Are you a blackout drinker? Because I was.

I’ve probably forgotten more of the “big nights” of my 20s and 30s than I remember. 

Actually it’s not that I forgot them, it’s that I drank enough alcohol that my brain didn’t record any memories of large chunks of those nights. 

I’ve blacked out on business trips, at weddings and on holidays and have spent more time than I’d like to admit trying to piece together the events of the night before and having people tell me things I did and literally can’t remember. 

  • How did I get back to my room at a work conference? I don’t remember anything after the bar, but did wake up brutally hungover before my shift at the trade show. 
  • I slapped the groom’s dad on the bum at the wedding reception? And then climbed on my best friend’s husband’s back during “Mustang Sally”? Well…It sounds like it was a good time?
  • What happened at midnight on New Year’s Eve? Did I miss anything good? 

So, in early sobriety, when I came across Sarah Hepola’s New York Times bestselling memoir, “Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget”, I couldn’t put it down. 

In Sarah’s book I learned so much about the blackouts I had experienced in my own life. I knew I couldn’t remember conversations and parts of the evening before, but I didn’t know why they happened.

Blackouts aren’t caused by a specific type of liquor. They happen when you reach a certain level of alcohol in your blood. The alcohol shuts down the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that stores long-term memories. – Sarah Hepola, Blackout

And beyond the science of blackouts, Sarah’s beautiful writing captured all the emotions I felt waking up without a clear memory of what happened the night before.

As Sarah wrote in Blackout, When the lights were off, and I lay very quietly in my bed, I knew: There was something fundamentally wrong about losing the narrative of my own life.

I asked Sarah to join me on the podcast to talk about her book and blackouts, which affect about 50% of drinkers. 

We dive deep into the hazy world of blackouts, the periods of amnesia experienced during heavy drinking where memories of entire events vanish.

Sarah writes, “It’s such a savage thing, to lose your memory, but the crazy part is, it doesn’t hurt one bit. A blackout doesn’t sting, or stab, or leave a scar when it robs you. Close your eyes and open them again. That’s what a blackout feels like.

Sarah and I also talked about the cultural factors that influenced our drinking habits.

➡️ We both went to college in the late 90s when keg parties were all the rage and excessive drinking was both normalized and celebrated.

➡️ We entered the working world the year that Sex In The City started airing, in which drinking was celebrated as a symbol of female empowerment, sophistication and connection.

➡️ We saw Bridget Jones’s Diary where the heroine was a binge drinking and chain smoking 30 something woman trying to figure out work, love and life in a complicated world.

➡️ And in our 30s, TV shows like Scandal and The Good Wife showed us that red wine was the drink of choice of complicated and powerful women.

    I thought nothing of spending most evenings in a bar, because that’s what my friends were doing. I thought nothing of mandating wine bottles for any difficult conversation—for any conversation at all—because that’s what I saw in movies and television.” – Blackout by Sarah Hepola

    In this episode, Sarah and I discuss:

    ✅ Why Sarah felt alcohol was the “gasoline of all adventure”

    The surprising statistic that 50% of drinkers experience blackouts

    What happens in your brain during a blackout and why it’s hard for other people to recognize when you’re in one

    The factors that make you more likely to experience blackouts – genetic predisposition, body weight, metabolism, how quickly you consume alcohol and (spoiler alert) being a woman

    The difference between a partial, fragmentary blackout, where you can remember pieces of what happened and a complete “en bloc” blackout where your memories of large chunks of time are missing and you won’t remember anything at all

    ✅ How alcohol marketing and society have normalized heavy drinking as a sign of female empowerment

    Why Sarah sees getting sober not as the boring part of her story, but rather as the most interesting “plot twist”

    More about Blackouts and Sarah Hepola

    Review: Sarah Hepola’s ‘Blackout,’ on the Darkness That Took Over Her Life – The New York Times.

    After Years Of Blackouts, A Writer Remembers What She ‘Drank To Forget’ 

    A New Memoir Explores a Taboo Subject: Blackout Drinking 

    Interrupted Memories: Alcohol-Induced Blackouts

    Blackouts: Causes, Side Effects, and Prevention  

    Blackouts and Your Brain: How To Avoid Memory Loss

    3 Ways I Can Support You In Drinking Less + Living More

    Join The Sobriety Starter Kit, the only sober coaching course designed specifically for busy women. 

    My proven, step-by-step sober coaching program will teach you exactly how to stop drinking  — and how to make it the best decision of your life.

    Grab the Free 30-Day Guide To Quitting Drinking, 30 Tips For Your First Month Alcohol-Free.

    Connect with me for free sober coaching tips, updates + videos on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and TikTok @hellosomedaysober.

    Connect with Sarah Hepola

    Sarah Hepola is the author of the NYT bestselling memoir, “Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget.” She is a writer-at-large for Texas Monthly and the co-host of the weekly cultural podcast “Smoke Em If You Got ‘Em.”

    Learn more about Sarah at www.sarahhepola.com

    Buy Sarah’s New York Times bestselling memoir, “Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget.”

    Follow Sarah on Twitter @sarahhepola

    Follow Sarah on Instagram @thesarahhepolaexperience

    Blackout, Sarah Hepola, Women, Drinking, Quit Drinking, Sobriety
    Blackout, Sarah Hepola, Women, Drinking, Quit Drinking, Sobriety
    Blackout, Sarah Hepola, Women, Drinking, Quit Drinking, Sobriety, drug, brain, amnesia

    Connect with Casey

    Take a screenshot of your favorite episode, post it on your Instagram and tag me @caseymdavidson and tell me your biggest takeaway!

    Want to read the full transcript of this podcast episode? Scroll down on this page.


    Are you looking for the best sobriety podcast for women? The Hello Someday Podcast was created specifically for sober curious women and gray area drinkers ready to stop drinking, drink less and change their relationship with alcohol.

    Host Casey McGuire Davidson, a certified life and sobriety coach and creator of The 30-Day Guide to Quitting Drinking and The Sobriety Starter Kit Sober Coaching Course, brings together her experience of quitting drinking while navigating work and motherhood, along with the voices of experts in personal development, self-care, addiction and recovery and self-improvement. 

    Whether you know you want to stop drinking and live an alcohol-free life, are sober curious, or are in recovery this is the best sobriety podcast for you.

    A Top 100 Mental Health Podcast, ranked in the top 0.5% of podcasts globally with over 1 million downloads, The Hello Someday Podcast is the best sobriety podcast for women.

    In each episode, Casey will share the tried and true secrets of how to drink less and live more.

    Learn how to let go of alcohol as a coping mechanism, how to shift your mindset about sobriety and change your drinking habits, how to create healthy routines to cope with anxiety, people pleasing and perfectionism, the importance of self-care in early sobriety, and why you don’t need to be an alcoholic to live an alcohol-free life. 

    Be sure to grab the Free 30-Day Guide To Quitting Drinking right here.

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    BLACKOUT With Sarah Hepola



    drinking, blackout, alcohol, drinker, people, life, quit, years, women, book, drank, sobriety, remember, felt, started, waking, college, work, living, early sobriety, quit drinking, quitting drinking, Sarah Hepola


    SPEAKERS: Casey McGuire Davidson + Sarah Hepola


    Welcome to the Hello Someday Podcast, the podcast for busy women who are ready to drink less and live more. I’m Casey McGuire Davidson, ex-red wine girl turned life coach helping women create lives they love without alcohol. But it wasn’t that long ago that I was anxious, overwhelmed, and drinking a bottle of wine and night to unwind. I thought that wine was the glue, holding my life together, helping me cope with my kids, my stressful job and my busy life. I didn’t realize that my love affair with drinking was making me more anxious and less able to manage my responsibilities.

