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Alcoholic Blackouts

"Alcoholic Blackouts, It's like being unconscious- while fully awake."
copyright 2011, all rights reserved

by Toby Rice Drews
author of the "Getting Them Sober" books

What are ''alcoholic blackouts''?

It's like being unconscious- while fully awake.

It's like amnesia, afterwards.

Jan's husband, Bob, relates this story: "I started to know I was in trouble with my drinking when I had started off, one weekend, to go to the shore, and wound up at an airport on Monday morning. I thought I was at Kennedy Airport -- but I was at the San Francisco Airport!

"And I wasn't passed out when I went through that weekend. I was moving! But I don't remember a thing."


Most homicides occur between people who know each other- while under the influence of a drug, such as alcohol. (Eighty percent of the people in jail committed crimes while drugged.) Many of these convicted felons truly do not remember committing crimes.

During a blackout, a person seems, to everyone, including himself, to be fully aware of what he is doing -- many even appear to be fully in control.

How can you know if he is having a blackout? There is no way.

The only way for anyone to know is if, later, you are both talking about something he said or did before, and he seems surprised, denies it and looks truly scared that either you or he is crazy m it probably signals that a blackout has occurred.

What do you do then? First, you must tell him what really happened. Call or bring other people in to confirm the truth people he will believe, if possible.

This might be the time to confront him about his problem.

(Meanwhile call Alcoholics Anonymous and ask them to send you a meeting schedule for your area, and some literature. If your husband is receptive, you'll have it to offer him to read.)

Then drop it. Don't harangue or repeat yourself. Simply leave the room- or the house, if the temptation to preach at him gets too great. This could be a crucial moment, if he has been receptive, and if you've quietly said what you had to say.

If he seems open and receptive to the idea of getting help if he says so ~ give him the A.A. phone number in your area. (It will be on the literature you receive.) The telephone operator has A.A. numbers also. But let him make the call.

And if he balks? If he refuses? Hold your temper. You've made your point. His drinking will get scarier from now on. You've helped crack through much of his denial. Now, just get out of the room, and at least act as if it really doesn't affect you at all. If he sees you worrying, he will figure he doesn't need to.

During a blackout, he may promise something to the children, and then forget his promise -- maybe a camping trip. When the time comes, the children will get ready and say, "Come on, dad!" He actually will not know what they're talking about. He may get mad at you and at them, thinking everybody's trying to drive him crazy, "with all their accusations."

What do you do in a case like this? Again, you must confront him by telling him that he did, indeed, make the promise. And let him face the consequences of that with the kids. Let them confront him with broken promises.

Later, tell the children about his disease, if they don't know about it already. Explain to them about blackouts. Tell them they have a right to be angry at being disappointed, but then show them how futile it is to stay mad at a disease. Offer to take them to AI-Ateen, (or pre-Teen) if they're between six and nineteen years old. (The telephone operator has the phone number of AI-Ateen; or call AI-Anon, and get it.)

Now, what else can you do? Get busy and be good to yourself the rest of this day -- and every day -- one day at a time.

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