Sarah Hepola’s dream to write a book first came to her in a classroom at McCulloch Intermediate School.
Little did she know that more than 25 years later she would finally accomplish that dream.
Hepola’s best-selling memoir Blackout: Remember The Things I Drank To Forget follows her adult life as she tries to piece together the countless alcohol-induced blackouts.
But, as readers find out, Hepola’s story didn’t begin in the glitz and glamour of her New York City lifestyle. It actually began in University Park.
“I came here when I was four years old,” Hepola, 41, said. “We lived at Lovers and Preston. We rented a small house and we tried to make our place there.”
Hepola’s experience growing up in the Park Cities was, as she explained, two-fold. While grateful for the education she received, the same education that would inspire her to write for a living, she also felt the challenge of being an outsider.
Hepola readily admits she took her first sip of alcohol long before she was of legal age to even get behind the wheel of a car.
“I was starting to socially drink at 13,” Hepola said.
As Hepola progressed through school, she found her group of drinking peers expanded, and was soothed by the way alcohol made her feel like she finally belonged somewhere.
“And one thing I felt drinking in my last two years of high school where we drank mostly in parks and parking lots and peoples houses … how much it soothed the hurt of my early years,” Hepola said. “I was so intoxicated by the way drinking broke the hierarchy around us. All the cliques … it felt like it all dissolved when we were drinking.”
With high school behind her, Hepola travelled south to attend the University of Texas at Austin. While she knew she wanted to be a writer, she had never thought to be a journalist until her roommate recruited her to write for The Daily Texan.
“I had tunnel vision that I was going to write fiction,” Hepola said. “The discipline of writing can take many different shapes.”
Soon, she got her first taste for the pop culture lifestyle where she was sent to concerts and movies, and was paid to write about them. Steadily, she made her way through the Texas writing circuit, working for The Austin Chronicle and the Dallas Observer, until she decided to move to where she thought the real action was — New York, where she wrote for The New York Times, Elle, Salon.com, and Glamour, to name a few.
“I’ve always been a very ambitious person,” Hepola said. “Drinking just didn’t impeded me in the early years.”
The further into her career she got, the further down the alcohol-rich rabbit hole she fell. She would be in the bars every night, pre-gaming for shows and concerts, and drinking to enable her creative process for writing. But as the years went by, she started to have holes in her memory, and resignations about her lifestyle.
“When you’re 35 and you fall off your bar stool, people aren’t laughing anymore,” Hepola said. “ … people were starting to feel sorry for me and stance themselves from. So [I] started to wonder, I’ve got to do something about this.”
After her decision to get sober, and stay sober, it was clear she needed to remove herself from the place where she lost so much of her time. Ironically, the place she had been itching to abandon as a child was the place she realized she needed the most.
Now, back in Dallas, Hepola’s story is one she feels is relatable to many, even those who are scared to admit it.
“I think that we want to know as humans we’re not alone,” Hepola said. “As far as struggling with drinking, there’s a lot of people that will be there to help you and talk to you about that.”