    In this podcast, my goal is to teach you the tried and true secrets of creating and living a life you don’t want to escape from.

    Each week, I’ll bring you tools, lessons and conversations to help you drink less and live more. I’ll teach you how to navigate our drinking obsessed culture without a buzz, how to sit with your emotions when you’re lonely or angry, frustrated or overwhelmed, how to self soothe without a drink, and how to turn the decision to stop drinking from your worst case scenario to the best decision of your life.

    I am so glad you’re here. Now let’s get started.

    Hi there. I am so excited for this interview because my guest is Sarah Hepola. And she is the author of The New York Times Best Selling Memoir,


    BLACKOUT: Remembering The Things I Drank To Forget.


    She’s a writer at large for Texas Monthly and co-host of the weekly cultural podcast, Smoke ‘Em If You’ve Got ‘Em. I was a little nervous to ask Sarah to be on the podcast because I am a huge fan of hers. Her book was published about 8 months before I quit drinking. So, it was one of the first ones I read in early sobriety. And her story hit pretty close to home.

    For me, I was a big blackout drinker. And I have to say that in going back through the book and reading it again, prepping for this interview, it came back to me how many times I blacked out and hadn’t really focused on it and wondering how many of my memories from my 20s and 30s weren’t actually mine. But were stories that other people had told me and it’s sort of become my own. So, Sara, thank you for being here.


    Sarah Hepola  02:38

    Now, I’m excited to be here. You know, when I wrote this book, and I was kind of coming out of the hole of my own drinking years. One of the ideas I had was that I wanted a book for people that were new in sobriety, because I had found that year so incredibly difficult. So, you were very much in my imagined target demo of that book. And so, it’s very cool. It’s very cool that you found it. It’s very cool, but I’m talking to you now.


    Casey McGuire Davidson  03:07

    Yeah, and I actually I both read it. And I listened to it on Audible and my first year of sobriety, my sort of safe space because I used to rush to get my daughter to bed, she was 2 years old to get back to the couch to keep drinking. And I stayed in her room for hours rocking her to sleep that first year, and just with my earbuds in and listening to sobriety podcasts and sobriety memoirs, or memoirs about drinking because it helps sort of cement my resolve that this was sort of going nowhere good and was actually a big deal. So yeah, it was Yeah, yeah.


    Sarah Hepola  03:48

    I mean, I think of sobriety in a lot of ways is a process of waking up, right? Waking up to the world, waking up to your own feelings, waking up to what it is that around that around you that you may need to change or that you may need to pay attention to. But one of the downsides of that, especially in the beginning is that it can feel quite lonely.

    You know, alcohol has been this, this kind of warm blanket you’ve been able to pull around you every night or whatever. And without it, you know, you feel a little bit alone. And so, I think that’s when these like, I’m so glad that there’s been this surge of these sobriety podcasts. There’s of course been many other books other than mine that talk to people that are thinking about quitting, but I think they’re so important because they kind of come in to be almost like your first companionship. So, you kind of build up your muscles and you get larger companionship out in the world as a sober person.


    Casey McGuire Davidson  04:50

    Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think yours hit me like right from the beginning and I was showing you my book, before we jumped on which is dog eared and underlying And, and all those things because it hit me the way Caroline Knapp’s book did and I know, you know, drinking a lot or yeah, that book.


    Sarah Hepola  05:07

    I was like 25 years old when I picked up that book and I just picked it up because it was called, Drinking: A Love Story. And I was like, okay, whatever that is, that’s mine. Like, that’s, yeah, that’s me. It’s me. And I remember reading it and just being like, holy. I didn’t know that somebody else drank like me. I mean, you know, now you fast forward many years. And it’s like, Oh, my God, so many people were drinking like me, and having those private struggles and those, you know, deep, quiet shames, you know, evaluating the level of the everybody else’s glass, like all these little, like, personal habits that I thought of as is kind of uniquely my own. Yeah, Caroline Knapp’s book was pretty much my biggest inspiration to write this book. You know, she had done that in 1997. In, I still think it’s the best of this genre. But you know, a lot of things had happened in culture, the raw, in a lot of ways, the 25 years leading up from her book, represent, like the rise of women’s drinking, or at least the mainstreaming of women’s drinking, you know, it became a very fashionable thing to do.


    Casey McGuire Davidson  06:19

    Yeah. And that’s something that you talk about in the book, how, you know, back in the day, it was this idea that women were drinking in secret, and it was very shameful. And you talk about how it was sort of a badge of honor, when you were drinking? Can you tell us a little bit more about that?


    Sarah Hepola  06:38

    Yeah, totally. I mean, I think, you know, one of the things that I noticed when I quit drinking, and I looked around at a bunch of other books, that were mostly kind of like diagnostic books around women and drinking, and they would say, you know, well, one thing you should know is that women are very ashamed of their drinking. And I was like, no, no, I mean, I was ashamed of drinking too much. But I was so proud of drinking like men. I was somebody that could hold my place like I could, I could go toe to toe with men, I was so proud of that, from the time that I got to college. And I think it tracks along with a rise in a kind of, You go girl, feminism, that we see coming up in the beginning of the century, you know. It’s also coinciding with the explosion of marketing, alcohol marketing to women. You have that little show in the beginning of the 21st century? I’m sure you’ve heard about it. Sex in the City.


    Oh, yeah. And yeah, yeah, I mean, it gets, you don’t even have to watch it, for that show, to have been kind of burned on the consciousness of what it was to be a young, adventurous woman in the 21st century. And there was, you know, drinking was the place around which it was kind of the glue that kept female friendships together, you know, you met around the drinks, the cocktails, you know, and then you shared your stories, and you had these sort of amazing wild adventures. And for a lot of us, you know, especially somebody like me, I’m a little more natively shy, was, you know, had a little bit more social awkwardness, like, how are you going to pave the path to that kind of adventure? And it’s like, alcohol just rolls out the red carpet. And, you know, it’s not just beer and liquor, I happen to be drink. I happen to drink. Drink both of those things quite a bit. But it’s the explosion of wine culture, you know, fruity cocktails, cool. Cocktails, vodka, everything. Vodka martinis, vodka tonics, you know, you can watch your weight and binge drink. You know, good luck. Good luck with that, by the way, I tried to get skinny girl whatever.


    Sarah Hepola  08:49

    Yeah, that’s going to be a blackout.

    That’s going to be me falling down the stairs. That’s how I’m going to watch my Wait. I want to watch it tumbling down a flight of metal brace staircase. But you know, it’s amazing. How well, it’s not amazing. I think it actually tracks with a transgressive spirit that was in the air at the time, which is this idea. Like you know that saying like, well behaved women don’t make history.

    Casey McGuire Davidson  09:17

    Oh, yeah. Like it’s not created. Fancher started with a salad or whatever it is.

