completed honest, she might say something like, “I knew it was wrong and I knew it was high risk, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. I would understand if you dumped me. Regardless of what you do, what I drank last night was my last alcohol. I’m calling my doctor this morning. I know my blackouts are the result of the brain damage from abusing alcohol, and I refuse to live that way anymore.”

  • George

    To say that in an alcoholic blackout, a person knows what they are doing is an an outright IGNORANT, profess to know all assumption. If you yourself have not experienced this, then you know NOTHING.
    I myself have experienced this and have known many others who have. Why don’t you get your facts straight before opening your mouth or maybe this is not your subject to profess any knowledge about.
    MY GOD! AM I GLAD THAT I DON’T BELIEVE MOST OF WHAT I READ ON THE INTERNET ANYMORE. GET REAL!!!

  • Dear George,

    I have clearly hit a nerve with you. I do draw on direct experience from the alcoholic days and later. People do make conscious moral choices when intoxicated. They decide to take a taxi rather than drive, although they know the could drive. The next day they have no memory of how they got home. One particularly violent friend would sometimes get murderous when intoxicated, so, rather than attempt to kill someone, he would leave the bar, walk to the police station and ask to be put in a cell for the night. When he would wake up in the morning, he would have no knowledge of why he was there. Was he arrested (again) for beating someone up? The point is he was capable of conscious moral choice when intoxicated, but his memory of events was totally blacked out.

    The “alcoholic blackout” is a little too convenient an excuse for poor moral choices that were made quite consciously when intoxicated.

    I won’t debate this with you, because you have blackouts, and therefore couldn’t possibly remember if you were conscious as you made moral choices when intoxicated.

  • Louise

    Well just reading some of these responses let’s me know this is a very real reality, alcohol blackouts”, yes a big problem!! I have been married to my husband 17 years and he is a alcoholic admittedly, and just recently he had a blackout, which caused me to sustain some physical abuse, not anything I’m proud to talk about either….he just recently came back home from signing himself into a residential treatment program, and it’s like his addictive behavior and drinking has picked more. So consequentially, this behavior has landed him in jail again!! And the cycle goes on…..Unless a person has their mind made up to stop drinking they will always have a battle and struggle with this, with all the chaos this world is in anyone with alcohol or drug addiction will only get worse….At the end of the road now he has to sink or swim!!

  • syfa

    Hello
    I am not sure why I am posting here. I suppose its because I am feeling quite desparate.
    The night before last I was on a date with a man that I had been out with a number of times. Very nice man and I thought that we had a good chance of having a relationship.
    The night before last I went to his house, we had a really nice evening, dinner dirnks. All was well. In the middle of the night he started beating me. I have a black eye, cuts in my mouth, bruises all over me. I just can’t believe this happened. Was it an alcohol induced black out? Will it happen again? I have the feeling that it was all a bad dream. of course it wasn’t, I have the bruises to prove it…

  • Hi Syfa,

    What happened to you has nothing whatever to do with a blackout. The alcoholic blackout is not remembering the next day what he consciously did the night before while drinking.

    Will it happen again? Not unless you come into contact with him again.

    What you describe sounds like an abusive, predatory misogynist whose defenses were weakened enough by drink that the real him came out. They can be charming.

    I do hope you reported him to the police. He is probably know to them for other cases of violence against women.

  • syfa

    Thank you for your prompt and insightful response Dr. Neil
    He claims that he doesn’t remember anything. Of course I am not so sure that, were roles reversed, that I wouldn’t say the same thing. I did call the police. Although, I hate to admit it: I feel that I need some answers? Nothing like this has ever happened to me. And I can’t understand what could have provoked such an attack.
    I have no intentions of seeing him again. Its disturbing to me that I am having trouble letting it go to just very bad judgment (on my part). I should have never put myself into that situation. But, I never saw it coming..
    Please warn your female readers that this can happen to anyone.
    With Warmest Regards
    Syfa

  • syfa

    Dr. Neil
    Thank you for your response.
    Of course he claims that he does not remember anything. So, if it was indeed a “blackout”…
    Its interesting that I feel that I have so many unanswered questions. I am 44 years old and nothing like this has ever happened to me. I cannot even fathom what could have provoked such an attack? And for some reason I have this “sick need” to know. I have no intentions of ever seeing him again and doubt very much that he will contact me. I guess I am desparate with wanting to know why? I have had moments of anger when I have drunk too much, but, always with someone I was emotionally invested in. Not someone with whom I had just me, and liked? This seems so….sick to me…..that a man would just randomly start beating a woman.
    Anyway, again, thank you for your insight.
    With Warmest Regards,
    Daley

  • Hi Syfa,

    You have done a better job than I could have in warning my “female readers that this can happen to anyone.” Thank you.

    Your need to know is normal, but dangerous. He’s not there to examine, thank God, so all you have is you. The risk is that if you spend enough time looking for an explanation within yourself you may come to suspect you actually caused his attack. You did use the word “triggered” which has a feeling of cause. However, each of us is responsible for our own triggers. The trigger for his violent attack might have been something as simple as your having breasts; that doesn’t mean you caused anything. There are some beasts out there.

    Glad you’re OK.

  • joanna

    i have spent a couple years now trying to figure out why blackouts happen, what happens to your brain when they do, and if there’s a way to control them. i have tried drinking only beer and wine, counting cocktails, watching pours, only drinking after eating, hypnosis, therapy, reading self help books and personal accounts. all my tricks have worked to some degree but every once in awhile it happens anyway… regardless of my efforts. 9 times out of 10 i have only a drink or two and then stop but then it’s like a form of amnesia in and of itself. i just need to “let loose”, “be spontaneous”, whatever. i forget that i can’t drink like my friends can. therefore i’ve decided that i can’t beat this. it’s very intimidating for me to try and stop drinking entirely. i work in restaurants, love good wine… my whole social circle revolves around getting together and drinking. i’m trying to change my perception of what “having a good time” really is. it used to be i could drink as much as i wanted and be ok. that changed way back but my brain thinks i can still be like that even though i can’t. i know it’s possible to change this perception as i have done this with other addictions. this one seems the hardest though even though it’s caused me the most pain. i, like others here, have done incredibly stupid things while in a blackout. i’ve put my own integrity on the line and now live with a tremendous amount of personal shame and fear. although relatively minor, my indiscretions while blacked out have forced me to lie to my love and my friends and hide secrets i’m terrified will come to light some day. i can’t sleep half the time and suffer from chronic anxiety. and yet. after my shift that glass of wine is so inviting….

  • Thank you for you honest and heartfelt comments. You draw attention to the fact that drinking has positive effects, not just negative ones. That’s in part why it’s so hard to quit when everything else in our lives says we must quit. Once you do, your brain will gradually heal itself and you won’t care if others are drinking around you. I have a daughter who has worked in the hospitality industry for many years as a server or bartender. She’s good at what she does and has always been a high tip earner. But she doesn’t drink.

  • Syfa

    Hello
    Well its been 30 days since this happened. Today there was an email in my inbox with a “heartfelt” apology. Can you truly be sorry for something you can’t remember? Or do these people continue to drink and do the same things over and over…?

