Not Drinking (Alcohol) Today Podcast

Blackout Drinking!

May 05, 2024 Isabella Ferguson and Meg Webb Episode 80
Blackout Drinking!
Not Drinking (Alcohol) Today Podcast
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Not Drinking (Alcohol) Today Podcast
Blackout Drinking!
May 05, 2024 Episode 80
Isabella Ferguson and Meg Webb

I never imagined that so many special memories in my life would be a blur. The harsh reality of alcohol-induced blackouts left a mark on what should have been some of the clearest and happiest days of my life. Tune in as I, Meg, unravel the harrowing connection between these blackouts and anxiety, and the role they've played in my own journey. It's a stark look at the silent battle many face, as the quest to ease social nerves can lead to moments lost in time and the frightening inability to form memories.

This episode isn't just a personal reflection—it's a broader discussion on the perilous impact of alcohol misuse on society, from the risks of domestic violence to the tough conversations we must have with our loved ones about safe drinking practices. Through my story, and experiences, we explore the importance of  awareness around how and why blackouts occur when it comes to alcohol. If you're grappling with these challenges or know someone who is, this conversation aims to offer a guiding light to those ready to step towards understanding and breaking free from alcohol's grip.

MEG

Megan Webb: https://glassfulfilled.com.au
Instagram: @glassfulfilled
Unwined Bookclub: https://www.alcoholfreedom.com.au/unwinedbookclub
Sober Socialising workshop at Seadrift Distillery: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/confident-and-cozy-alcohol-free-socialising-for-winter-tickets-934198341387?aff=oddtdtcreator

BELLA

Isabella Ferguson: https://isabellaferguson.com.au
Instagram: @alcoholandstresswithisabella
Free 5-Day DO I HAVE A DRINKING PROBLEM? Clarify and focus series: https://resources.isabellaferguson.com.au/doIhaveadrinkingproblemwithisabellaferguson
Alcohol Freedom Small Group Challenge - Register here: https://resources.isabellaferguson.com.au/alcoholfreedomchallenge
The Alcohol Revolution 6-Week Program (Online or Podcast): ...

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

I never imagined that so many special memories in my life would be a blur. The harsh reality of alcohol-induced blackouts left a mark on what should have been some of the clearest and happiest days of my life. Tune in as I, Meg, unravel the harrowing connection between these blackouts and anxiety, and the role they've played in my own journey. It's a stark look at the silent battle many face, as the quest to ease social nerves can lead to moments lost in time and the frightening inability to form memories.

This episode isn't just a personal reflection—it's a broader discussion on the perilous impact of alcohol misuse on society, from the risks of domestic violence to the tough conversations we must have with our loved ones about safe drinking practices. Through my story, and experiences, we explore the importance of  awareness around how and why blackouts occur when it comes to alcohol. If you're grappling with these challenges or know someone who is, this conversation aims to offer a guiding light to those ready to step towards understanding and breaking free from alcohol's grip.

MEG

Megan Webb: https://glassfulfilled.com.au
Instagram: @glassfulfilled
Unwined Bookclub: https://www.alcoholfreedom.com.au/unwinedbookclub
Sober Socialising workshop at Seadrift Distillery: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/confident-and-cozy-alcohol-free-socialising-for-winter-tickets-934198341387?aff=oddtdtcreator

BELLA

Isabella Ferguson: https://isabellaferguson.com.au
Instagram: @alcoholandstresswithisabella
Free 5-Day DO I HAVE A DRINKING PROBLEM? Clarify and focus series: https://resources.isabellaferguson.com.au/doIhaveadrinkingproblemwithisabellaferguson
Alcohol Freedom Small Group Challenge - Register here: https://resources.isabellaferguson.com.au/alcoholfreedomchallenge
The Alcohol Revolution 6-Week Program (Online or Podcast): ...

Speaker 1:

Hello and welcome to the pod today. So it's just me today, meg and I'm going to be speaking about blackouts. Now, I chose to speak about this because this is something I experienced right from the beginning of my drinking. So blackouts are a temporary condition that affect your memory. They occur when your body alcohol levels are high, and this can be related to your gender, weight, type of alcohol consumed and the speed of alcohol consumed. There's a partial blackout, where a visual or verbal cue might trigger a memory, or a complete blackout, where you're unlikely to ever remember what happened during this time.

Speaker 1:

Now, why is this? Well, we've all got a hippocampus, which is part of your brain where memories are formed, but it can't create memories. When a blackout occurs, think of it like a camera with film in it. You take some snaps and then, when you go to get get it developed, it's it's blank, there's nothing there. So the difference is that with a blackout, you wake up and the memories aren't there, but you don't even remember taking the photos. The scary part of a blackout is that people can still function as normal. They can walk, talk, drive, have conversations, get into fights, sleep with someone, but they can't record any of these memories. I mean the fact we can do all this but not remember it. Gosh, that scares me and it really makes me wonder how I'm still alive.