    Sarah Hepola  09:22

    Yeah, so it’s this. It’s this kind of rallying cry that hits that hits the zeitgeist in those decades. And drinking becomes one of the central ways to kind of place yourself in the middle of the frame. And, and it becomes not embarrassing to drink a lot. It becomes kind of heroic in some ways. It’s funny. It’s, you know, even if you drink too much, maybe you drink too much like Chelsea Handler does or like Amy Schumer does or like Bridget Jones and Bridget Jones’s Diary, you know, depending on the kind of you know, your age and your reference point. You But it becomes a sign of strength, even a sign of complication, you know, and all these TV shows that are coming out during those years, you know, what does the complicated thinking woman do? At the end of the day, Jim holds that bottle of wine off the shelf, and she pours herself a glass, and it shows you like the strain of her day and how strong she is. I mean, this is really like a sign. It’s the marker of strength for many, you know, many, many women. And it certainly was for me until it also became kind of like, an undoing as well.

    Casey McGuire Davidson  10:36

    Yeah, I mean, I relate to that so much, because I also was sort of the good girl who was always in my head, and very worried about what people thought of me and doing the right thing and presenting the right way. And I went to college, and I went to a small liberal arts school with a big keg culture and join the women’s rugby team. And it was a crash course in binge drinking, unhealthy drinking, you literally were celebrated for drinking, throwing up and drinking again. I mean, it was absolutely rallying.

    And you were, you know, you sort of, the goal was to drink to blackout.


    Because, you know, in your book, you wrote that alcohol was the gasoline of all adventure. And I felt that way.

    I felt like if I drank to the point of basically blackout, anything could happen.

    Anything. And that was a positive.

    Sarah Hepola  11:39

    Oh, I mean, I think, yeah, it’s almost like this fairy dust that you sprinkle over an evening to kind of like, it’s like a randomizer. Like, what might happen? Like, there might be some adventure with a guy I might, you know, steal a stop sign, you know, there might be a dance party, and I might want to take off my top like, it’s, it’s this weird, kind of like casting the dice on the table and seeing what shows up. I’m curious, what years did you go to college?

    Casey McGuire Davidson  12:06

    I went to college from 93 to 97.

    Sarah Hepola  12:09

    Okay, almost exactly the same as mine. So, I’m 92 to 97, because I had a victory lap. And definitely, in my college years, like, drinking was the center spoke of our social life. And it was also the way that you kind of, like you talked about boot and rally. I mean, I remember that I remember how funny it was when somebody puked into the bushes. I remember holding back untold number of women’s hair while they were vomiting, you know, and then and then it was, you know, funny, then you kind of cheer they’d go back into the party, right? And this is, I think, college culture is changing a little bit. But that particular behavior just ramped up and up over the decades, I think it hits its peak around like 2005 or 2002. And so, you know, one of the things that people will say, you know, researchers that are looking back on that time is like, you know, college was basically a blueprint for alcoholism. Yeah. And, and, you know, that’s not something that we understood at the time, because, like, any other, any other culture, you’re living inside it, you know, you can’t really see anything different. I grew up with these teen movies about, you know, kids partying their face off. And, you know, that was Frido.


    Casey McGuire Davidson  13:30

    Fast Times at Ridgemont. High. That was an animal house. That was my dad’s favorite movie, he literally and he was not a big drinker. When I went to college, he literally put his hand on my shoulder and said, My advice to you is to start drinking heavily, which is one is thick lines from animal house.

    Sarah Hepola  13:50

    Yes, it is. Yeah. And you know, I think a lot of people for decades, considered that almost like a birthright. And they were going to go to college, and it was like this, the several years where they got to drink their face off, and it was like, kind of forgotten about everybody kind of forgave your ridiculous behavior.

    Casey McGuire Davidson  14:14

    I don’t think we realized how freaking dangerous it was. It was so dangerous. I am shocked. I came out of it without any major, seriously dangerous consequences. And if I did, I don’t remember them. You know, like, that’s crazy. I remember many, many, many nights in college. I remember hands and knees throwing up for out.

    Sarah Hepola  14:42

    Yeah, yeah, so blackouts you know, because you’ve, you’ve mentioned that you were a blackout drinker. I was a blackout drinker obviously, so much. So, I named my book, Blackout. I just want to take a minute and explain what blackouts are just because of that. Even when I first started on this book, I was like, Oh, everybody knows what blackouts are, but it turns out not everybody does. Because not everybody has them. And only about 50% of drinkers do have them.

    Casey McGuire Davidson  15:10

    And so, then I thought 50% And I assume that big drinkers.


    Casey McGuire Davidson 


    Hi there. If you’re listening to this episode, and have been trying to take a break from drinking, but keep starting and stopping and starting again, I want to invite you to take a look at my on demand coaching course, The Sobriety Starter Kit.


    The Sobriety Starter Kit is an online self study sober coaching course that will help you quit drinking and build a life you love without alcohol without white knuckling it or hating the process. The course includes the exact step by step coaching framework I work through with my private coaching clients, but at a much more affordable price than one on one coaching. And the sobriety starter kit is ready, waiting and available to support you anytime you need it. And when it fits into your schedule. You don’t need to work your life around group meetings or classes at a specific day or time.

    This course is not a 30 day challenge, or a one day at a time approach. Instead, it’s a step by step formula for changing your relationship with alcohol. The course will help you turn the decision to stop drinking, from your worst case scenario to the best decision of your life.

    You will sleep better and have more energy, you’ll look better and feel better. You’ll have more patience and less anxiety. And with my approach, you won’t feel deprived or isolated in the process. So if you’re interested in learning more about all the details, please go to www.sobrietystarterkit.com. You can start at any time and I would love to see you in the course 



    Sarah Hepola  15:14

    That’s, that’s 50% of people who drink will have, going to have like, when you’re binge drinking, you will have blackouts.


    Now, blackouts come, like anything. They’re on a spectrum, right? But there’s two specific kinds. There’s the fragmentary blackout. And there’s an unblocked blackout on block is E N, new word be Loc, it’s a French word. And it means like, that’s the one where like, hours are gone. And that’s the kind that I had.


    And like, but fragmentary blackouts, sometimes people call them brownouts. They’re like little pieces of the night are missing. So, like, maybe you remember, like how you got to that club, but you remember everything else about it, or like, you know, there’s just like small, tiny little jigsaw pieces missing. Those are fragmentary, and they’re far more common. And, you know, actually the 50% detail that was first discovered by a researcher named Aaron White, who was doing studies on binge drinking kids at Duke University. And when he first found that statistic, 50%, he presented it and the people that worked in alcohol research, were like,


    This is wrong. There’s absolutely no way 50% of drinkers have blackouts, you got to go back and do this again.


    Because they thought it was more like 10. And, and they also thought it was late stage alcoholics that had them in some, in part, because they’d only done studies on late stage alcoholics, go figure. Um, but so anyway, he goes back, he does it again, once again, about 50% of drinkers, and it seems to be genetically linked. They’re not exactly sure why some people have a blackout, and some people don’t, some people will drink to no end, and they will never have a blackout. But if you do, then, you know, this singular horror, which is that you wake up the next day, usually, and you cannot remember things that happened. What’s actually happening in your brain is that the hippocampus, which is inter in charge of storing long term memory, gets disabled at a certain blood alcohol content. And so, it’s almost like you’re having a conversation, but the recorder, the recorder button isn’t pressed, you know.