  • Dear Syfa,

    Mostly the latter; they “continue to drink and do the same things over and over.”

    The apology is for your getting hurt, not for his behavior. He can’t do anything about his behavior until he has left the alcohol completely behind…probably for a few years.

    If you haven’t done so already, don’t respond to the email; it will just encourage him. He will interpret any response, even a hostile response, as an expression of your interest in him.

    Best wishes, Syfa.

  • Emma

    Hi Dr Neill Neill,
    I was in a relationship for four years. I loved my boyfriend so much, and still do. When we first started going out, i noticed that he liked the odd drink, and thought it was strange that he would always be up at the bar asking for the next one. But our relationship was happy and healthy, the drinking was not a problem until he started college. He would get completely wasted, and there were a few times when I did not recognize him. He was rude towards me, and would try and sneak drinks without me seeing, then get defensive when i asked how many he had had. I have never had a problem with alcohol, I could take it or leave it. He called me one morning in tears- he couldn’t remember most of the night, and had a few people tell him what an idiot he was. From that day he gave it up, and Ive supported him nonstop, I didn’t drink around him and I tried to make him talk about his attitudes so it wouldn’t be a problem.

    Unfortunately, after a few great months together with no alcolhol, I found out that he had a blackout one night (6 months prior) while he was still drinking, and all he remebers is being face to face with a girl at a house party, and going into a bedroom with her. He woke up the next morning on a couch in a strangers house, and a man who he had never seen before took him to work, also told him he had had sex with the girl. He has sworn blind that he does not remeber this girl, who she is, if he used protection,etc. Although he does say he found an empty condom wrapper in his wallet the next day. So he did. I broke up with him straight away, even though I love him.

    I still cant comprehend how it is possible for a man to be so drunk that he can get it up, have sex, and wake up not remembering anything. This is the main reason that I cannot forgive him, because I cannot see how he could blackout actually initiating and having sex with someone else. He would never do this sober, we were in a really healthy relationship and talking marriage,etc. He says that he did not tell me afterwords because he convinced himself that he didn’t do it.

    What angers me is that he continued his drinking after this incident (which at the time I had no idea about) for quite a few months afterward. However, now, even after we broke up, he has remained sober, and has been for about 5 months now. He says he even wants to write books, etc about the dangers of alcohol.

    Do u believe it is possible for him to have a true, whole blackout of doing this? He does remember fragments, which makes me question whether he also remembers having sex with her, but he is just not telling me. Any advice would be so appreciated, I am so confused and depressed about this, because I don’t know what to believe, and in my heart I want to be with him.

  • Hello Emma,

    He may well not remember “the girl” or having sex with her. The brain damage from repeated alcohol abuse, it seems, interferes with the brain’s storage of events in memory. However, at the time of the incident he was fully aware of what he was doing and what his intentions were. His inhibitions were probably lowered because he was intoxicated, but he knew what he was doing at the time.

    Good for him that he has stopped drinking. I hope he stays alcohol free. If he does drink again, it will probably take a lot less alcohol than it used to become intoxicated. He needs to get his life together, to plan a future in a way that makes alcohol irrelevant. I would suggest he not even test having a drink for 5 years, and then very carefully.

    The reality is that alcohol is always around. If your reality is that have a drink with dinner is normal, continue even if he’s there. That’s what he needs to learn to handle. He also need to learn to be able to go to a party or to a bar with friends and not drink. When that is no longer a big deal for him, and he no longer has to be vigilant, he has probably recovered. You need to examine what you want too. Do you want to be married to a man who can’t drink at all?

    Best wishes to both of you

  • Susan

    Hi,
    I’m 46 and have drank ever since I could remember honestly. I stand 5’2 and could easily drink 12 beers and have no problems walking or talking. But in the past few months I have suddenly began blacking out and with as little as a few beers. I’m told I function well but I’m easy to upset and go off cursing and pushing and such. I remember nothing, I mean nothing! I’ve had a very hard time dealing with the fact that if I drink this will happen. Why would it suddenly come on like that? Could it possibly be a true medical problem affected by drinking that can induce this problem suddenly?

  • Hi Susan,

    I can’t answer from a medical point of view, but I have seen this many times. It seems the accumulated brain damage creeps up and the blackouts begin, and after it reaches that point it often takes very little alcohol to prevent the brain from storing the memory of what you did consciously and willingly while you were drinking. That’s a blackout. The good news is that over time with no alcohol…perhaps a few years…the brain can heal itself. There is no evidence that I’m aware of to say just how long it will take or how complete the healing will be.

    The bottom line is that you’ll require a major lifestyle change if want to eliminate blackouts and reclaim your life. See http://overcomealcoholismpermanently.com

  • Rachel

    You don’t have any idea about that which you speak. While proximity allows some knowledge of actually being blacked out, you ain’t us. And I would advise you to point your vicarious stupid nose elsewhere.

  • I think you have it turned around. If you have direct experience with blackouts, you couldn’t possibly know what goes on in a blackout, because you can’t remember.

  • Ty

    You have obviously not been there yourself!! Well I have
    And wish it on no one!! It is a terrible thing to go
    Through. I wish I could say I have never been through
    Something so confusing and scary!! I am different to your friend
    Unfortunately I did not do as you’re friend did!!!
    If he even exists????

  • Hello Ty,

    No, I haven’t experienced the confusion and fear of not remembering what I did while drinking, consciously or unconsciously, under control or out of control. That’s probably because I quit drinking before the brain damage had progressed to that degree.

    We do have different understandings based on different experiences. You know what it’s like to have gaps in memory. I know what its like to talk with drinkers who are under full conscious control of what they are doing, or full conscious awareness of the fact that they don’t care that someone thinks they shouldn’t drive in their condition and then consciously get behind the wheel. When these same drinkers predictably can’t remember any of this the next day, some are embarrassed and confused. And a few, only a few, pull the “alcoholic blackout’ card to justify the bad behavior they can’t remember, but consciously chose to indulge in the night before. My hope is the courts and judges eventually will wise up to what I believe is a clever defense attorneys’ ploy.

    I am hurt by your cynical suggestion that the friend I refer to is fictional. S. died as a passenger in a single vehicle accident in 1998. The driver and the only other passenger were also killed. I had the difficult task of accompanying the police as we visited their families with the news in the middle of the night. The whole community mourned their deaths and people traveled for miles around to attend the funerals. The world had lost a talented artist/carver. He was doing a carving for me at the time of his death. I have only the memory.

  • Surrya

    I am an alcoholic. I have had blackouts, they are not done on purpose. I fight drink. I cannot remember anything in a blackout, it scares the hell out of me, and it is not an excuse for bad behavior. I do not behave badly, I just get ill and have to go to bed.

    Alcohol is now the second biggest killer in the UK, it is now recognized as a decease, for those who are ignorant, look it up on Google and stop criticizing. Alcohol has made my life miserable, and for the person who said just stop drinking, well I have been advised by the hospital that is a dangerous practice. So get your facts right before you preach about something you know nothing off!!

  • Dear Surrya,

    Your experience with alcoholic blackouts is more typical–no bad behaviour, just can’t remember–than the minority who behave badly when drinking. Blackouts are not intentional.