Speaker 1:

So the way to prevent blackouts is to drink slowly, eat whilst you're drinking or eat beforehand, have water in between, or stop drinking alcohol altogether because I couldn't moderate. The latter was the only way for me to stop having blackouts, and these blackouts were a big reason of why I chose to stop drinking. I hated the fact that I'd lost memories. I hated the fact that I was putting myself and other people in danger every time I drank. The amount of times that I was beyond excited about an upcoming event or a night out. I'd be on a high in the lead up and then the event would come up and I'd be so nervous that I'd have to have a drink before I left, and then, when I got to the place, I'd follow it up with a few drinks quickly so my anxiety would reduce, and then I'd end up in a blackout because I drank quickly. So more often than not, it was for me, it was fast drinking, and I know why I was a blackout drinker.

Speaker 1:

I had an anxiety disorder, so drinking for me was really about getting rid of the shaking that occurred for me in social situations. I couldn't hold a drink or reach for food, I couldn't eat in front of people or even talk in some situations unless I had a drink. So my first drink was usually at home, to calm my nerves for when I got there, so I could have the next drink. And then, once I'd had the few drinks as alcohol is, it's addictive. So over time I relied on it more and more. But also when I'd have my few drinks and the anxiety stopped, you know people might think well then why didn't you just stop drinking then? Well, once you've had a few drinks you don't think clearly anyway. So I'd keep reaching for the next drink because I'd want that high to last. I'd want that anxiety to stay low.

Speaker 1:

There are times I remember where I couldn't have a drink at home beforehand. So I'd get to the bar or the event and I'd either I'd either have to get a beer in a bottle, because when you shake with a bottle of beer it's not obvious, it doesn't spill like a glass of wine. And so I'd start with a beer if the situation allowed. If it was beer in a glass, it wasn't going to work as well. It was better than a wine glass, though, because it was bigger and heavier. If that wasn't available and say that someone was handing out champagne on a tray, I would say sometimes I'd say, oh, can you just put that glass on the table for me?

Speaker 1:

And sometimes I said things that I know the people thought I was a bit odd. But I'd say, oh, I'm running to the toilet, can you just put that down for me? Or I'd ask a friend to grab it for me and put it down. And then I'd come back round to where my drink was, pick it up and take it somewhere where no one was, because I was shaking at this point, and then I'd quickly drink it where no one was, where no one could see me, and pretty much within five minutes my shaking would stop because I was drinking it very quickly. I'd then follow it up with more drinks quickly, maybe two or three, until I was really calm and then could have stopped.

Speaker 1:

But that was just the beginning, really, for me, and that's why I'd end up in a blackout, because my blood alcohol level had risen quickly. So really I was always going to experience at least a partial blackout and then the next day without fail. I'd wake up and just be shocked that it was over so quickly, and I'd only have very limited memory, just the beginning bits, really, and then little parts of the rest of the night. And that could have been because, at times, I absorbed some alcohol in between drinks and a bit of a memory came back, but I'd always wake up and regret it, because I'd so looked forward to the occasion, and then I'd wasted it. I'd wasted it, and that happened from when I was 18. You know, even I remember my 18th birthday, and I was so nervous I shouldn't have had a party at my house. I don't know why I did when I was in such deep anxiety, but I did, and I truly regret it to this day, because I was passed out by 9pm. I blacked out because I don't remember anything, and then I was passed out, and that was humiliating in front of family friends, and, yeah, it wasn't good, but it was because I was so anxious.

Speaker 1:

I do, however, have a lot of compassion for myself, because I did have such a severe social anxiety. You can't help but have compassion for that. You know, I didn't know how to help myself except to drink alcohol. The catch-22 was, though, that it not only made my anxiety worse over time, but it took away the memories. Anxiety worse over time, but it took away the memories.

Speaker 1:

I was a photographer for many years and to me life is about making and keeping memories, and I was doing that for other people with my photography business. I adored photographs all my life because I loved memories. Yet here I was losing out on so many of my own memories because I was so fearful of being anxious in front of other people and rather than having people see me shake and think things about me, I chose to get drunk and say and do stupid things over and over which surely people thought a lot worse than if I'd just been shaking. Yet to me it was so much worse to come across as this nervous wreck. I mean, god forbid. People would see me shake and wonder what was wrong with me, but for some reason that fear of looking nervous or just having everyone look at me was just so huge. So what I was actually doing was not only ignoring the actual problem, I was making it so much worse because anxiety is fueled by alcohol, and then, over the years up until recently, before I stopped drinking, I actually was more nervous in front of people because I'd increased my drinking.