    So, like, the conversation takes place, but there’s no record of it later. So, you can’t recall it the next day. And, you know, there’s this weird thing where like, you actually have what’s called procedural memory. And so, you can you have access to things like you know, how to tie your shoes, and even more complicated things like how to fly plane, there’s like crazy stories of people, flying planes and blackout. It’s just that it’s not getting stored into long term memory. So afterward, you can’t remember it. And one of the tricky things about not remembering is that you actually don’t know how often or how common your blackouts are, for instance, you said, you know, I had these blackouts, but I don’t really know, like, there’s a, there’s a huge element of unknowing, because you don’t know what you don’t remember. I know, for me, I wouldn’t have been aware that I was having these blackouts, because I had people around me that were saying, Do you remember when you said this? And I was like, No. And, you know, that’s what was the initial startling realization? I mean, there’s also things like, where did that pizza box come from? You know, why am I dressed in this? Why? Why do I have all my clothes on? You know, things like that. But it’s a really interesting neurological phenomenon that’s been really very little covered. And one of the things that I was able to do in my book, was to talk about that in a larger way, because nobody really had the studies had been done in 2011 10 or 11, I believe, maybe a little bit earlier than that. But you know, people really didn’t understand what blackouts were. And people don’t understand if they don’t have them. They don’t know that you can have these entire conversations and the next day, you won’t remember anything about them.


    Casey McGuire Davidson  19:18

    Like, they don’t realize that you’re blacked out at all. I remember. Like, when I was 20 years old, I was in Sydney, Australia with two girlfriends, we were hanging out. We were staying at some gross hostel. And we went into a bar. I met some guy didn’t know his name, kissed him in the bathroom. The next thing I remember I woke up at his house across town. I had no idea what the address of our hostel was. I have no idea what my friends went through trying to find me. I have no idea if they were terrified. I literally woke up and was like, I have no idea what happened. I have no idea what this guy’s name is. I haven’t No idea how I got here. I was very, very lucky in that, like, I happened to be a virgin. So, I was like, I am not having sex with you. Like, in my mind. I was like, yeah, the way. Yeah. And was a very nice guy turns out incredibly nice, but like, what the hell? You don’t like? That’s terrifying?


    Sarah Hepola  20:19

    Yep. And that story kind of points toward why when I said earlier like actually it would still be problematic. Like, that’s actually one of the big reasons is that when you get to the consent, conversation, alcohol, and blackouts, in particular, become a huge wrench in there. Because you can’t remember what you did. And it’s not necessarily true that the other person knew that you were in a blackout.


    Casey McGuire Davidson  20:48

    So necessarily tell that you on one hand, have you back up, they’re ridiculously drunk.


    Sarah Hepola  20:56

    So, what you can tell are secondary signs of intoxication. Those would be known, you know, slurring of speech, stumbling when you walk. But as you probably know, there are people that can be incredibly loaded and recite the alphabet perfectly. And then there are people that have two drinks, and they’ve got like the lampshade on their head, and they’re falling down. So, it’s very individual. And, you know, I will tell you, there are a couple of red flags. For people that might be in blackouts. One of them is that some people get this real glazed over look in their eye, kind of like an unplugged look like it’s, I’ve heard it called like a zombie look. The other one is that they will repeat what they told you about two minutes ago or one minute ago. And this is a classic thing that drunks do, because and again, it’s because that hippocampus has been disabled. And so, they can’t remember that they already, you know, they’ll say like, didn’t you love that Cowboys game? And you know, you say, yeah, it was great. And then two minutes later, they’re like, didn’t you love that Cowboys game? And you’re thinking like, Oh, my God, did you not remember that? You just said that. And they don’t, they don’t remember it. So, that’s the other red flag. But of course, in a lot of these situations, so when these things go to, like when they become legal issues, a lot of times they’re looking at, like were there signs of secondary intoxication. But one of the problems you have is that in most of these scenarios, everyone’s drunk, nobody’s really noticing.


    Casey McGuire Davidson  22:22

    It’s possible, both people are in a blackout. And it’s six day. It really is, you’re not passed out. Right?


    Sarah Hepola  22:29

    And so, you’re not passed out but have agency and what you’re doing might not be something you would normally do, because that’s actually, you know, why people drink. It’s that behavioral randomizer that I that we talked about before, it’s like, throwing the dice on the table. You know, when I was in a blackout, I knew that I was very sexually aggressive. It was something that was actually kind of embarrassing to me, like I because I was inappropriately sexually aggressive. You know, like, I’d go up to like, random guys and be like, hey, you know, and it just not. Not the guys were like, Oh, my God, no, thank you. Thank you. No, I don’t say, please.


    Casey McGuire Davidson  23:08

    And then the border, you’re like, Thank you for well, in the morning, I was she’ll remember it. Right.


    Sarah Hepola  23:13

    I was humiliated. I mean, I just was like, you know, I would hear these stories about me kind of slithering up to these guys and throwing myself at them. I mean, you know, I was really embarrassed by it. I’m embarrassed by the sexual aggressiveness that came out. But I knew that that was, you know, look, I’m disinhibited. That’s what alcohol does is it like Uncorks. It’s all these things that in your normal waking life, they kind of in my case, you know, kind of torture you like I was this, I was this person that was like, kind of in the prison of my own self-consciousness, was constantly thinking about what you thought about me in what, what, you know how I looked here, and all these things are going on in my mind. And alcohol was this magical elixir that lifted that. And, you know, if I were able to stay in the place where I could just experience that release, then I would probably still be doing it. But what happened for me is that I couldn’t I just continually drank past that place. And when I did, you know, sometimes it could be fun. Sometimes it was no big deal. And then sometimes it was like a nervously bad.



    Casey McGuire Davidson  24:28

    Yeah. Well, I have so many questions for you. But to start, lots of people may not have read your book. So, will you just tell us about it. You said, you wrote it in early sobriety. How sober were you when you actually wrote the book?


    Sarah Hepola  24:45

    So, I was about 6 months sober when I wrote a personal essay for the magazine that I was working on at the time, which was Salon, and I ran the personal essay section. I wrote a personal essay about quitting drinking. And it was the first time that I thought, oh my gosh, I think there’s a book in this, which is really funny. Because I’d always been your friend at the bar that was going to write a book and was like, I’m going to write a book. And I never, ever wrote a book, you know, and I really thought when I quit drinking, that, that part of my life was over. And so, this was sort of a surprise, to be like, Oh, wait, maybe there’s more here. So, six months sober is around when I started thinking about that.


    And one of the things I was thinking about because I was reading books like crazy, I mean, I stayed home a lot. And I was, I am a kind of introvert, mixed with an extrovert, I’m like, exactly 50% on the spectrum. And when I first quit drinking, it was like, the introverted me like, way came back. So, I just wanted to be like reading books and alone. And I was reading a lot of those books. That’s where I came up with the idea of telling the story. But for better or worse, at the time, I thought it was worse. Now, I think it’s better.


    It took me quite a while to write that book. You know. And what was nice about that was that it wasn’t a newly sober person writing that book. It was somebody you know. That book travels along with me for the first 5 years of my sobriety.


    So, the book tells the story of really like, how I fell in love with alcohol, and then why I had to walk away. And, you know, I grew up in Dallas, Texas, and my family had moved to from the East Coast. And I think there was an early feeling of kind of not belonging. And that followed me around for a lot of my childhood. I think I had, in many ways, a safe and lovely, good childhood, but it was kind of a lonely childhood. And I discovered booze really early. I used to steal sips of my parents beer that was in the fridge. And I started to steal more of them, because I liked the way it felt. And, you know, my parents are such non-alcoholics. My mom was putting half a beer and in the fridge, I’m still like, what? Who does that, but my mom does that. And so, you know, I knew from a very young age, that I loved the taste, which I think is unusual, but I’m Irish and Finnish. And I just, I feel like the champion dog of binge drinking. Like, it was bred for this. And, and also, you know that I liked the way it felt. I felt right.