    And you are quite right to recognize that just stopping drinking can be dangerous. Some can do it without harm, a few risk death. The problem is there is no way of knowing in advance who will be at risk. Although the first step in overcoming alcoholism is stopping drinking, I always recommend a detox centre, a hospital or some sort of medical supervision for the actual withdrawal process.

    Withdrawal is the first step in the process of recovering from alcoholism for good. In my experience it’s achievable, but many hold onto the old belief that it’s a permanent condition.

  • Tee

    Hi Dr!
    I totally agree with you that alcoholism is not a disease. And you can be cured! If you heal the psychological reasons for wanting to ‘drown your sorrows’ that “need” is no longer there.

    However, that is not why I am writing. My history & my story are quite convoluted … I would love to be able to provide more detail in a non-public manner.

    My question is: Could someone molest a child while drunk, have alcohol-induced-amnesia, and pass a polygraph?

    If you have any information, sources, or anything you can point to for help it would be SO greatly appreciated!

    Cheers!
    Tee

  • Chanti

    Dr. neill ,
    have you ever drank so much to the point that you have blacked out? If not you have no right to judge. Why don’t you grab a bottle of Hennessy and drink it until you blackout.
    Then you can tell me how you felt the next morning and if you remember anything and maybe then you would be able to write a more credible article.

  • Josh

    I had a black out just afew days ago. I woke up in my bed, not knowing how I got there. I have blacked out before so I started to check my body out and yes I did hurt my self and I just laid in bed tile my girl friend came home from work, to ask WHAT DID I DO, and are you OK….lets just say she had a bad night. I can only remember having afew drinks/shots and that is all, every thing is gone. For the life of me I cant remember anything and that is scary as to me. What if I hurt or kill some one… The way Im feeling right now is to not drink, that is the only treatment, that I can see. From what I read, the black outs only get worse and more frequent, the longer we drink. We are all looking for answers and Im glad DR. Neill is here. Although he has never had a black out and is not an alcoholic do not exclude him from suffering like the rest of us. I truly dont want to belong to the BLACKOUT CLUB but here Im am….

  • SLT

    One of the scariest nights that I can barely remember happened to me 3 nights ago. One minute I was in the restroom perfectly fine, had just consumed maybe 3 or 4 shots of gin and the next thing I remember is was almost like quiet calm air blowing my body is moving I’m cussing and screaming but I couldn’t hear myself! I remember looking at the dresser in my room and making an action to knock it over but I never felt myself touch it or I never heard or saw it fall. I remember looking at my radio and speakers and making an action to knock it over but I didn’t feel the radio and I never heard it hit the floor and I never saw it on the floor. I remember someone saying your bleeding and i ran and looked in the mirror and blood was gushing down my neck but I didn’t feel any pain or know where I was hurt or by who or what. Then I remember waking up in a parking lot, no phone, no shirt, and Next I remember being back at home no shirt trying to get in, my husband had locked me out….at some point I got in don’t ask how because I don’t remember.

    Next memory looking back at my husband in the rear view mirror as i drove away and heard a rock hit my window!!! For a second brief moment of clarity, I thought to myself he must really be pissed at me wtf did I do?? After staying at a hotel a couple nights all I was imaging was the action I used to knock over my dresser and radio but why didn’t it fall why didn’t I trip over something how was I getting around the room so fast and easy so I must have just imagined that part my room isn’t that big. Now I fell the pain I see bruises I see a gash in my head cuts above my lip.. scared and out of pure humiliation and disappointment within myself I got up the strength to call. My husband said I broke or fractured his leg, broke the T.V., The dresser, the radio blood was all over the carpet shower curtains, couches everywhere. Today is day 3 and it will be my first day back to see the havoc that I’ve caused for my husband and my children.

    This was the first time anything like this ever happened to me and it is very out of character for me and I would give anything if it were all a nightmare but I’m wearing the scares to prove it wasn’t. That’s all for me, No more alcohol period, that was like nothing I could ever imagine just scary. And all I can think about as I sit here at work is what if one day my husband blacks out, I wouldn’t stand a chance!! Stay safe and blessed!! Oh- and by the way I could very well be in jail today. There was no sign, no sick feeling, no throwing up, no nothing..I was fine now I’m not!!!

  • RR Simmons

    In my experience, memory black-outs can happen without alcohol consumption. Rage blackouts and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD) blackouts also exist causing memory loss. Fugue states exist. If a person lets down his/her guard against Evil by polluting their psyche, Evil can influence a person so extremely that he also is a victim. Anyone that experiences frequent black-outs should be alarmed, because for some it is as if a separate entity is in charge of his mind and body. Be aware Evil exist. Therefore, each case should be considered individually.

  • Keisha

    I am age 12 and my dad is an alcoholic and he does have blackouts. Last week my dad and I went to Costco. On the way there I was telling my dad that a friend of ours had gotten back from a trip and he had called.And just in the car I had to repeat the story 4 times. Then when we got to Costco I had to tell him about it again. Then on the ride home I had to tell it to him another 3 times.So by the time we had gotten home I had told him the story at least 8 times. Again my mom had to tell it to him 2 more times. Together it was a total of 10 times we had to tell him about the phone call. I had told my mom what had gone on and she said it was called a blackout. A couple days later my mom mentioned about our friend getting back home and calling us but my dad had no idea that he had even called, even though My mom and I had told him in total 10 times that a couple days ago.
    I figured that my dad drinks 8 to 10 beers a day. How do I know when he is on black out?

  • Dear Keisha,

    You can’t tell, and nor can he. With alcohol his brain cannot create and store memory. That’s why he doesn’t remember.

  • Jackie

    I love to drink red wine. I enjoy the relaxed buzz. I generally drink the entire bottle once it’s opened. Last night, I had 1/2 a bottle, then opened another. I knew I had to drive. I had to pick up my daughter. I finished the bottle, and drove to get her. Something snapped in me, and I got angry with her, even though she did nothing really wrong. I lost about 5 minutes of the evening, not the whole evening. not the first time, either.
    I know I have a problem. I have to pay attention. Compounded by ADHD, and the lack of STOP signs in my head are causing me stress, pain, and problems. Reading this blog is helping me think about me decision to drink more than I should, and the impact my alcohol use has on my daughter. Thank you all for your stories and honesty.

  • Dale

    I agree with every comment that you actually have no idea what you are talking about, although you are a recovering alcoholic or had abused alcohol and have observed people while in a alcoholic En bloc Blackout.. you still have no idea and i urge, i really really urge anyone that reads this for the benefit of there love one who has hurt them threw a full En Bloc Blackout not to lisern to your views.

    You are correct, and i agree that anyone who knows they are prone to having full En Bloc blackouts should be accountable for there actions in law like anyone else who is drunk, they took the step to take that first drink and should be accountable.

    How ever Mr Dr…..

    I am 21 years of age, im not a social person i do NOT go out to pubs infact ive probably been the pub 9 times in the last 2years… i do not go out to clubs because i would much prefer a quiet drink with friends and family and have meaningful conversations.

    I USED to drink 4 cans every saturday cuddled up with my beautiful girlfriend on the settee watching tele and having a laugh.

