You Asked, We Answered
My wife cheated on me, and said she was in a “blackout” and that she can’t be held responsible for what happens in a blackout. Is this true?
A blackout is drinking or drugging to the point of memories not being recorded in the brain’s memory banks. However, if the person were truly “out of control”, there would be no measure of orchestrated behavior present whatsoever. In other words, all language, body movement, etc. would be random and spasmodic. It isn’t of course, as the person is simply living in the moment, albeit quite intoxicated. If you see this situation as no different than her being intoxicated and remembering what she did, then you have a clear picture of how you can respond. Know this, a person is still responsible for their choices – even in a blackout. The Freedom Model for Addictions talks about blackouts in the following passage (although on a different topic).
“Some people who drink alcohol or take benzodiazepines to the point of blackout may think that, at these levels, drugs do remove stressful thoughts. A blackout is a state in which memories are not stored so that you may wake up the next day with no memories of stress (or anger, hostility, sadness, etc.), but that doesn’t mean you didn’t experience these emotions. You just don’t remember them. The truth is that people are conscious while blacked out, they display purposeful behavior, and they exhibit the full range of emotions. In fact, it’s essentially impossible to tell that someone is in a blackout at the time because they are simply highly intoxicated.”