    And so, fast forward to when I’m an adolescent, I’m around 11, or 12. And I’m hanging out with my older cousin who is 16, and doing all the things that 16 year olds do. And I ended up going to a party with her. And she was quite the protector, but I guess she had her, she was doing some other things. And I ended up drinking at that party. And I got very, very drunk, and I remember it, almost like a finding God moment. You know, it was like, the way that alcohol made me feel was the way that I always wanted to feel forever and ever, is like being pierced by divine light. You know, it was just like, Ah, I don’t have this heavy tyranny of the self that I’ve been carrying around. Especially like, remember, I’m like 11/12 years old right now, like that is like the height for me. That was like the height of adolescent misery. And it just released its grip.


    But that night, I got very drunk.

    And I had a blackout. And it was the first time that I realized what a blackout was.


    And, you know, my cousin, the next day was like, Do you remember doing this? Do you remember doing that? Oh, this is crazy. I can’t believe that you could do something and not remember it. That just seems insane. And so that spooked me so badly that even though I continued drinking through my high school years, I really didn’t drink like that until I got to college. And it was my years in college that really like exploded my drinking life. And they also exploded my social life. I mean, that was in many ways. One of the happiest times of my life. I look back on that time with so much fondness, but alcohol was absolutely the glue.


    I remember when I graduated, I moved in by myself. And I remember thinking like, Oh, good, I can finally quit drinking. Because my body was like, I was tired, and I was sick, and I was heavy. And I was like everything was sort of like, wildly out of balance. But then I just started drinking by myself. Like, I started getting a bottle of wine and drinking it while I was, I got a job at The Austin Chronicle, which was the alternative news weekly there. And when I would get all kind of like, gummed up with writer’s block. You know, it was like, Ah, I know what I can do just uncork about bottle of wine. And I started doing that. And, you know, Austin in the 90s, working at an alternative Newsweekly was just a really ideal place to be a binge drinker. You know, I and, and so a lot of the, the behaviors that I think in an earlier generation or maybe with a different person, they might have thought were contained. Constrained to college, I carried those across my 20s. And then into my 30s.


    You know, eventually I moved to New York. I, again, at every pivot in my life, I would always be like, Okay, now I’m going to quit drinking. I was like, I’m going to quit drinking, I’m going to lose weight. Those are like the two things, you know, I’m going to get it together. I’m not going to drink like a slob. And I don’t know if you’ve ever like, I mean, the idea of quitting drinking in New York is like, the idea of like, staying like dry in the pool.


    Casey McGuire Davidson  30:55

    You know, it’s just like, you can’t. I mean, I think that drinkers surround themselves with drinkers so much that anything you can imagine quitting because I was a daily drinker. I mean, until literally, I quit at age 40. I was a 365 night a year, you’re feeling like the sore throat and the fever, but I wouldn’t tell my husband because then it would be weird if I drank so I’d pretend not to be sick.


    Sarah Hepola  31:21

    Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s interesting. A lot of I did have a relationship, a very serious relationship for about two years, and we live together. But most of my drinking years, I was living alone. And I think that was kind of like a chicken in the egg thing. You know, like, what, but one of the things about it was that I could be unwatched. And I, you know, when I was living with my boyfriend, he was, there were a pair of eyes on me.


    Yeah. And he would know, like, what, you know, hey, look, we just opened this bottle, why is it empty? Or you said, you’re going to have three drinks last night? Why did you come home after 12. And, you know, that was difficult. And it was the source of fights and tension between us a lot of tension. And so, when I got up to New York, I was living alone. And I could drink however I wanted. And I went out to the bars and drank a lot, but there was a lot of me just drinking in the apartment by myself. And so, it became kind of like, my all, all weather companion, you know, because it’s, um, at some point, it’s like, I do this when I’m, when I’m joyful. But then it was like, but then I do this when I’m sad. And then it was like, but I do this when I’m bored. And then it’s like, I do this when I’m excited. Like, it’s basically just like the answer to any kind of emotional, anything was to drink.


    Casey McGuire Davidson  32:52

    And so, by the truth, because I drink, right, you pull the, what they call it, the geographic and, you know, think that in a new situation, you’re not going to drink the way you did. And it’s like, the idea of, you know, wherever you go, there you are.


    Sarah Hepola  33:07

    I dragged it with me across my 20s and into my 30s. And so, by my early 30s, I’m starting to realize like, this isn’t working for me. I had realized that for a long time, but I thought I would grow out of it. I think by my 30s, I’m realizing I’m not going to grow out of it. Yeah. And are not magically. And for me, part of what really caught my attention was that my friends were just losing patience with it.


    You know, it wasn’t funny anymore. And there were, you know, there were some uncontrollable nights of where the hell am I like, you know, I remember when I woke up. First thing I would think is like, Is this my ceiling? That was always my first question. Because the number of times that I woke up, and it was like, Jim, that’s not my ceiling. And then I would have to figure out where I was. And sometimes it was just like, a friend’s house. And then sometimes it was some guy’s house, and maybe I knew him, and maybe I didn’t. And then I’d have to kind of like, you know, reverse engineer how I got there, and how it’s going to get home. And we’ll, who did I need to apologize to? And it was just, it was an exhausting way to live. But my friends telling me like that, you know, you’re embarrassing me. Or this isn’t funny, or I’m worried about, you hurt me so deeply because I had become a drinker. In some ways, because I’m a people pleaser. I wanted to be the kind of girl that you wanted to have at the party. So, this news was coming back to me, which is that people didn’t want me at the party is devastating. But I didn’t know how to live without the alcohol. Because it had become so thoroughly threaded into my life. It’d become something that I did.


    Casey McGuire Davidson  35:01

    In every social setting, and addictive, right, that’s something weirdly, people don’t talk about highly, highly addictive.


    Sarah Hepola  35:07

    You know, and I think I thought the addiction really only had to do with like, if you don’t drink, you get the DTS and I never did. And so, I thought, Oh, I’m fine, but I’ll tell you what I did a couple things. One is that my anxiety went up. And I had a hammering heart, and I had a hard time sleeping. And that’s those are all very classic symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. That I think the like behavioral habits, were just so much harder for me. Yeah. You know, setting away the physical addiction of it. It was this behavioral addiction, that what do you do after work you drink? What do you do with your friends? You drink? I just didn’t have any other, like, what do you do when you go to a restaurant, like you have to drink. I didn’t know how to behave and operate in any other world. So, it by the time I’m 33, and 34, I’m going in and out of recovery rooms. I’m trying to hold like, I don’t want to be sober. But I can’t seem to get a hold on my drinking. And, you know, I’m just in the spin cycle of like, just, everything’s uncomfortable, right? Because when I’m trying to quit, I’m uncomfortable. And when I go back to it, I’m uncomfortable, because maybe I shouldn’t be doing this. And it’s just all of this is just ricocheting back and forth until finally I kind of I stopped fighting. And, and I quit at 35, a couple months before I turned 36.


    Casey McGuire Davidson  36:37

    Yeah. And you said that you had said many times, you know that? Okay, this is it. And then you go back to it. I think everybody does that. That’s what, literally your book The reason I was so drawn to it was, every emotion you were talking about was one that I’d had the very first time I drank later than you simply can only drink twice in high school, both times total blackouts. And I thought it was amazing. But I don’t remember it. Like that’s what’s so crazy to me. I thought they were the best night ever. And I literally don’t remember almost anything that happened. And I was so the next day like so ill. And yeah, I blacked out. Drink. I mean frightening amounts of alcohol.