    This never caused a En Bloc Blackout because i was only drinking 4 cans of carling slowly.

    How ever. . . now and again we would be invited to a party or have a house party, or i would be invited to the pub by friends to watch a england match or something once in a blue moon.

    And when i did, thats when the problems came… i am known to people as a sensative , caring , loving guy who would do anything for my girlfriend and have very very strong views to not hurt her at all emotionally or physically, infact i feel that strong about it that i once witnessed my best friend from childhood and even got babysitted together… hit his girlfriend without a En Bloc Blackout or a Blackout of any kind ( had nothing to drink that day )

    and i have never spoke to him since. . .

    But as i was saying when i did start drinking at party’s or the pub once in a blue moon everyone would be drinking alot of shots and spirits…. but i dont like how spirits taste, and even if i have 1 shot of vodka as my first drink of the day. i will throw up because of the taste…

    so i was on cans mainly at partys, maybe 4.5% proof at max, and my experience is that you cannot controll how much you drink when you suffer from En Bloc Blackouts, so after 5 cans or more i would have a full En Bloc Blackout and say and do things that is the 100% opposite of my normal self or even drunken self… ive been told when i dont have a En Bloc Blackout that i was a funny happy drunk by many many people

    But when i did have a En Bloc Blackout it couldnt be further from the truth, i have said some hateful things to the people i love and cherish, done terrible things, woke up in jail with blood on my knuckles not knowing who i have hit or what i have done and when i did have enough courage to face the facts i would ask people what i did , the usually response was.

    ” I donno mate, you seemed fine we were having a good laugh having a great time you kept telling the same stories over and over though lolz which we found quite funny, but you didnt seem that drunk, you were walking around and talking fine then all of a sudden you fliped out started giving people alot of abuse including your lady, it was bloody surreal lol ive known you for years and it was like a completely different person.”

    When i woke up with blood on my knuckles i was terrified of who i might of hit, i asked the police before my interview and was told i punched a bouncer at a local pub, Im a quite small guy. . im only 21 the bouncer was in his late 30′s and built like a house. . it is so out of character that even though i could not remember, The police man had been to the bouncers house in the morning before i woke up to get a statement of what happend, and while the police man was driving me home that morning after i had been released i asked him if he would take me to the bouncers house so i could appolgise, not many people would care enough todo that.

    At the time i had no idea it was a blackout. . i thought it was quite normal if someone drank to much to not remember things, i just began to think i was the devil or something, that i must just be a really hateful person when drunk and that no one i knew sufferd from these problems so i thought i was the only person in the world and thought i was pure evil to the point where i absolutely hated my self for the things that i have said and done.

    But once i did do my research, i did my god damn research unlike you. . every study that has been done has indicated that when someone is in a En Bloc Blackout they can only recall upto 5 minutes anything longer is lost, this gives people the ability to still be able carry out complex conversations , drive a car and do many many other tasks… The short term memory is still completely fine, but the ability to carry the short term memorys into a long term memory is Blocked…

    There has also been studies done that all suggest a person in a En Bloc Blackout will act on impulse no matter if it is right or wrong, you are in a full concious state, but have no controll over your impulses todo something. .

    Every thought about hiting a mate because he has said something wrong to you, but ofcourse you shrug that comment off and instead just say ” shut up you idiot lol ”

    well you wouldnt be able to shrug that comment off, the moment the thought of hiting him comes into your head while suffering from a En Bloc Blackout you wouldnt think twice about it, you would just hit him.

    So Mr Dr, when you have read this i want you togo out in the world and record everything that you think in your head, see a beautiful blonde walking down the street ( Doctors head, Damn i would love to shag her. . )

    See that guy doing something stupid ( Doctors head, you stupid idiot ) damn you just called a guy you dont know a idiot. .

    A En Bloc Blackout should never be taken lightly, and those who are prone to them should give up drinking, you cannot controll it, you may think i will just cut down and have only 2 beers, then you think … well i feel fine, maybe just one more, then hmm im still fine. . im having a good time having a laugh, so you carry on drinking with you friends, little did you know after the 3rd drink you could of been in a En Bloc Blackout stage and have had no control to stop drinking.

    i tried to cut down, i only drank beer anyway so spirits wernt my problem, tried to cut down but it just doesnt work you may not have a black out for months because of cutting down but it only takes that one time to ruin your life, since i have stoped drinking i still go to partys… and trust me, its alot more fun watching your friends make fools of them selves and having a laugh without been the one to ruin the event.

    anyway doctor, i applaud your efforts into imcreasing the amount of people to know about Alcoholic Fragmentary and En Bloc Blackouts, but for people who want the real truth if someone had control or not, do not lisern to my comment, do not lisern to the doctors comments, but lisern to the research that people have already done on hundreds of people Prone to Blackouts, and research from scientists ect . . .

  • Dale, you draw attention to a number of import things about alcoholic blackouts, so I have highlighted them in your comments. I think we agree on most points, including your recommendation to not just accept my comments at face value, but do your research. And above all, take blackouts seriously.

  • tanduay blues

    hi, i drink a lot during my college years. for 4 years of my life i had no moments when i was sober. Before almost all my friends says im the king of drinkers because I could drink a 1 liter bottle of rhum and still sane, i didnt experienced blackout then. But after few years later I drink 2 liters of beer then i blackout. I do things im so ashamed of. In fact i killed someone in a car accident because i was driving and fallen a sleep. Sometimes I wake up sleeping in the streets, sometimes I got into fight and dont know why, or what wronged i’ve done. All my friends were lost. Now i’m all by myself. I wish I could turn back the moment when I had my first beer. Thank you…

  • chronic

    You really are off base on this.
    From personal experience, blackouts happen and yes – you remember NOTHING.

    I am in AA – I am accountable for what I do. Believe me, if someone were to ask me if this was just a cover up for a bad decision / choice, etc. I would JUMP at the chance because then at least I could have some peace in my soul. remembering what occurred.

    Please do not be so hard to judge. I can see where you are coming from. Yes, the boyfriend that cheated on the girlfriend and conveniently told her he blacked out because he does not want to face the consequences.

    But – if you know of anyone like me, who almost hurt the one thing in her life that keeps her going – you would honestly know, I would NEVER do that. And if I did – I would admit it.

    I am glad you have never experienced this doctor. These truly are terrifying. It’s like some ‘thing’ switches off your mind, and your body keeps going. The only reason I knew that I had blacked out that night is that I woke up – and he didn’t. Not until he was in the hospital on the second day. Try to answer the doctor’s questions – HONESTLY answer them – and there is no shred of memory ANYWHERE to draw from. The only pieces that I can put together is from the victim.

    No – I don’t wish this on anyone. This – this is a curse. I know a lot of people will say, ‘easy – just don’t drink.’. It’s not always that easy…….

    If you were to ask me? It’s my personal hell – now, I go through life, just begging god, praying, trying to remember what happened. I’ve gone to AA, group therapy, individual therapy. Still – no one can help me get that chunk of my memory back.

    You always think that this will happen to someone else and never happen to you. I thought that too. I used to wish that – and now I accept this is the lot I have drawn in life. My question will never be answered – and he is healthy with no lasting effects from that night.

