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Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget Hardcover – June 23, 2015

4.5 out of 5 stars 466 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of June 2015: Bracing and heartbreakingly honest, Sarah Hepola’s memoir Blackout tears off the Band-Aid of her alcohol addiction and takes a whole lot of skin with it, too. Thirty-something and a successful writer in Manhattan, Hepola turns at night to the embrace of alcohol. When her drinking transforms from a gentle suitor into an uncontrollable beast, Hepola begins to black out regularly, operating for all the world as if she’s fully aware and conscious but with no memory later of what she did. Her blackouts lead to sex with strange men and force longtime friends to take a cautious step back, and after several unsuccessful starts, Hepola finally completes the grueling process of getting clean. Hepola’s wry voice stays on the sane side of raw but doesn’t relinquish any power of authenticity as she casts a light on her own bad decisions as well the fact we now live in a culture where women getting tipsy or drunk is considered a sign of female empowerment. You don’t need to be enthralled by alcohol to be deeply affected by Blackout. But for those who do worry—or know—that they have similar struggles, Hepola’s ultimately uplifting story could help lead the way out of the rabbit hole of alcohol abuse. --Adrian Liang

Review

"Simply extraordinary. Ms. Hepola's electric prose marks her as a flamingo among this genre's geese. She has direct access to the midnight gods of torch songs, neon signs, tap beer at a reasonable price, cigarettes and untrammeled longing. . . . As a form, addiction memoirs are permanently interesting because they're an excuse to crack open a life. Ms. Hepola's book moves to a top shelf in this arena. . . . It's a win-win. She got a better life. We have this book."―Dwight Garner, The New York Times

"It's hard to think of another memoir that burrows inside an addict's brain like this one does. . . . Her writing lights up the pages, and she infuses the chapters describing her resolute slog toward sobriety with warmth and sprightly humor. [Grade:] A."―Entertainment Weekly

"You don't need to be a reformed problem drinker to appreciate Hepola's gripping memoir about the years she lost to alcohol-and the self she rediscovered once she quit."―People, "Summer's Best Books"

"Brutally funny and alarmingly honest."―Entertainment Weekly, "Must List"

"Hepola unstintingly documents both her addiction's giddy pleasures and its grim tolls. Her account will leave you breathless-and impressed."―People, "Smart New Memoirs"

"Alcohol was the fuel of choice during Hepola's early years as a writer, but after too many nights spent falling down staircases, sleeping with men she didn't remember the next day, and narrowly surviving countless other near disasters, she fought her way clear of addiction and dared to face life without a drink in hand."―O Magazine, "The Season's Best Biographies and Memoirs"

"Wry, spirited. . . . Hepola avoids the tropes of the 'getting sober' confessional and takes us into unexplored territory, revealing what it's like to begin again-and actually like the person you see in the mirror."―MORE Magazine

"Hepola is an enchanting storyteller who writes in a chummy voice. She's that smart, witty friend you want to have dinner with. . . . Like Caroline Knapp's powerful 1996 memoir 'Drinking: A Love Story,' 'Blackout is not preachy or predictable: It's an insightful, subtly inspiring reflection by a woman who came undone and learned the very hard way how to put herself back together."―Washington Post

"A memoir that's good and true is a work of art that stands the literary test of time and also serves a purpose in the present. It mines intimate, personal experiences to raise bigger questions, tell a bigger story, help readers understand themselves, their circumstances, their world. Like the best sermon, the best memoir comforts the disturbed and disturbs the comfortable. This rare bird is the Southern belle of literature: forceful, punctilious, beautiful. BLACKOUT, the debut memoir by Salon editor Sarah Hepola, is one such memoir. It's as lyrically written as a literary novel, as tightly wound as a thriller, as well-researched as a work of investigative journalism, and as impossible to put down as, well, a cold beer on a hot day."―Chicago Tribune

"Hepola refuses to uncomplicate the complicated, one of her memoir's greatest strengths. Yes, we see the familiar recovery story arc-I drank too much, I hit bottom, I found AA-but with it comes a deep dive into the shame, fear and perfectionism that tilt so many women toward defiant self-destruction with the goal of annihilating the confused flawed self to emerge different, better. Invincible. Reflecting on the fantasies that suffused her drinking years, a newly sober Hepola comes to see that they 'all had one thing in common: I was always someone else in them.'"―Los Angeles Times

"Riveting. . . .Tough and street-smart (and a little vulnerable), honest (as far as I can tell), she's sassy and funny, mouthy and flip, hard on herself and without a shred of self-pity."―Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Painfully honest, occasionally tragic and frequently hilarious. . . . Hepola dissects herself with razor-sharp powers of observation and self-awareness, in a voice that is intelligent and remarkably free of self-pity. She's like a good friend spilling secrets you don't really want to hear."
San Antonio Express-News