    The first two times I, I drank. And that was how I wanted to drink.


    Right, I wanted to get to the point of blackout, because that was when my brain switched off. And I could have crazy adventures and like you’d like what I drank just sort of shifted.


    I was in my early 20s. And I started drinking wine alone in my apartment because I was terrified at my job and the imposter syndrome and the lonely. And I, like you said, like college aged. It was one of the happiest times in my life, which I think is what so many people, you know, I’ve interviewed my husband on this podcast and talking about, you know why it’s, it was really hard to give up drinking. And I quit when I had two kids and was 40. And I’ve been with my husband since I was 22/23. Like, that was different about our stories. And I think I was, in some ways very lucky in that he was always taking care of me. And I was always surrounded. I didn’t go out drinking a lot alone unless I was at a business conference, or got stuck in an airport or, you know, all once I was out of my 20s. And so, my colleagues got me back to my hotel room. I remember nothing on business conferences, which is crazy, but so I was sort of the pass out on the couch. Don’t remember the end of shows drinkers. But he said to me kind of the same thing. Like, I was like, Look, you knew. You knew who I was when he married me. You liked it. You know, love me, don’t judge me. And he was kind of like, you have an eight year old and a two year old. I kind of thought you would grow out of it. No offense girl.


    Sarah Hepola  39:25

    Yeah, yeah. I mean, the mom part of it is so interesting. You know, if you look at drinking, statistically, that tends to be at least historically, we’re drinking kind of fell off a cliff because people can’t parenthood is when you kind of can’t keep up that drinking anymore. Having not anymore. But now it’s a really interesting shift, where it has become very socially acceptable to drink as a parent As a mother and you know, I remember those, like all these years of, you know, reading like little jokes about, you know, mommy drinks because you cry, I mean, but also what’s underneath all of that is that motherhood is also a lonely, scary, and alienating experience. And it can be mined numbingly boring to. And so, what are you going to do to kind of nourish yourself through that, and alcohol becomes this thing. And I, you know, it, my life turned out, I would have loved to have had children. I didn’t. And it is kind of somewhere between like choice and circumstance, like, it’s kind of like, like, I there’s certain places where I chose that there’s other places where I wanted that, and it didn’t work out.


    You know, and it’s part of why I wish I do wish I had gotten sober earlier. Um, I got sober at 35. And was like, you know, I spent the first several years engaged in this, you know, the process of recovery, writing this book, this book came out when I was 40. And it was kind of like, okay, now I’m going to think about having kids and it’s like, 40 is not the time 40 is not the time, you know, because you know, you start having then it gets a little I’m not saying you can’t have children.


    Casey McGuire Davidson  41:20

    I have my daughter. That, I with you, though, like, yeah, like, if I was like, I have to. Fucking old for this shit, when she screamed out, you just have to, you know, you have to marshal a lot of resources,


    Sarah Hepola  41:27

    A lot of times there can be IVF involved, there’s, you know, and like, but the big thing for me at that point was I didn’t have a partner, I wanted to have a child with a partner. And so, you know, I didn’t end up having kids. But I have a lot of friends, who are mothers. And I have watched, I’ve worked with several mothers who are, you know, trying to give up that drinking? And it’s, it’s really difficult. And unfortunately, I think one of the things that startles them is when there is a near catastrophe. And unfortunately, a near catastrophe is very close to a catastrophe. So, you’re really playing with fire at that point. Yeah.


    Casey McGuire Davidson  42:11

    And again, I think I was just very lucky that my husband was around a lot. Because I’m like, I didn’t do anything that wrong. But there was always someone sort of picking up my slack. Always. Yeah. And thank God, but I work with a lot of mothers, a lot of working mothers. And it’s, there is this huge mommy wine culture. I mean, huge. And it’s also because it’s somehow like you were talking about this badge of honor, this empowered woman is a way for women to say I am more than my children. I am not the mom who, you know, dedicates her entire life to her children. I’m both a great mom. But I also quote unquote, have can still have fun, right?


    Sarah Hepola  43:02

    And I totally think so. Yeah, it becomes this signal that you have, like a personality, like rich personality are cool, you know, and you’re not going to be one of these people that’s just sitting around talking about like, where’s the, you know, school portrait going to be or whatever, like, like, there’s so much more depth to you.


    Casey McGuire Davidson  43:22

    Yeah, I know, I get that. And, and I weird, shameful thing too. And I think that just happens, you know, you get older, and you also drink a lot more, because that’s how alcohol works. And suddenly, it’s not funny anymore. So, it’s both a badge of honor. But nobody sees that you go to the mommy play date, drink a lot, or go out to dinner with the girls after work and drink. But then you come home and open another bottle of wine. And it’s so important to you.


    Sarah Hepola  43:50

    Yeah, I remember. I mean, when I would go out with my friends, to bars, and then I would come home. We just quit drinking too early. You know, like, it just I needed to keep going. I mean, this was one of the things that I found unmanageable for me, ultimately, was that once I started, I just did not want to stop. I remember also, like going out for drinks with a friend saying goodbye, like at the subway, and then going to pick up a bottle of wine and running into her. And she was like, Hi, what are you doing? And I was like, Oh, I just needed this for tomorrow. Like, but I mean, this guy remembered. Yeah, just remembered. I’ve got to bring this to it for a gift for somebody. You know, it’s like that was my routine was you know, go out with the group. But then I can’t stop.


    Casey McGuire Davidson  44:50

    Yeah, so I need to pick you know, I need to come home and pick up some more, you know, and I’m going to have to keep going. And, you know, probably very lucky that you weren’t driving in New York to I mean, well, that. Absolutely.


    Sarah Hepola  44:55

    You know, during the worst years of my drinking in New York, I had a boy A friend that would drive me I’m not sure he ever, you know, who really should have been driving but you know, but he was the more responsible one. And then yeah, that’s one of the reasons why drinking is so is so wild in New York. I mean, this predates Uber now, I guess everybody can have this. Yeah. But you know, definitely at the time, there was this culture of, you know, you just kind of step onto the subway, or more often, if you’re drunk, you know, you just kind of like, pour yourself into a cab or a car service and back at home.


    Casey McGuire Davidson  45:30

    Yeah, my husband used to say to me, he was like, I don’t understand you drink until it’s gone. Like you run out, or you pass out. And this was like, Wednesday nights. And I was like, I know, I just, I drink. And I never want the feeling to end like, I’m so happy. I think that if I just keep drinking, it’ll never end. And I was like, an early pass out girl. Like, that was the funny thing. I would like drink fast and pass out. So, it ended so much faster, then, you know, I remember New Year’s Eve, we went away with no kids with all of our friends from our 20s. And just, I didn’t make it to midnight. I missed the entire night. But I thought, you know, I thought it was going to be fantastic. So, you mentioned earlier, and I just want to ask predisposition or factors that factor in to being a susceptible to blackout. Can you talk about that?


    Sarah Hepola  46:30

    Absolutely. Yeah. So, like I said, it’s genetic, and nobody quite knows why. It’s like some people are able to roll their tongue and other people aren’t. But there are definitely like risk factors for blackout that I always make like, to make sure people know, one of them is drinking on an empty stomach. That’s probably like the number one thing. And I was, by the way, I was always doing that, because I was like, I’m going to save calories. Like, I’m just going to eat my dinner tonight. My calories and why. Yeah, yeah.