  • Kaitlyn

    I was dating this boy who has been drinking excessively for years. He drinks every night, and it only takes him two nights to kill an entire bottle of Vodka. We have dated in the past, and we would drink casually, and enjoy ourselves. Some mornings he would wake up, and not remember a few trivial things, from the night before. Small things, like where his clothes went, or how he got to bed. We dated, recently, for a few months. We would drink fairly often, and I would nag at him, a bit, to slow down or drink less. He would forget things that he said to me, and it would leave us on completely different levels.

    We broke up, but decided that I would stay here, for a while longer, and continue to pay rent. We broke up because he got an opportunity with a girl that he has been waiting six years for. After that, the blackouts started. Small things would set him off. If I said no to him, that was unacceptable. He would not take no for an answer. He blacked out three nights, in a row. Each night, worse than the one before. He would forget hours at a time. When he blacked out, he became an entire different being. He did things that would never cross his mind, sober. The first night, he attacked me. The next morning, he found me curled up, asleep, in the closet. I fell asleep, while hiding from him. He woke me up, and started asking where the marks andd bruises had come from. As I told him the events, from the night before, he put his head in his hands and he cried. He apologized over and over, and said he couldn’t believe that he was physically capable of doing the things I described. The second black out night, he disassociated himself. He began telling me that ‘they’ wanted him to hurt me. I couldn’t fight him off of me. More bruises. More burns. More bite marks. A concussion. The next morning, he had no idea what had happened the night before. The third blackout night, was the last one that I stayed for. He warned me, before he started drinking. He told me that if he got to that point, to go into his room, with the keys, lock the door, and not to open it until the next morning. When I noticed him slipping away from himself, he smiled. He started laughing and he told me that ‘they’ wanted me dead. I ran to his room, only to find that the lock had been broken. I pressed myself against the door, but he was so much stronger than I was. He threw me down, and held a knife to my throat. I screamed, and kicked him. When I slid out of his grasp, I ran to the bathroom, and locked the door. I was pressed against it, should he try to break it down. Then the knife came through the door, inches from my head. He stabbed the door, over and over. He told me that it was time to say goodbye. I frantically called 911, and they were there in just minutes. He calmed himself down and cooperated with them. I lied and said that he didn’t hurt me, that I was just afraid. I understood that he had no control over his actions. The police told me to leave for the night, so I went out to my car, and cried. Thirty minutes later, he came out to my car, and invited me in, to get my things. I had gotten almost all of my things out, and I heard him shut and lock the door. He choked me, and said that I should have listened and left while I still had a chance to live. Another concussion. He started kicking me, and spitting on me. He called me terrible names. One more blow, and I blacked out. When I woke up, I was out in the hallway, and someone was asking if I needed an ambulance. He had dragged my lifeless body out of the apartment, and left me there. The next night he started calling and texting me excessively. I could physically read the changes he was going through. He started with extreme guilt. He tried to bargain with me, telling me to hurt him. Later on, in the night, it changed. He told me to send some boys over, because it was so boring, now that I was gone and he couldn’t hurt me. He said that ‘they’ liked him, more than me, and that ‘they’ would save him from any harm.

    He put me through hell, and he cannot remember any of it. We have talked about it, since then, and he says that he sometimes gets glimpses of the things that happened. He said it is as though he is watching them happen, and there is nothing he can do to change it. That is what brought me here. I’ve been doing a lot of research on the things that he went through, and I think I have found what I was looking for, in the replies to this article. I think part of the blacking out, is to repress the memories that he would not be able to live with. The Docor Jekyll/Mister Hyde type thing. The only thing that can make him stop, is if he stops drinking. I don’t think that will happen, for a very long time.

  • Ggalley

    Blackouts are a serious issue. I’ve been drinking since I was 14, by the age of 28 I had to check into AA. After 3 yes sober I decided I had everything under control. Wrong. For 5 years I’ve been attempting to control my drinking but as soon as Something goes wrong, I hit that wall. I’m 36 now and for the last six months have been experiencing blackouts at least once a week. My tolerance used to be very high, now my body is completely out of whack and I can have a few drinks and a couple shots and not remember most of the evening, let alone how or when I got home. I’ve had sex with people I’m not remotely attracted to when sober, I’ve had neighbors break down my door to let me in my apt because I couldn’t figure out how to use my key, I’ve given myself concussions, woken up with bruises all over my body just to mention a few incidents…AND REMEMBER NOTHiNG. I have no control anymore, I just had to admit it and do something about it. I’ve been sober 7 days and am thankful that I will never have to have that terrifying feeling of not knowing what happened the night before. Abstinence is the only answer. I don’t know how to sip on a couple drinks,nits not how I drink. And if I pick up that first drink I will always eventually lose control over my life. I don’t want that, I don’t want to be a danger to myself or anyone else for that matter. If you have a drinking problem (and the answer is Yes if you are experiencing regular en bloc blackout) then do the responsible thing and QUIT drinking NOW.

  • Katya

    I too suffer from blackouts, which causes me EXTREME anxiety the day after drinking. I typically only drink once a week, but when I do, I usually consume quite a bit (even when I tell myself I’ll only have a few) and can’t remember ANYTHING. Seriously, not one single thing, which causes severe anxiety and depression the next day wondering what I did or said to people (like, I’ll see that I called everyone I know and have no idea what i was saying to them). My husband also has the same blackout issue, so it’s really bad because he can’t say what happened the night before either.

    We went out with my coworkers last night. I can’t remember what I said, and we ended up driving home drunk (which i didn’t realize until this morning when I looked out and saw my car in the driveway). I think at this point, the only option is for us to stop drinking, before something really bad happens. I also have a family history of drinking (both of my parents, my dads parents, and my moms dad were ALL alcoholics, my husband has NO family history yet has the same issues as me). I want to nip this in the bud before it takes over any more days…

  • I wasted a major portion of my life trying to overcome the horrors of alcoholism, just to find out that I was medicating myself for other mental illnesses. So when AA said things should be getting better, I was getting more anxiety, suicidal,and dysfunctional. I read a book by Terrence Gorski, who explains the problem with dual diagnosis. I wasn’t just a drunk. It was masking some very serious mental illnesses, which led me to do some violent acts, and very antisocial behaviour.

    Sometime we can’t see our problems until the alcohol stops for a year or a year and a half. Dual diagnosis sucks, cause when I followed AA 12 steps, things got better because I didn’t drink,; but I got suicidal, extreme anger issues, violent, flash backs from childhood sexual abuse. The world of alcoholism and mental illness. Make no mistake alcoholism is a mental illness in and of itself, when compoundeded with other psych issues it can end up in prison for life, suicide or some form of institution. This is no joke, prepare to work harder than you ever have in your life. I have 5 years clean and sober now, and haven’t erupted socially in a couple years. I thank myself for a lot of hard work. God did nothing .

  • Piper 23/20

    Hi Dr. Neill,
    First, your poignant approach to this topic obviously comes from experience, education, and from loving someone who suffers(ed) from blackouts. Reading the many posts and reactions leaves me encouraged and troubled. The comments that abuse you seem to be from those still suffering from blackouts and are perhaps acting out of their own fear?

