There are two kinds of blackouts. The more common is fragmentary, where slivers of the night are missing. The more extreme version is “en bloc,” where several hours can be wiped from the memory drive. Fragmentary blackouts start at a blood alcohol concentration of about 0.2, though they’ve been found at lower levels; everyone’s brain is different. En bloc blackouts happen closer to 0.3, and it’s worth noting that at 0.35, it is estimated that about half of drinkers will die, so blackout drinkers are getting up there.
A common bonding experience in drinking circles is “piecing the night together”— friends sitting around the next day, laughing as they scroll through text messages and camera rolls, trying to fill in the gaps in one another’s memories. Some of the missing dots are easy to connect: Oh, that’s right, we went to the bar! Others might be confounding: Wait, we went to a BAR?
“Piecing things together” is a phrase that jumped out at me when I read Judge Kavanaugh’s 2014 speech to the Yale Law School Federalist Society, in which he describes drunken heroics as a routine part of campus life; Senator Richard Blumenthal also leapt on this at the hearing, although Judge Kavanaugh deflected the inquiry, as he did every question about any possible dark side to his consumption.