The Gift

Me at 19 years old

I was a blackout drinker. I gave up alcohol in my mid-20s because I was smart enough to realize that my drinking was not normal. But, I had my fill before then. I really can’t recall drinking being fun for me. And, the reality is that I can’t recall most of it. The times I drank are largely blocks of “lost” time. I just don’t remember a thing. Nothing…nada…black hole.

I know other blackout drinkers, but not all drinkers experience blackouts. And, not all blackout drinkers experienced blackouts like I did. I’m a small woman, and I don’t metabolize alcohol very well. I would blackout early, sometimes within just a few strong drinks. But, I would continue to function for hours. I know this because other people would tell me what I did. And, some of it would be pretty scary. Some of it would be funny, and we would all laugh about it. But it wasn’t funny for me…really. I was terrified.

I was in my late teens to early 20s, and I didn’t understand why I couldn’t remember long stretches of time and why I was seemingly functioning, walking around, driving, eating, and I couldn’t remember any of it. I didn’t know how to stop it from happening. More than anything I was afraid of seeing anyone who I had spent time with because I couldn’t remember what happened. I didn’t know if we argued, if we had a good time, if we shared any great conversations. I just didn’t know, and to “save face” I just avoided people. Inside, I was a scared little girl. And, I didn’t know what to do. So, I kept my secret and lived that story over and over again.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a blackout. For a long time, I managed to keep the people I knew back then in the past. Then, Facebook came along. All of a sudden, my past and the people from my past started to show up on my computer. The first college friend that showed up threw me into a tailspin. I just didn’t know if I could face it. What on earth did people think of me back then? I was a lush? I was easy? I was nuts? I just had no idea how much they knew. And, I had no idea who knew what.

But, I sucked it up, and I decided to reconnect with those people and let the past be the past. Maybe they didn’t remember either. Maybe they were so focused on their shortcomings that they didn’t really notice mine or remember them. Then, one day, a man whose name and face I remember started “liking” my photos. I remembered him, and, of course, there was always the possibility that I may have spent time with him. But, I certainly didn’t remember it. And, I didn’t remember much interaction with him when I wasn’t drinking. We started to have conversations over text. As we discussed more, he finally said we had spent some time together and hung out in college. “Oh God,” I said. He laughed. My heart sank. I did not want to hear about this. I wanted the past buried. I wasn’t the same girl I was back then, and I was disgusted with her.

For some reason, he wanted to tell me about the night we were together. At first, I wanted to text back and tell him to stop…that I didn’t want to know these details. I mean, hell, this was 30 years ago!! But, I sensed there was a reason that this conversation was happening. I didn’t know if it was for me or for him, but it was happening for a REASON. I believe in a God who holds my hand through the pain. So, I read on as he texted me the events of that evening…”we had fun dancing.. and after dancing…you were a really sweet girl back then”. I asked him if he liked me, and he said, ” yes….I still do.” There were other details that don’t really mean that much to the story, but what began to happen inside of me was that I started to see that I might have been a “sweet girl”. Even though I didn’t remember, a man might have had fun dancing with me and actually liked me. I began to see a different possibility of who I was, of how others saw me, and of what may have happened on all of those invisible nights. The reality doesn’t really matter as much as what I began to feel inside.

I don’t know why this man showed up at this time to say these kind things to me, but I know that it has changed my vision of myself at an age where I really needed to love myself. I hated looking into that darkness and wondering what happened; and, now, I can look into those blank spaces and truthfully say that I wish I had that memory. It just might have been something really nice. It might have been a night worth remembering. I just might have been a girl worth remembering…..even 30 years later. What a gift….thank you..

What “gifts” have been given to you that have changed your life? What have you given others? Are there things you need to say or hear even 30 years later?

8 Comments on “The Gift

  1. Hi Sharon.
    Your blog is interesting, and you are a good writer! What an amazing experience this person from your past gave to you.

    I had a similar experience myself recently.

    Always had thought of my high-school self as a dark, depressed, bookwormish wallflower. All I remembered was the pain and angst of adolescence. Then came my 20th high school reunion.

    I didn’t go, but I got many emails from old friends telling me they missed seeing me. That surprised me! So I went back and looked at my yearbook from senior year, and read what friends wrote in the front and back of the book. They talked about how much fun I was, and funny . They thanks me for being a good listener and a good friend.

    What a miracle to read this! Twenty years of thinking of myself as a certain way in high school with many regrets. Now I am able to remember and imagine the positive parts of my younger self. A true blessing! Now I have been able to transform the “story” I always told myself about the past, like you wrote about.

    • Thanks, Leah, for your comments and for sharing your experience. I think it’s an example of how we compare our “insides” to someone else’s “outsides”. No one can know our inner experience, thank heavens!! We are way harder on ourselves than others are.

  2. Hey Sharon,
    I was never one to blackout. In fact I remember the terrible things I did to others. What I usually don’t remember is the that I have often treated people with kindness and respect. Every so often I’m reminded of that. Sometimes I am reminded of something nice I’ve done for someone. It’s a pretty good rush.
    Be Well

    • Yes, we are not all good or all bad. It’s important that I remember that about others, too. Black and white thinking is not accurate thinking. Thanks for your comment and for reading my blog.

  3. I was a blackout drinker also. I sometimes tell people I can’t remember the last time I drank a shooter. I don’t mean it in the way they think. I mean I literally don’t remember. I know where I was, what I was wearing, what the event was. I remember being handed a shooter. The rest is a blank. I woke up the next morning without any knowledge of how I got where I was or where my clothes were. I was freaked out to put it mildly!
    I thank you for your willingness to share your story.

    • People don’t realize how traumatic it is. I’ve known women that quit drinking because of the trauma they felt from one blackout. It is very scary. Thanks for your comment!

  4. Congrats to you Sharon for finding the opening of your way out. It’s the start of a new beginning so that the past really wasn’t as bad as we seem to remember it or make it. Sometimes it’s really worse but in our case it is something that we really didnt want to remember because of the pain. This is the wayout of our pain by actually seeing it in black n white. Yes we lived it but didnt remember it but we did have people in our lives kind enough to remind us what we did and to remind us that we are Truely Human..
    We all make mistakes and probably will at some point in our life make them again. Thank God that thier are people in our lives that will remind us and comfort us to let us know we are not alone. We are Truely Human.
    Keep up the good work.

    • Thank you, Billy, for your support and for being one of those people in my life. It’s been nice to find you again. Stay sweet and thanks for reading my blog.

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