    I live with someone who has slid down the slippery slope of alcoholism and has experienced blackouts on many occasions. From my experience as the sober individual, this person is aware of right and wrong as you say, and will make different choices accordingly. However, it is impossible to reason with this person; the mind has an inflated way of justifying its own reality. Once an interest (whether sane or not – my opinion) has been established, this person will persevere until they get done, or do what ever is on their mind. All justifications are made – from my perception, with the self-centered arrogance that alcohol provides (along with inflated ego and invincibility). It is heart wrenching to watch someone slide down and down.

    This being said, I also do not think there is any excuse either. What I read from many of your readers here is a form of denial on how bad their drinking, or their loved ones drinking is. It is my responsibility to inform my spouse of their behaviour while drinking; to discuss what occurs during a blackout. My spouse knows that when the first drink is taken; the likelihood of a blackout will occur, and with it, madness and mayhem. Therefore, my spouse knows that when the first decision to take a drink occurs, disaster may strike. That initial decision is a sober, conscious decision – the fallout is anticipated.

    My spouse is responsible for the decision to drink or not and the decision to get help or not. This, in my opinion, does not absolve my spouse of any actions that may happen during a blackout. Anyway, this all being said, denial runs very deep, and alcohol is an insidious disease that affects not only the drinker. The fact that you use the word ‘recovered’ resonates strongly with me, as I do believe we are not stuck under a label forever. Getting to that place of ‘recovered’ is a choice.
    Piper 23/20

  • Anon

    Dr. Neill Neill,

    I am 30 and have been a binge drinker since my teens. I usually drink every day and the last couple of years I’ve been getting much worse, as a result the strain on my mental and physical health is starting to tell.

    In December I stayed sober for 2 weeks (which I can only describe as a magical time), but then fell straight back into my usual dysfunctional patterns as soon as the Christmas holidays began.

    I can’t remember much of what has happened to me during the last 10 days, but I do know that right now I feel horribly guilty, depressed and physically run down.

    The blackouts are the most frightening part of it all, I often get that wasted I’ve no recollection of what I’ve been doing or why. I do know that in the past I’ve stolen from and lied to my friends and family, driven drunk, fallen head first out of a window, ruined a few relationships and generally screwed my life up – all of which I’m very ashamed of.

    I’m sure you know, here in the UK drinking is a big part of life and also a big problem. Alcohol and it’s consequences are everywhere I turn, all my friends drink, I find it very very hard to stay away.

    I am a very depressed person who desperately wants to quit. I share your views on the shortcomings of AA, and I don’t believe in a god, so I doubt that would work for me – although it might be worth a try.

    Can you please give me any other advice on how I will beat this addiction?

  • Lu

    Dr. Neill appreciates your comments and how you all help one another! He is very grateful to provide this forum and all the feedback he receives! However, Dr. Neill is not able to give advice in this public forum. If you need his help, please refer to his consultations page: http://www.neillneill.com/consultations. He uses Skype or telephone to make consulting more convenient.

  • judith

    I was in, what I thought was a loving relationship with a man I thought I knew, felt he was my soul-mate- definitely was my best friend. He drinks light beer, but when he is with his friends..drinking 8 to 10 happens too often. He has talked about Black Out episodes in the past. One month ago he walked home from across the street where he and some friends had been drinking. He seemed a bit tipsy but lucid enough to walk in the house, tell me all the things they were talking about, his opinions on the subjects, etc. Then we retired to our bedroom and talked about our future-he was just as sweet as can be. I fall asleep, wake up 1/2 hour later, walk into my daughter’s room (24 year old Down Syndrome, mostly non-verbal) …I find him allegedly asleep, face-down on top of her, fully clothed, blankets in between them. I screamed at him, pulled him to the floor, locked him out of the house immediately and called the police. He claims to not remember anything. His immediate reaction was anger. Never apologizing, never “owning” what he did. Maintaining he doesn’t remember, even though he was lucid just before. The police reported it as a domestic dispute, not an assault. My word against his-and the victim isn’t talking. Alcoholic Blackout or a predator of a helpless victim. We left that night, moved away with the help of friends and family.
    -Heart-Broken and Stunned.

  • Monica

    I recently experienced a life-blowing blackout. I had had them many times in my past (I am 41, married, w/2 kids), but this one was the strongest. To make a long story short, I ended up at another mans house. I did not consent to this (or rather, I do not remember consenting to this). When I “came to”, I was panicky scared. I immediately blamed myself w/the “why did I do this?” questions. I felt so dirty and really wanted to kill myself, knowing how I had just fatally damaged my marriage and kids.

    You say that even in an intoxicated state, no matter how strong, we conscientiously make the same moral decisions that we would even if we are sober… although I was unhappy in my marriage, and had opportunities to have an affair, I never did because I respected that promise we made in our wedding vows. So I struggle w/your opinion. Since this blackout event, I have now “seen the Light” and take full responsibility for the disrespect I have shown my husband for our whole marriage. I feel the worst about the realization of 16 years lost due to my not-fully-committed heart… but to say that black outs are a lie? I will learn more about that in the intensive outpatient alcohol treatment I enrolled myself into. I didn’t think I had a problem… but this event scared me into the truth.

