How to get over what I may or may not have done to my fiance?
December 27, 2016 12:30 AM   Subscribe

Not even sure if I cheated, how can we move past this?

A few days ago, I turned 30. And I seriously fucked up. Long story short, I went out with a friend, got extremely drunk, and woke up on a couch in a stranger's living room.

I've always been a flirtatious drunk, but I have never crossed the line before -- in other words, I will dance with other people, which my fiance doesn't care about, but I have never kissed anyone else. I have of course been attracted to other people over the course of our five year relationship but never done anything to mess up what we have. I woke up fully clothed, still drunk, and just grabbed my bag and walked out of the apartment. I have the address where an Uber picked me up outside but absolutely nothing else, and I have been driving myself insane trying to find this person so I can figure out what happened.

My friend left the bar at 2am, and according to her I was talking to someone but being very insistent that nothing would happen (apparently this guy was hitting on me). After four days of searching I finally found this first person my friend left me with and contacted them on Facebook, he told me I "was fine," that nothing happened, and that he saw me talking to some OTHER guy but that he left with his friends. So I have basically a 6 hour period which is completely black. During this time I called my fiance three times but didn't manage to actually speak to him (at 3:30am), texted him a bunch of nonsense at 5am, and then I assume I passed out, woke up at 8am and immediately went home.

I texted him literally as soon as I woke up and told him what happened. I feel like the scum of the earth. I feel as if I will never get past what I could have done. My fiance is pretty upset as well, he said it doesn't change how he feels about me but he knows he will be wondering in the back of his mind if I go out again. Obviously I need to make some big changes in what I drink, how much, and in what situations I drink. I never want to put either one of us through this again. I feel even worse because of how bad I feel, I am just crying to him all the time and giving him no space to be upset at me when I know he has every right to.

I have tried everything I can possibly think of to find this person and get answers, but I am running out of ideas and trying to face the fact that I will almost certainly never know. I could have just kissed him, I could have just gone back and slept on his couch for some inexplicable reason, I could have had sex. I will never know and I don't know how to live with myself. I hate myself for doing this and I don't know how to move forward. I know my fiance wants to forgive me but I am afraid he will never be able to trust me again, and frankly I don't know that I deserve to be trusted.

I have considered returning to the street where the cab picked me up the next morning and putting signs on the building to call me if anyone knows anything, that is how desperate I am to find out. I have always had a tendency to black out on amounts of alcohol that wouldn't have that effect on other people, but nothing like this has ever happened to me. I just can't believe I am this age and still acting like such an idiot.
Before anyone asks, my fiance is across the country on a work assignment, that's why he wasn't with me.

How do I move past this? Is it possible for my relationship to overcome this? I know my fiance still loves me, he is a saint, but will he ever be able to trust me again?
posted by queens86 to Human Relations (55 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I would be more concerned for your safety than the cheating issue. You sound like you would never consciously cheat but you very well could have been sexually assaulted. Also only go out with friends who won't let you leave with strangers.
posted by kinoeye at 12:39 AM on December 27, 2016 [94 favorites]

Can you go to a doctor and get a bunch of tests done, including for (I'm sorry to say this) date rape drugs? The fact that nothing like this has ever happened to you, and that the dudes involved are so "meh" in their reactions, rings very off.

Get to a doctor as soon as you can.
posted by fraula at 1:00 AM on December 27, 2016 [34 favorites]

You cannot cheat without your own conscious knowledge and consent. Unless you remember making a deliberate decision to go home with someone else, and to sleep with someone else, you didn't cheat.

It does sound, however, like you may possibly have been assaulted. That is shocking enough to explain why you are so tearful and upset. You're dealing with a really traumatic thing, a gap in your memory during which something you didn't consent to could have happened to your body. I'm very sorry, and I would encourage you to see a doctor and perhaps a therapist to make sure you're okay.