"An incisive, funny look backward at life."―Dallas Observer

"I love a recovery memoir, just in general, but Sarah Hepola's 'Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget', is an absolute stand-out in the genre. Her writing is superb, but her emotional insight is even greater."―Lenny

"Hepola delves into her own lush life as the merry lit gal about town with unique intensity...In this valiant, gracious work of powerful honesty, Hepola confronts head-on the minefield of self-sabotage that binge drinking caused in her work, relationships, and health before she eventually turned her life around."―Publisher's Weekly

"A poignant and revealing look into the mind of an alcoholic . . . . one of the best memoirs I've read. . . . [a] tour de force."―The Huffington Post

"This is a must-read for recovering addicts; for women susceptible to the glamour of being modern and independent; for anyone who has had a difficult past, and who wants to heal, but who wants mostly to laugh at themselves. Basically, we should all be reading Blackout this summer (and wishing the incredibly smart and candid Hepola was our BFF)."―Bustle

"Alcoholism is a difficult subject to tackle, but Sarah Hepola does so with grace and candor in this memoir about her own struggle with addiction. . . . Captivating and inspiring."―Bookish

"The writing is incredibly smart and maintains a level of intensity you don't often find in long-form memoirs....BLACKOUT is an enthralling interrogation of a life. Even the most banal moments are beautiful, elevated, and resonate across the human experience."―The Rumpus

"The book makes a case for toughness as both a valuable alternate default for women as well as a terrific conduit to self-destruction-just as much as vulnerability, and perhaps even more so. . . . Her style is bright, salty, cutting."―Jezebel

"Revelatory. . . . [Hepola] isn't trying to shock us, though her book is one part gross to four parts engrossing; she is merely painting an honest Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Drunk. And then, without the help of either Prince Charming or Jesus, she saves herself, for no other reason than because it's time."―Flavorwire

"A razor-sharp memoir that reveals the woman behind the wine glass. . . . Modern, raw, and painfully real-and even hilarious. As much as readers will cry over the author's boozy misadventures-bruising falls down marble staircases, grim encounters with strangers in hotel rooms, entire evenings' escapades missing from memory-they will laugh as Hepola laughs at herself, at the wrongheaded logic of the active alcoholic who rationalizes it all as an excuse for one more drink. . . . Hepola moves beyond the analysis of her addiction, making this the story of every woman's fight to be seen for who she really is. . . . Her honesty, and her ultimate success, will inspire anyone who knows a change is needed but thinks it may be impossible. A treasure trove of hard truths mined from a life soaked in booze."―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Her true bravery emerges in this memoir's witty candor. . . . her own sobriety is as funny and fearless as her drinking days. . . . A rollicking and raw account of binge-drinking, blacking out and getting sober."―BookPage

"The story of a rising star's journey of self-destruction and realization, BLACKOUT is gripping, alternately excruciating and funny, scary and hopeful, and beautifully written. I loved it."―Anne Lamott, author of Small Victories and Traveling Mercies

"Sarah Hepola is my favorite kind of memoirist. She is a reporter with a poet's instincts, an anthropologist of her own soul. BLACKOUT is a book about drinking and eventual sobriety, but it's also an exploration of the fleeting nature of the comfort we all constantly seek--comfort with the self, with others, with the whole maddening, confusing, exhilarating world. What's more, Hepola's ability to bring such precise and evocative life to the blank spaces that were her drinking blackouts is downright stunning in places. I admire this book tremendously."―Meghan Daum, author of The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion

"This is a book about welcoming yourself back from a long absence. It's a memoir, but its author is not its main character; she is a new person sprung from the ashes of another one whose alcoholic self-erasure she describes with painful honesty and charming humor. A book about freedom that will help set others free as well."―Walter Kirn, author of Blood Will Out and Up In the Air

"Sarah Hepola's BLACKOUT is the best kind of memoir: fiercely funny, full of hard-won wisdom, marked by a writer with phenomenal gifts of observation and insight. The book engages universal questions--Where do I belong? What fulfills me?--that will engage any reader."―Emily Rapp, author of The Still Point of the Turning World
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (June 23, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1455554596
  • ISBN-13: 978-1455554591
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (466 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,110 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Deanokat TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 27, 2015
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As the father of a son in long-term recovery, I have read more than my fair share of books about addiction. In fact, the shelves in my bedroom are filled with addiction-related books. Books about the science of addiction. Twelve-step books. Guides to helping loved ones get clean and sober. Memoirs written by people in recovery. Etc. (If you're looking for a book on addiction, come on over. Chances are it's on my shelf and you're welcome to borrow it.)