    And then, the other one is doing shots. You know, really what blackouts do it, they come from a spike in the blood alcohol content. So, it’s not just the level of your, what’s called BAC or blood alcohol content, it’s how fast you get there. But the other risk factor is being a woman. Because women don’t metabolize alcohol as fast as men do, which is why the binge drinking guidelines for us are for and they’re five for them. It’s not just because we’re smaller, although we often are. But it’s also that like, there’s more fat in our body. And so, like it’s this whole biological thing that we’re like we actually metabolize alcohol slower than men do. And so, even though it’s about like, men drink more than women do on average, I think women black out slightly more than men do.


    Casey McGuire Davidson  47:53

    Yeah. And you know, it’s funny, like sometimes I didn’t even realize I had blacked out. I remember my, one of my biggest drinking girlfriends, and I went to a wedding with our husbands down in Santa Barbara. And we woke up the next morning, gorgeous wedding. And literally in our hotel room, were like, our husbands would be so proud of us. We were so good. We’re like, Yeah, like, they would be sick because they were both like Jesus girls, like, you know, we were 27 and we walked into the brunch the next morning, and literally everybody was like, how are you guys feeling? That was crazy. I mean, apparently we were like slapping the groom, right? Father’s on his ass. And like, I jumped on my best friend’s husband back and like, zero wreck. Like, we never would have known if people didn’t open bar wedding reception.


    Sarah Hepola  48:50

    Blackout stories are one of the most common. I mean, I’ve heard so many of them.


    Yeah. Because, you know, it’s just like, it’s a heightened moment. And then like, watching our friends are there you’re not watching what you’re drinking. You know, there’s kind of like a release from like, the stress around it. And it just yeah, like, it’s very common. And it’s also and in fact, the last time I ever drank was at the reception to a wedding.


    Oh, really?


    Yeah, it was I was at a friend’s reception. And you know, I don’t remember how I got home. I, you know, I remember having a great time. And they were all these like interesting people there and like, kind of like famous writers and I really wanted to impress them, and then it’s almost like a smash cut. Like, I wake up in my bed and I’m like, How did I get here? What happened? What did I do? And in my mind, I’m wondering if I did all the things that you just said that you did, like how, like, did I go around and like, slap the ass of the groom and like, like, this was like, we were older. I was like, 35 years old. You know, like, it wasn’t like a 22 year old doing this like it was. Yeah. And I just remember thinking like, oh my god, I’m going to be like this for the rest of my life. Like, I’m just going to be this little lush that people have to, you know, carry out of the bar, and take care of.


    Casey McGuire Davidson  50:16

    And like you said, when you said, it’s not funny anymore, because we were told when we were younger, I mean, all of our girlfriends tell us, Oh, it’s funny. It’s no big deal. It was awesome. That was epic.


    Sarah Hepola  50:31

    You know, it was not funny. I had been living under the illusion that it was this hero’s tale for a very long time. And I was starting to realize it was very much the opposite of that. And so, I remember feeling just absolute despair. And I thought, Well, I tried many times to quit drinking and failed. So, I couldn’t even trust myself anymore. Because every time I said, I’m going to quit, I just took it back three or four days later, and I was so sick of that, like, I was so sick of even hearing myself say that, that I didn’t even make a big proclamation.


    I was just, like, I did call my mom. And I think when I called my mom, it was there was something of like, you know, when you can just kind of tell the full truth to somebody, and it makes, it changes things, because now I was going to be accountable. I wasn’t. Nobody knew. Nobody knew until somebody could actually see. Your mom worried about your drinking. So, my mom knew that I was a heavy drinker. But I was living in New York. And so, I was really able to frame how I drank to her. And I also am a very willful young woman. And so, you know, she wasn’t as heavy a drinker as I was, and I was always sort of like, Mom, everyone drinks like this, like, I know you didn’t, but like, believe me, it’s really normal, you know, and I had persuaded her basically, that my drinking while it was unusually high, it wasn’t as dangerous. As it turned out. It was, I mean, I think when she read my book, then it was sort of like, oh, my god, yeah, all this stuff was going on. And I didn’t know, and I should have, you know, there was a lot of mothers sort of, like I should have known. And it was like, Look, I did a really good job hiding it from you. Like, like, you can’t have known I wanted you not to know, I didn’t want people to intervene. But I did. Like, I got real with her. And I think that was the beginning for me, of starting out on this other this other way, that was a life without alcohol.


    Casey McGuire Davidson  52:30

    I love that you wrote in your book, about sobriety being sort of the plot twist, you said, I can’t believe I’d once thought the only interesting part of his story was the heroine when she was drinking. Yeah, sobriety wasn’t boring. Sobriety was the plot twist. Because quitting drinking was literally my worst case scenario. I didn’t even know what sober people did. I was like, Do they just sit around a helmet, staring at each other on a Thursday night, like, I just I was like, Oh, my God, it’s going to be like, I’m going to be bored and boring, and deprived and isolated, and life is going to suck for the rest of my life, which is crazy. But tell me about the plot twist.


    Sarah Hepola  53:19

    But that’s 100% what I thought and what so many people think. And I think it’s really interesting, because it goes back to kind of what you said about what you wanted a drinking life to be when you were younger, like this whole thing of like, you don’t even know what’s going to happen. Like, it’s just going to be like, like, adventure awaits. But then what happens is that a drinking life is actually like a life stuck on repeat. Like, it’s, it’s literally just the same thing over and over again. And so, what? Yeah, it’s Groundhog’s Day. You know. And so, what happens when you quit drinking? Is that you open up this possibility for all these other things to happen. You know? Is it boring? Yes, at first. Guess what, then you actually learn what it is that you’d like to do so that you’re not bored. You take agency in your own life, you start to discover things that you had always wanted to do or dreamed about doing, but then afraid to do you know, like, I always feel like, you know, I wanted to be the strong, confident woman, but alcohol is a crutch. And at what do we know about using a crutch, as long as you have a crutch, you do not learn to stand. And it’s not until you throw that away, that you really get that.


    I really got the thing that I had been drinking for, which was deep intimacy with people when I spoke to them. You know, like, how many conversations did I have with my new best friend that I didn’t remember the next day? Yeah. And, you know, and it was like, I could really be present. I found that my friendships deepened when I got the courage up to finally date somebody which took a while because I was really freaked out, you know, like, I’d been such a kind of wild flood in the last years of my career, you know, like, I just, it just was almost like I can’t I don’t even know how this happened. I don’t know how it works, don’t make me do it. But I started dating and intimacy with men was so much better. You know, my writing felt more honest and deeper, you know, things that I had been drinking for, were eluding me. They were getting farther and farther away when I was drinking. And then when I stopped, it was like I could, I could finally reach them on my own. And, you know, I do think yeah, sobriety is the plot twist. I mean, I didn’t know that I was going to, like, all those years that I thought I was going to write one of these books about another, you know, marauding, you know, high adventure drinker that falls off her barstool. Like one more story from a drunk writer and like, when do I write my book? When I quit drinking?


    Casey McGuire Davidson  56:01

    Yeah, yeah. Because you don’t have time. You’re losing all those hours. And I felt really ill. A lot of the time, I didn’t realize until I got away from alcohol. How I was going through life feeling basically sick every day. And I’ve been doing it for so many years. I didn’t even realize it.


    Sarah Hepola  56:24

    Yeah, most people by that point, are kind of existing with a low key hangover all the time. It’s kind of like this scrim over your life. And you don’t realize that it that it? And then and then it lifts, and it lifts and you’re at least I was like, oh my god, like I love waking up now. Like, I’m like, Oh my God, that’s the best part of the day. I’m a morning person. I love it.


