The picture below is interesting. Okay, maybe not interesting. It’s not even very good. The colors are somewhat muddled and it’s a fairly generic shot of a California sunset. However, it’s unique in that taking it is the last thing I remember doing before slipping into a blackout. There are countless times I remember the last thing I remember before not remembering anything else; but this is the only time I have documented photographic evidence of the last thing I remember before losing the ability to do so. It was Monday, January 2 at 5:16pm and I was standing on the side of the freeway (that’s what we call highways out here) taking a picture of what looked to me at the time like a very beautiful sunset. And perhaps it was, and I am just a very lousy drunk photographer.
After stopping to take the picture there is nothing until very early the next morning when I was in the emergency room (again) at a local hospital. And by ‘nothing’ I don’t mean bits and pieces or hazy memories. I mean nothing … just taking pictures – blink – emergency room. Ten-plus hours had gone by, granted I had probably slept through some of it (psssst … that’s code for ‘had passed out’), and I had absolutely no idea what had happened or why I was in the ER.
For the benefit of the uninitiated, there are two types of blackouts: fragmentary and en bloc. With fragmentary blackouts you may remember some events, but be unaware that there are things you don’t remember until someone reminds you of them. With en bloc blackouts, while you’re intoxicated you can remember what just happened for about two minutes, but that’s pretty much it. For example, you can carry on a conversation, just not a very in-depth or coherent one. But when you emerge from the blackout you will have absolutely no ability to ever remember what took place during it. So no matter how many times your friends go, “Okay, come on now … we were at VonDouchenbergers? Those bikers were playing pool? Remember?? You jumped on the table in the middle of their game, pulled down your pants, poured a pitcher of beer on yourself and challenged everyone to a wet panty contest? How can you not remember that shit??” You cannot remember that shit. It’s a bit like having your brain coated in Teflon: nothing sticks to it. The memories simply slide off never to return.
This concludes the education portion of our post. We now return you to your regularly scheduled blogging …
I am a blackout drinker of the en bloc variety. Which, while having it’s drawbacks, such as surprise games of “Mystery ER Visit” and “Who’s That Sleeping In My Bed?”, can also be a bit of a blessing in that I’m spared the burden of carrying around memories of many of the stupid, humiliating, degrading and thoughtless things I did while under the influence. But though I have a propensity for this type of blackout, there have been occasions when it failed me miserably. Such was the case when, while in the midst of some social drama, I drunk-dialed my younger brother crying about the bitter injustice of the friend whose three-way curiosity I’d so generously helped satisfy and who was more than happy to be there while ‘I had her boyfriend’s cock down my throat,’ but who didn’t seem to have the time of day for me now that I was the one who needed her.
It was a regrettably memorable phone call and one I’d prefer to have forgotten. And though I’ve never asked him, I’m quite sure that if offered, my little brother would opt to en bloc the conversation as well.
I don’t know how much I had to drink that day, but I bought a fifth of vodka for the drive … the 45-minute drive. I know it was vodka because A) it can be transferred from its original bottle to an empty water-bottle so you look like you’re simply re-hydrating along the endless, arid SoCal freeway system and B) vodka is what we tend to drink when we’re hitting the skids.
I know this because in the anonymous meetings when people tell their low-bottom, down-and-out stories they might say something like, “So I’m sitting there in a crappy motel room, totally alone, except for my bottle of vodka …” and everyone smiles knowingly and nods because they’ve been there, when a bottle of vodka was the only friend they had left. I don’t know if it’s because it’s cheap or because it does the job fast or because we think people can’t smell it on our breath, I just know that for so many of us vodka ends up being the booze of last resort.
Before vodka, Jack Daniels was my drink of choice; and that, coincidentally, is often the indicator of the period when a person still had their shit semi-together. So inasmuch as someone talking about their bottle of vodka (and it’s almost always just ‘vodka,’ never Smirnoff or Seagrams or Absolut … I know, but we drink for the effect not the taste) signals the end, when a person says, “Of course, I was still drinking Jack at that point …” they’re generally talking about a time when they still had some control over their drinking. And no one really talks about Jack (those of us who were fans feel we’ve contributed sufficiently enough to the company’s bottom-line to have earned the right to be on a first-name basis with their product) with disdain or contempt, either. Rather there seems to be an attitude of respect and fond remembrance.
As for myself, although I now catch only the occasionally glimpse on a store shelf, when I see a bottle or hear the name I feel a little like Scout and half expect to feel The Reverend Sykes nudge me and say, “Miss Urethra. Miss Urethra, stand up. Jack Daniels’s passing.”
Sometimes I think about how short my posts would be if I could get my ATT (Adult Tangential Tendency) Disorder under control …
Anywayyyy, I have no memories of the period between taking the picture and being in the emergency room. I do, however, have cringe-worthy police and hospital reports, as well as third-party accounts from the friend whose house I was going to (whom I’ve spoken to since that night, but never of that night … I know only what she told my parents and what they relayed to me; and that is quite enough). It seems she was instantly aware of my intense inebriation and invited me to leave immediately. I apparently wandered around, perhaps lost or unable to remember where I’d parked my car five minutes before, until finding a friendly telephone pole to which I clung and cried until the police arrived.
I don’t know who called the police – my friend or a concerned (i.e. freaked-out) citizen; I don’t know who took me to the hospital – the police or the EMTs; and I don’t know to whom I expressed suicidal ideations. What I do know is that at some point the decision as to when I would leave the hospital was no longer mine. I was about to play a brand-new surprise blackout game called “You’ve Been 5150ed!”
A 5150, or 72-hour hold, is a section of the California Welfare and Institutions Code and is a means by which a person deemed to have a mental disorder that makes them a danger to him or her self, and/or others and/or gravely disabled can be transported to a designated psychiatric inpatient facility for evaluation for up to 72-hours against their will.
It was not my favorite game.