Reading about people's struggles with--and triumphs over--addiction is especially fascinating to me. In the world of drug and alcohol abuse, everyone's story is so similar; but at the same time, everyone's story is so unique. When someone is brave enough to put their temporary train wreck of a life down on paper for the world to see, I can't help but get sucked in. Such was the case with Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola.

Hepola started drinking at an early age and fell in love with alcohol. This object of her affection eventually took control of her life, and for years she would drink to the point of blacking out. As you can probably guess from the title, that is the focus of much of this book. And Hepola holds nothing back.

"A blackout is the untangling of a mystery. It's detective work on your own life. A blackout is: What happened last night?"

In reality, as Hepola explains, a blackout happens when your blood becomes so saturated with alcohol that the part of your brain responsible for long-term memory--the hippocampus--shuts down. Your short-term memory still works, but with the long-term variety on strike, remembering what you did when you were blackout drunk becomes impossible.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
When I saw the title, the first thing I thought was "been there.. and unfortunately.. done that!"
While she described alcohol as "the gasoline of all adventure" to me it was the road to escape and also the road to creative ideas For me, running my own business, creating products and websites for them - I always had a bit of vodka to help me relax and create, and to escape.

A "bit" turned to about a liter a day... I came to a moment of clarity and had to stop. This book reminds me so much of those days (both good and bad). I totally get where she is coming from. It's terrifying to just "not know" what the hell you did, how you got to your bed, couch or floor
..who you insulted or angered, or if you were the life of the party! (Luckily for me, I was a "happy drunk" and was responsible enough to drink either at home, or walking distance or have a ride home.) I also never woke up in any exotic locations or with strangers.. unlucky me I suppose!

So this book really hit home for me, for me - it's a very gripping and very accurate - and I believe you will enjoy and also be intrigued the tales of the excess, the joy and the pains she went though.

I would love to meet Sarah one day for a drink -- of coffee :)
A great read *****
Jim
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Sarah Hepola had me at the first page. By the last page, I felt like we were friends.

Blackout is a sharply written, brave and thoughtful account of author, Sarah Hepola’s journey through shame, self degradation and self destruction during dark and muddled years when she drank to the point of oblivion: blackouts.

Blackouts occur when alcohol prevents the brain from recording new memories. Blackouts are not a loss of memory; blackouts occur when there is no memory recorded. It is like the save button in your computer doesn’t save. There is a gap. There is nothing.

This is the story of the life of an alcoholic woman. Hepola could not imagine a sober life. She said she knew what she wanted. She didn’t want to face a day without alcohol and she wanted to not have to face the consequences of having it in her life.

She tells about her first sip of stolen beer when she was seven; getting drunk in the sixth grade; her squirm and cringe-worthy (and familiar) adolescent awkwardness; her college years and her first success as a writer. She takes us from Dallas, Texas through college in Austin to New York City: drinking all the way.

She gains success as a writer. She has friends: women friends; men friends; boyfriends and she has fun. Alcohol helps her through her shyness. It allows her to do and say outrageous things she’d never do if sober. Hepola knows she needs alcohol to succeed and be someone other than the self that wasn’t good enough. “Drinking saved me…it gave me escape…it gave me power…it gave me courage…it gave me the path…when I triumphed it celebrated with me…when I cried it comforted me…and in the end…it gave me oblivion.”

Blackouts prevented Hepola from remembering the embarrassing and shameful behavior.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Sarah Hepola has written a powerful book about her struggles with alcoholism, in particular the black-outs that came with her disease. For years, she believed that alcohol was her key to everything - self-image, success, intimacy, friendships - only to find that she had things turned backwards in her head. Her blackouts haunted her and "showed me how powerless I had become. The nights I can't remember are the nights I can never forget".

Sarah started drinking as a child, sneaking sips of booze from partly filled cans of beer that her parents had in the fridge. She liked the way it made her feel from the very first drink. She continued to drink until she was close to 40 and she drank for any reason she could think of. "I drank to calm myself, as much as I drank to keep myself revved." Despite losing friends and having friends confront her about her drinking and black-outs, she continued drinking. She saw it as her reward in life rather than seeing the truth - alcohol caused her to lose her true self. "I worshiped alcohol, and it consumed me."

As a writer, Sarah has this mythic belief that all writers drink, that she must drink in order to write. She also believes that the pain she's experienced is unique, not shared. She does not realize that she has not matured beyond the age when she first began drinking. While she has aged chronologically, she has remained forever a child emotionally.

Sarah's tale joins the wonderful literature shared by Caroline Knapp and Hamill, both who tell their stories of drinking and, ultimately, how they found sobriety. Sarah's story is unique in that it focuses on her black-outs. However, it is shared in that all addiction is basically the same.
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