For the past two weeks, heavy drinking and the memory loss that results – blackouts – have, unfortunately, been in the news. And, unfortunately, that’s a subject I know quite a bit about.

Blackouts occur when a person drinks a lot of alcohol in a short amount of time, which causes the brain to be unable to form new memories. To put it unscientifically, your brain gets too drunk to push “record” on the camera.

The scary thing about being blackout drunk is that you can do things that you won’t remember the next day. There are several movies that my boyfriend swears up and down we watched together that I can’t remember a single detail of. You can even be highly functional. My writing first came to the attention of the Press Herald when I wrote a letter to the editor (about the difficulties of being a millennial, of course) to them. The letter was published and got a fair amount of traction.

And I have absolutely no memory of writing that letter. I was in a blackout. I woke up the next morning, looked at my email and saw “thank you for your submission!” All I could do was hope that whatever I had submitted wasn’t embarrassing. (It wasn’t, everything has worked out fine and I have never written any of my columns under the influence of alcohol.)

I don’t think that heavy drinking in high school or college should necessarily disqualify one from being a Supreme Court justice, but I think that lying about it should. I wasn’t impressed with the way that Brett Kavanaugh responded to questioning about his drinking habits.

I was hoping he would say something along the lines of “Yes, I drank too much and partied more than I should have in high school and college, but then I realized it was getting in the way of my goals, and so I buckled down and grew up and now I only drink a single craft beer now and again.” (Or something like that.) (Anyone hiring a speechwriter?) Instead, he got defensive, to the point of snapping back and asking senators about their own drinking habits, including Amy Klobuchar, who is herself the daughter of an alcoholic.

I’ve done that before, of course. Not to senators, but when my family and friends would ask me about my drinking habits, I would throw the question back in their faces.

Sometimes it worked, because it was easy for them to think, “Well, I drink, so I have no standing to tell Victoria that I’m concerned about her drinking habits.” But there was, of course, a big difference between their drinking habits and mine.

President Trump is a well-known teetotaler; it is one thing I actually admire about him. It’s not uncommon for people who have seen a family member suffer from alcohol abuse to abstain, and considering the genetic component of addiction, it’s probably a good idea. He saw his older brother, Freddy, die young of alcoholism, and it clearly had a profound effect on him. One of the only times the president is ever self-deprecating is when talking about his brother (“Everybody loved him … He’s like the opposite of me”; “I had a brother, Fred. Great guy, best-looking guy, best personality – much better than mine”). I hope my own younger siblings never have to go through anything like that.

Of course, Trump has also made comments that make it seem like he thinks there is more choice to addiction than there actually is. At a White House event last year, “the president … explained that he has trouble empathizing with friends who ‘are having difficulty with not having that drink at dinner’ and perhaps struggling with alcohol,” The Washington Post recently reported. ” ‘I say to myself, “I can’t even understand it,” ‘ Trump said. ‘Why would that be difficult?’ ”

Addiction is a tricky illness to understand, it’s true, because it does look an awful lot like there are choices involved. But when you’re an alcoholic – at least, in my experience – choosing to have a drink isn’t like choosing whether or not to have a scoop of ice cream with pie. It’s like choosing to yank your hand away from a hot stovetop you’ve touched. You can keep your hand on the burning hot stovetop, but it’s very painful and very difficult.

I’ve been sober for a little over four months now. Every day, I wake up, I put my hand on that hot stovetop and I keep it there.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @mainemillennial

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