  • Jenna

    Hi, i stopped reading posts at some point because i simply could not refrain from interjecting. While you may still know the difference between right and wrong while blacked out is unknown. But having the control or consciousness to decide/think/weigh between is not yours!! This is why your friend locked himself up, which by the way i think is amazing! he is very fortunate to have his “auto pilot” make that decision. obviously, my auto pilot (aka BOB for Black Out Bitch) seems to like to do exactly the opposite of what i would decide to do. without the ability to think, or control our thought process, i do not consider us anything but wild animals. What is there to seperate us if not this ability? someone else has control of what you know to be right and wrong. Are you upset with a person who is passed out and didn’t see something or has no idea what happened? Then why do you look at someone who says they blacked out with scepticism instead of excusing them as you did the person who was sleeping? The sad thing is that little to no research has been done on subjects because people (generally speaking) dismiss anything to be said and label them to be alcoholics. Even worse, it makes no or little connection when people tell you what happened because its like hearing a story about someone else being wasted. if you cannot place yourself there with even a glimmer, it doesn’t register the way it should. does anyone who hasn’t exsperienced a blackout stop drinking once reading any stories of them? no, they shake their head or think of it as THAT persons got a problem sort of thing. people are quick to judge and rarely understanding (truely empathizing is damn near impossible)
    Anyway, that being said, i also believe that we are responsible for our actions. i believe that knowing you have this problem and continuing on drinking makes you accountable. i never drink or even think about drinking until i’m out. I love dancing more than i love ANYTHING so this is a problem for me. i have major stage fright which if you met me, you’d never guess. being as i can barely breath after about a week without dancing, i go out about once a week. I cant cypher (center of circle where dancers exibit) even if my life depended on it. even severely intoxicated, i can’t get myself to do it whille all my friends (dancers as well) egg me on to challenge whoever is out there.i’ll barely even bob to the beat without liquor. alcohol helps this by lowering inhebitions.i dance on the sides of the cypher a little but once too much focus of the room is on me, i stop, frozen. i’ve read on another article that blackouts are caused by many things but the highest being “binge drinking”….This makes things so much clearer (for me) most people stop or slow their drinking at some point and as they do they get sick or pass out. I envy them but have to accept that i’m not as fortunate. i’ve heard stories about me dancing in the cypher while blacked out… not dancing well of course but just the fact that i did it, is shocking beyond belief……and scary too since i break a little so i can’t imagine getting inverted while that intoxicated and no one knowing. i refer to her as a bitch because i’ve heard she is demanding of people and bossy(nothing like me)
    this past year, i’ve slowed my consumption because just not knowing and having no control or memory is frightening. right before halloween i had a fall out with my best friend which led to reconcile then binge drinking in celebration or the elation had me not watch myself so carefully. i was really really happy though. and i remember us deciding to leave the club early cause we were just stoked we werent’ fighting anymore but when we got to the car, i didn’t think it was a good idea to drive yet because i was slightly buzzed and not comfortable doing so. so i threw the keys on the passenger floor and we just started talking. (keep in mind that it has taken me 26 years of maturing to even make that sort of decision which i was really proud of). next thing i hear is a sort of thud and panicked conversation. when i can sort of focus, my bestie is outside of my car telling me to try to move the car forward and then back and there is a huge utility pole (cables and such) dangling over my car. i was still processing what was happening while i heard and saw “BOB” respond to him and the officers who arrived and started questioning us. i’ve never been jolted out of a blackout before this and i can’t even begin to explain what it’s like hearing and watching yourself move and speak with no control. the officers asked where i was and when i looked around and guessed the wrong city, they laughed. i still don’t see what’s funny about the driver of the vehicle having no idea of where she is or why she is there. anyway, as i gained control and could really process the scene, i asked the officers to take me in. i was passing the sobriety test they were giving me and i was so ashamed. i couldn’t understand the point. i looked at them and said,” i just took out that pole and could have killed ANYONE of these people watching or MY BEST FRIEND, just take me in” i’m obviously going to pass this test and it’s just embarrassing and i don’t deserve a chance to prove sobriety when i’m anything but.” to make things worse, as they were cuffing me, i heard them talking about my friend being with the medic now and i freaked out. jumped up and started looking for him (still woozy). they refrained me and i didn’t get why i couldn’t see him just to know he was okay. the reply was that i was under arrest….i was shocked because i placed myself under arrest but now they couldn’t let me see him or jsut point me to see that he wasn’t in a body bag. the last we (or he and BOB) spoke, he seemed fine. as they drove me away the “what if’s” really shredded me and i was just completely obliterated. the fact is that i could kill someone or rape or be raped and have no memory or control of it. i allow this possiblity EVERY SINGLE TIME I DRINK because i know that i have this condition. clearly i don’t make the right decisions while blacked out but anytime other than that, i believe i live to moral extent of right vs wrong. with that, i refused a lawyer and am awaiting full punishment. i guess you could say i would feel better “doing my time” hoping it would relieve some of the guilt or remorse that pleagues me. i haven’t had a drink since and it’s not and never has been difficult for me without liquor. but i can’t dance. i have to find another way to overcome this or i might as well be dead anyway. hitting the megabucks couldn’t put me in the euphoric state im in when i lose myself dancing. there is no better high for me, i would know. and not having it is like not being able to breathe. it really hurts to have people look at you like why would you do that…………..you just want to hit them and scream iiiiiiiiiiiiii DIDN’T!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and iiiiiiiiiiiiiii WOULDN’T!!!!!!!!!!!!! having that ability to DECIDE taken from you is what isn’t fair. you knowing it and taking it from yourself is what you should be punished for

  • sam

    Dr. Neill –

    Having a bit of a tough time with this. A couple of months ago my wife went out with some girl friends. Girls night out so to speak. Done many times prior, no big deal, no issues. On this particular night she got a bit too drunk and her friends tucked her into a cab and directed the cabbie to take her home. This was @ 1:30am. It was confirmed (directly with the girls) she was alone in the cab when it drove away. She did not arrive home until 4:am.

    After long discussion/argument trying to unwind the night to no avail, she jumped on the phone with the girls (with me in the room) to get a sense of what happened. They said she was a bit nuts in the bar so they sent her home.

    Further discussions disclosed she blacked out frequently in college and @ times after until about 6 months before we met.

    This is the first evidence I have seen of this. Could have very well happened on occasions we were out together but no big deal

    HERE IS MY ISSUE: In a Cab, NO recollection of 2.5 hours AND no friends around to help put the pieces together.

    At the end of the day my logic is getting the better of me as bars in my town close @ 2:am. Something strange with the cabbie? Got dropped of somewhere else and then???

    Forgive and Forget? Having a tough time on the trust front to say the least since this happened

    Sam

  • Sam

    One last point
    She swears nothing happened as no clothing was “out of place” and from a female body knowledge (so to speak) would have known if something went on. Believable??

  • That Guy...Sometimes....

    Every night I drink a glass of red wine. Sometimes, rarely, two. This has never been a problem for me. However, on occasion I go out and get drunk. It seems every time I do this I wake up clothed with very little recollection of what happened. I remember the first few drinks and then…nothing. I know that it is a simple solution of not drinking in excess anymore.

    On a side note…it really is important that people realize that blackouts are a very real occurrence. From my experience during a blackout you do things you wouldn’t normally do. You lose complete control and act on impulse rather than reason. The impulse to hit or curse out someone is usually suppressed easily, but in a blackout your mind tends to just “go with the flow” so to speak. Suddenly that impulse to go and hit that idiot or tell that woman she is hot even though you are married is suddenly lost. Thankfully I have never, as far as I know, done anything too insane while in a blackout, but I have let down people I care about.

    I used to think that when a person said they didn’t remember because they had drank too much they were simply making it up in order to avoid the consequences of their actions, but this is not the truth. I know that now because I have blacked out.

    I don’t want to be the guy that goes out and tells people that I can’t drink because I won’t remember anything, but I am that guy and I don’t want to suddenly ruin my life. I do enjoy my glass of wine a night though. So, my question is…if I continue to drink one or two glasses of red wine…will that eventually cause me to black out? Is there any evidence that suddenly a little alcohol could cause a blackout?

  • Dear That Guy,

    It is unlikely that one or two glasses of wine will eventually cause blackouts…unless there is further brain damage from ongoing periodic drunks. If you want to go further into the issue of your blackouts, we could arrage a consult.

  • John

    Hello Dr. Neill Neill,

    My friend and I get drunk every so often and he claims the next day that he doesn’t recall a thing that happened last night.

    When you are drunk is your mind conscious at the time of your blacking out? Does he know what he is actually doing while he’s drunk and then just forgets it in the morning when he wakes up?

  • John

    Hello Dr. Neill Neill,

    Are alcohol blackouts and the behavior during a blackout two separate things? Are you are still conscious and fully aware of your actions but not able to store them in your long-term memory? Doesn’t alcohol just reduce your inhibitions and it does not “change” your personality (you just follow instinct and natural impulses) or is it totally different during a blackout?