    Casey McGuire Davidson  56:50

    I know. And people who are drinking and listening to this, like, hate me. They don’t believe you. Which is me. Yeah. You know, or you believe but you’re like, Well, you guys. I mean, I used to be like, Yeah, but you didn’t love drinking the way I did not say I thought, but you must have been one of those. Take it or leave circa like anyone gets to this point who doesn’t love ate it? You know? Yeah.


    Sarah Hepola  57:16

    I just when I heard people talk about quitting drinking, and how great life was I just really thought you weren’t a real drinker. And, you know, and, and honestly, I felt that for a long time, because the first year of my sobriety was really hard. Yeah, it really sucked. It’s not like it wasn’t like, I guess for some people, they quit drinking and things get better pretty immediately, they start to feel better, they look better. I was a friggin Grump. I hated it. I hated it. Like, I was really cranky. I didn’t like being I was going to AAA meetings. I still go to AAA meetings, but like, I didn’t like the program. I thought it was kind of corny. And, you know, I just I was resisting this whole other way of life. And, and it was uncomfortable for a while. But all I can say is that man, I just don’t know anybody that loved alcohol the way I did. I mean, you know, there are people that loved it as much, but I mean, like, I loved it. And, but the truth is, is like there’s a time in your life where like, you’ve kind of had your fun, you know.


    Casey McGuire Davidson  58:33

    You have all those memories, like women will say to me all the time, but it wasn’t always like this, but it was a lot of fun. You spend your whole life trying to get back to that when, you know, 90% of my life when I was stopping drinking was significantly worse. Because I mean, I would berate myself first thing I hated looking at my bloodshot eyes. I felt shaky. I didn’t want anyone to get to know me too. Well, I was ill, you know, when you look back on college or your early 20s, even though I was like, throwing a bile and sweaty on the forum, and that was fun. Yeah. Which is crazy.


    Sarah Hepola  59:12

    I know. But it’s also like the mask that you can wear so that people don’t really see you and that you don’t really see your own life. And I think one of the questions that you have to ask, we’re at the point that you come to where you’re listening to a podcast about quitting drinking or about life after drinking. You have to kind of ask, like, what are you? What are you trying to drink your way out of? Yeah, you know, like, what, what are you drinking to avoid? What is it? And is there any way that you could change that so that you don’t have to drink your way out of it? Like how can you build a life that you don’t have to drink your way out?


    Casey McGuire Davidson  59:51

    You said something. I read a bunch of articles you wrote in one of the things that I loved that you read, or that you said was info Guy believed and you said, in sobriety, you have to look around and you and figure out how can I make this life better than my drinking life? Because if it’s not, there’s too much temptation to go back, I found that.


    Sarah Hepola  1:00:15

    100% Because if you got sober and then your life just stayed the same, and it was just sucky. Well, I mean, like, willpower will only get you so far, right? I mean, at the end of the day, like, I’m kind of a selfish person, like, I want to see rewards, and I want things to be better for me. And the reason that I’ve been sober 13 years now, is because I don’t want to lose what I have. Yeah, I don’t want to lose this. I don’t like. I have a real awareness that for whatever fleeting momentary feeling of joy, I might experience, the cost of it. The cost of it to my soul, to my work, to my daily, you know, to my sleep, all of it. It’s just too high. Yeah. Yeah.


    Casey McGuire Davidson  1:01:10

    I mean, I could talk to you all day. I’ve underlined so many pieces in your book. I’d love to read you, but I won’t just because you truly. And I do not say this to everyone like. you are a great writer, really great writer. I do want to let you know. So, I texted some girlfriends and I put it out on social that I was going to interview you. I honestly was so excited. And my friend Margaret texted me back with a picture and an underlined of your book and she said, if you get a chance, let her know that this one sentence at the end of her interjection literally changed the trajectory of my life. And I’m not being overdramatic. And it was the line.


    There was something fundamentally wrong about losing the narrative of my own life.


    Sarah Hepola  1:02:03

    That made me tear up. Do you hear that?


    Casey McGuire Davidson  1:02:05

    Thank you. I mean, yeah, truly. So obviously, anyone who has not read this book, please, please do. It’s one of my favorites. There’s so much good stuff in here. But how can people find you follow you? All that good? Yeah.


    Sarah Hepola  1:02:23

    Yeah, so I’m on the socials, I’m on Twitter @sarahhepola and there’s also a Facebook group that I think you just search for Sarah. Hello, Blackout, and I’m on Instagram, @thesarahhepolaexperience. And then, I also have a website, sarahhepola.com. And as you mentioned, at the top of the show, I do a weekly culture podcast with my partner, Nancy Rommelmann, it’s called, Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em Podcast, and we talk about what’s going on in the world. Right now, we’re both journalists. And, and I’m working on a second memoir right now, which is about being single and not having kids, but having one of them and going through those years of that window closing and kind of stepping up to the life that you have. It’s called, UnAttached.


    Casey McGuire Davidson  1:03:06

    Is it post-drinking? Or does it include drinking and go through?


    Sarah Hepola  1:03:11

    It includes some drinking, but it’s mostly post-drinking. Okay. Yeah, mostly covers my 40s. But it definitely dipped back into some of the, like, formative relationships I had during my drinking years. Yeah.


    Casey McGuire Davidson  1:03:23

    And on smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em, because this is going to come out in January and Dry January is huge. Are you doing anything on that? Or, or not? So much. It’s more politics and other parts?


    Sarah Hepola  1:03:36

    You know, it’s a good question. We are very fly by the seat of your pants kind of operation over there. So, I don’t know if we’ll do something we’ll probably usually do like a first of the year, something. So, we’ll see what we do now.


    Casey McGuire Davidson  1:03:48

    Because it’s getting so huge. When I quit drinking, I first tried it. 10 years ago, of course, finally stopped almost seven and a half years ago now. And try January wasn’t even a thing. And now like over 30% of American adults take part in it. So that’s very cool.


    Sarah Hepola  1:04:05

    It’s wild. That wasn’t a thing when I quit drinking now. It’s a big thing. I think it is, you know, I think it’s a really cool idea to just kind of see what your life is like without alcohol. I think one of the fundamental questions you can ask yourself is not Am I an alcoholic? Because you can get caught up in that definition. Yeah. It’s, is my life better without alcohol? Is alcohol serving my life? I think that’s one of the better kind of foundational questions to ask yourself, and you can run that up the flagpole. And you also can have support of your friends that are trying it too, which I think is super cool.


    Casey McGuire Davidson  1:04:42

    So, you can stop earlier and just get that that contrast of do I feel better without it? I guess I’m worried about my drinking and just tried to moderate.


    Sarah Hepola  1:04:52

    I tried to moderate for years.


    Casey McGuire Davidson  1:04:55

    Everybody does. And it’s almost impossible.


    Sarah Hepola  1:05:00

    Here’s so much easier to stop. It was and nobody believes that, but it is. If you don’t, if you don’t start, you don’t have to try to moderate.


    So, thank you so much for coming.


    Thank you so much. It was so much fun to talk to you.

    Thank you for listening to this episode of The Hello Someday Podcast. If you’re interested in learning more about me or the work I do or accessing free resources and guides to help you build a life you love without alcohol, please visit hellosomedaycoaching.com. And I would be so grateful if you would take a few minutes to rate and review this podcast so that more women can find it and join the conversation about drinking less and living more. 



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