Speaker 1:

But I guess that's what self-medicating is. We take matters into our own hands with alcohol or drugs, but we only make the issue far worse than it ever would have been without adding that substance. And even though my social phobia started before I'd ever had a drink, fueling it with alcohol just kept making it worse and it just didn't give me the space and the clarity to properly work on where it had come from and how to stop having these physical symptoms. And, like I said, I do have complete compassion and understanding for myself now. I didn't know how to get rid of or deal with it at the time. I did try different things, but really only removing alcohol was ever going to be the way forward for me. And then I could work with clarity on the reasons I had anxiety in the first place and they all they come down to deep beliefs about myself. So it might feel like an anxiety disorder has come out of nowhere, but with this work I've been doing I have found where it started, why it started. Now you don't have to know that to get through anxiety, but for me this journey has really highlighted where these things started for me and I know in the future I might have more anxiety attacks, but I also know now where it's coming from, how I can help myself and how I can prevent it happening. In many situations, a lot of that has been stepping out of my comfort zone and doing things. I fear there's a lot of cognitive behavior therapy in what I've done, but number one it's been taking the alcohol away.

Speaker 1:

You know, remembering some blackouts that I had, I am astounded that I got through without some major disasters happening. There was one time I was in Brussels and it was in my 20s and I was traveling with friends and I woke up one day in a hotel room on someone's lounge and I didn't know how I got there. Now, thankfully, it was another traveler who I'd met. It was a girl who we'd obviously connected at the bar. I didn't remember and instead of going back to where I was staying, I'd agreed to go and sleep on her lounge. Now, gosh, that could have ended up terribly. You know, I was just very lucky. It was a genuinely nice person that gave me a lounge to sleep on, but I did lose the friends I was with that night. We didn't have mobile phones back then. I don't even know how we found each other again, but it turned out that same night the person I was traveling with, she, ended up about two hours away with someone at her house. I mean, god, we're so lucky that we made it out. Okay, you know, and that was just one example of many I spoke about my 18th, that it just, it just kept happening.

Speaker 1:

I, at my wedding, I ended up. I my worst fear was saying my vows in front of people, so I had a couple of champagnes before and I was, I was fine, but afterwards I just kept going and thankfully I did have a bit of restraint and I remember my wedding, but it ended up a pretty messy night and I didn't remember the end of it. I mean just so many situations and lost memories, and there's just many, many more, lots of dangerous ones. I've definitely done things that were risky. I used to hitchhike home just one suburb away, but it never worried me because I was drunk, I thought I was invincible and I don't remember. But I've had people say to me we hitched home. I'm like, oh my God. And one time I have a partial memory that I'd hitched home probably a 15 minute drive, and it turned out to be undercover police and I saw a gun in the car and had a mild panic but lucky it was police that picked me up and dropped me home safely. But there's many, many, many times because for my self-medicating I often more often than not in my 30-year drinking career I drank quickly and that resulted in many, many blackouts and within that time doing and saying things I'm not proud of risky behavior.

Speaker 1:

Like I've said, there's just so many issues that come up with blackouts and I'm lucky Some people aren't so lucky. Terrible things can happen. When I said at the beginning that you can, that you are able to function apparently normally, you know we see on the news a lot of punches, king punches and people dying with one hit. You know how many of them are in a blackout. How much violence happens. There's a huge amount of violence, domestic violence that happens when people are drinking. There's drink driving. There's not only putting ourselves at risk but putting everyone else out there at risk when we get in a car over the limit and I have done that in the last few years of my drinking just occasionally to go up to the bottle shop thinking it's only a street away, it's safe, and I know that happens all the time. I was lucky. I've heard people say they've woken up the next day and they know their car's in a different position, so they know they took it out and they can't remember. There's all sorts of things that people have done in blackouts and they haven't come out okay. It's a really dangerous thing.

Speaker 1:

My middle daughter brought it up recently actually. She said she'd been at a party and she said someone at the party had woken up the next day and said they didn't remember the night before and this was new to her. She didn't know what that was and I said well, that's a blackout. And then I told her about blackouts and I said usually it's when you drink quickly. And she said I never want to have a blackout. And I said usually it's when you drink quickly. And she said I never want to have a blackout. And I said, well, you're not a big drinker anyway, which is a good start, and probably only has one or two drinks at a night out. But I said don't drink quickly, always, always pace yourself, have some food, have water. And it was really nice to be able to have that conversation with her and also educate her on that at 18. Because at 18 is when I started drinking. I had no idea what I was doing, how it was affecting me, and no one else in my life knew about things like blackout. But you know, you do wonder. Would that have made a difference? And maybe it would, maybe it wouldn't. But I'm just grateful that now I can pass on that information and that I can have conversations with my kids about it.

Speaker 1:

And, as coaches, bella and I are both here to help you if you are experiencing blackouts or if you'd like to have a break from alcohol. We're here for that and we have lived experience in all these areas, and I definitely have lived experience in blackouts. So please reach out if you'd like to talk about it. We both offer discovery calls for free on our websites. If you'd just like to have a chat, please book in an appointment, because we'd love to talk to you and I'd love to help you experience the freedom that I have found on the other side of alcohol. And, as I said before, it's only by giving up alcohol that I have been able to turn my life around and to get to the core of why I drank and to be able to help myself and my anxiety. So please reach out if you'd like to chat with us. There's details in the show notes or on the beginning or end of the podcast. So thank you for listening today and I look forward to seeing you next time.

Understanding Blackouts and Anxiety Relations
Dangers of Alcohol Blackouts