  • Ken

    Dr. Neill
    I’ve been sober for over 25 yrs and I quit drinking because of the blackout stage happening to me too often. I could control it one way and one way only. Thats by never drinking again. I knew if I didnt quit I could easily kill someone I loved or myself.
    Blackouts are scary as hell when people tell you all the crazy things you done the night before and you have no idea what they are even talking about,you remember the night up untill around 9pm and nothing afterwards. Try to imagine several hours of your night driving through yards, running your car into other cars, outrunning cops, destroying friendships and talking to people rude and you have no idea were your mind was and dont remember any of it. I know I would never do any of these things,”never”.
    As people tell you what all you done that night and the nightmare unfolds before your eyes you know one thing for sure. You could of killed someone and never know how or why.
    That’s scary and I warn anyone that knows someone that “ever” says “I dont remember anything we did last night because I was too drunk”, Run, run as fast and far as you can from that person. Dont ever drink or drug with them because I promise you it may be your last buzz…Most people on death row dont remember committing the crime.

  • Ken

    Here is an excellent research article about alcoholic blackouts:
    http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh27-2/186-196.htm

  • The article cited by Ken explains the science behind the periods of amnesia that intoxicated people often experience–”I don’t remember anything from last night.” The blackout is not about being unaware at the time of the drinking: Quoting from the article: “Interestingly, (intoxicated) people appear able to keep information active in short–term memory for at least a few seconds. As a result, they can often carry on conversations, drive automobiles, and engage in other complicated behaviors. Information pertaining to these events is simply not transferred into long–term storage.”

    Drinkers often confuse their not rmembering with not being aware of what they were doing at the time. Blackouts are about memory gaps. Bad behaviour is about poor judgment and stupidity that often accompanies heavy drinking, whether or not they can remember what they did. The “lie” is using the blackout to avoid responsibility for the actions they don’t remember.

  • Laura

    My sister is a recovering alcoholic. She does not believe that AA has ever worked but does believe that going to church keeps her sober. She also goes to Celebrate Recovery. During one specific period of time a few years ago, my adult daughter lived with my sister and her husband in Las Vegas (I did not know my sister was an alcoholic). My sister subjected my daughter to a lot as a result of her drinking and my daughter eventually moved back to Arizona. Years later, my sister moved to Arizona due to a huge bender she was on. I remember asking my sister if she had gone through all of her steps but she said she hadn’t. My daughter has spoken with my sister and I have spoken with my sister regarding the events that my sister subjected my daughter to as a result of her blackouts. My sister’s position is that she does not have to apologize for anything she doesn’t remember. The ironic thing is my sister is a psychologist.

    Question: What is your position on alcoholics apologizing for events that occurred during blackouts that are not remembered?

  • newguy

    “The blackout is not about being unaware at the time of the drinking. . . . . . Drinkers often confuse their not remembering with not being aware of what they were doing at the time. Blackouts are about memory gaps. Bad behaviour is about poor judgment and stupidity that often accompanies heavy drinking, whether or not they can remember what they did. The “lie” is using the blackout to avoid responsibility for the actions they don’t remember.”

    To summarize, blacking out isn’t about “being unaware”, it’s about making bad decisions and not remembering them. Correct?

    Neill: Not correct: it’s about not remembering afterwards periods of time while drinking. It doesn’t matter whether the behavior was good or bad or neither.

    I disagree. This makes a black-and-white situation out of something that contains many shades of grey.

    It is possible that drinkers who are mildly blacked out (or “browned-out”, if you will) are consciously making decisions. However, at a certain point this goes flying out the window. Being aware implies that you are making decisions, and making decisions implies that you are evaluating options.

    If black-out drinkers were aware of their actions they wouldn’t go peeing on their own belongings. For example, there are countless accounts of people walking up to drawers, desks, refrigerators, etc., and opening them to urinate inside. Are you suggesting that this “bad behavior” is a result of “poor judgment?” I think we can all agree that no amount of poor judgment would convince someone to pee in a refrigerator when there’s a perfectly good toilet steps away. This kind of stuff happens ALL THE TIME. There’s simply no decision making going on and as such there is no awareness.

    The fact of the matter is that these people are operating on autopilot. The lights may be on but there’s no one home. Granted, this is an extreme example, but I’m simply trying to illustrate that this isn’t a black-and-white issue, there are many shades of grey.

    As it has been explained to me, your brain is like an onion. The more you drink the more layers of that onion are stripped away. Psychology would suggest that the basic layers of your brain are the superego, the ego, and the id. The drunker you get the more layers you lose, until, you guessed it . . . pure id. This is the blacked-out drunk who is stumbling around trying to fulfill his basest needs while peeing in refrigerators.

    At a certain point you’re just a drunken fool . . . utterly confused. To the ego there are options which exist, i.e. peeing in the toilet or into the refrigerator. To the id there is just peeing, and autopilot just so happened to take you to the refrigerator. You were very much unaware.

    I’m not suggesting that this is an excuse for peeing in the refrigerator. I’m simply saying that when your roommates ask you “Why the *%&* did you pee in the refrigerator?” The only reasonable answer will be “I’m sorry, I did it because I was black-out drunk.”

    Neill: being very drunk makes some people extremely stupid. If they’re fairly new drinkers, they may even remember their stupid behavior.

    This doesn’t mean you don’t have to take responsibility for your actions, it simply explains them. You made the decision to consume alcohol in an irresponsible fashion. You set loose a lunatic who peed on everyone’s food, so when we get right down to brass tax you’d darn well better be cleaning the fridge and replacing everyone’s food.

    In summation, I disagree that “The blackout is not about being unaware at the time of the drinking”, however I very much agree that “The “lie” is using the blackout to avoid responsibility for the actions they don’t remember.”

    In response to someone like John’s question of “Does alcohol change your personality?” That’s such a subjective question and as I’ve illustrated there’s a huge grey area. That being said, once you’ve hit black-out stages of drunkenness where people do things that make no rational sense I’d say yeah, your personality has changed pretty drastically (ask anyone on here who has an embarrassing black-out story).

    Neill: using the term “blackout stages of drunkenness” implies that anyone can reach that “stage.” It encourages the “lie”.

    So what do you do? Do you forgive them? That’s up to you. I think that being blacked-out is a legitimate reason (reason does not equal excuse) for why something outrageous happened. However, some things can’t be undone i.e. cheating on one’s spouse. The question then is can you forgive them, and what are they going to do to make sure this never happens again?

    Neill: good point!
    IMHO

    Source: http://psychology.about.com/od/theoriesofpersonality/a/personalityelem.htm

  • Dave

    Dr. Neill,

    Is it possible to be an alcoholic who doesn’t necessarily drink every day? I am 26 years old, and never really learned how to socially drink. When I was in high school my friends and I would binge drink to the point of blacking out. This continued throughout college.

    I don’t drink every day. I don’t even usually keep booze in my house. In fact I really only drink 3 or 4 times a month. But it seems that anytime I know that I don’t have anything to do the next day, don’t have to drive home, or am with others who like to binge drink, I will completely black out and act like a complete idiot, ruining my relationships and reputation. So out of the 3 or 4 times I will drink in a month, I will black out 2/3 or 2/4 times. Please Help I am desperate to just be normal!