But the guilt you are feeling seems completely misplaced to me. You made no decision at all to wrong your fiancé. The only decision you made that counts as yours - ie, the one you remember making - is to get very drunk on your birthday when out with a friend. That may have been a mistake, with this particular friend - who left you alone in a bar with strangers at 2am, at a time when you were so drunk that you have no memory of it - but it's not an immoral thing for you to have done, and it's certainly not something that counts as hurting your fiancé. Please focus on yourself and on taking care of yourself. If you told your fiancé just that you may have cheated, I would clarify to him that you were confused and upset when you first spoke but, on reflection, the issue is that you may have been assaulted. He has a right to be upset on your behalf, because you may have been hurt, but I can't see why he has any right to be upset with you. It's definitely a good idea to rethink your drinking - and to make sure you only drink with friends who can be trusted - but that, again, is something you should do for your own sake.
posted by Aravis76 at 1:01 AM on December 27, 2016 [32 favorites]

I don't think I was assaulted. It has occurred to me as a possibility, and it is terrifying. But since I woke up fully clothed, and none of my belongings were missing, I think it's unlikely. TMI, but I was also on my period, and wearing the same pad. I feel like I would have noticed if something had happened. I definitely plan to get STD tested.

Although this night was definitely on the extreme end, I have had large memory gaps when drinking before and I am definitely prone to blacking out even when I don't drink a ton (and I know I drank a lot this night). I've done things I don't remember before, I just have always been with someone who has been able to recount the night for me, never just woken up in a completely strange place. But I am a stupidly trusting person and it's totally possible I went to this guy's place of my own volition.
posted by queens86 at 1:12 AM on December 27, 2016

All the evidence seems to suggest you did nothing wrong. I don't see any evidence in what you wrote that you did anything wrong except maybe drink too much - and let's hope you actually did just drink too much and it wasn't drugged. But let's say that's what happened. It sounds like this isn't the norm and that maybe your good time got away from you. We're all human and we make mistakes and it happens. If you were blacked out then you weren't in possession of your faculties so no decision that you made can be considered your fault. But even still - you were trying to get in touch with fiance, that seems like an unlikely action if you were really in the process of knowingly betraying him. Your friends should have got you home safe. Your fiance should have had his phone handy. Your fiance should have shown some concern about your safety when you came home. Basically everyone here failed you, and whether or not you "cheated" is so far down the list of calamities here it's not even on there at all. Stop beating yourself up and go to the doctor.
posted by bleep at 1:13 AM on December 27, 2016 [16 favorites]

If you had any sexual contact with someone when you were drunk enough to be completely blacked out, you weren't unfaithful, you were sexually assaulted. Your fiance has no right to be upset with you over that; instead, he should be supporting you. Assuming you are a woman, unless you use a form of birth control that doesn't require conscious effort on your part at the moment, you are at risk for pregnancy. If you had posted this the day after I'd be suggesting Plan B, but it sounds like it's too late for that. Unfortunately, you may have to wait out your cycle. You are also at risk for STDs, and I would seriously consider at least getting an HIV test (you can buy them at the drugstore) before resuming sexual relations with your fiance. Ideally, you should go see your doctor and inform her of what happened so she can do a full workup, but I understand that you may not feel up to that in the moment. You would probably benefit from getting counseling over this.

I would not try to find out who the stranger was, simply because you won't be able to trust anything he says, even if he does come forward.

(That you didn't cheat is the most important thing. I hate to mention anything else at this time. But it sounds like you drink to create a space for yourself where you can get away with certain behavior that you know is wrong or ill-advised. You're correct that this isn't suitable behavior for someone of your age and that it would be wise to address it. Otherwise, you may well "find yourself" in an actual cheating situation (which this is not). And certainly you should upgrade your quality of friends so that you aren't out with people who will leave you drunk and wrapped up with skeevy strangers who think it's cool to hit on engaged people at 2 a.m.)
posted by praemunire at 1:19 AM on December 27, 2016 [18 favorites]

I don't think you can have gone to his place "of your own volition" if you were so drunk at the time that you can't remember it now. You can only do things of your own volition when you are in your right mind and consciously choosing to act, with full awareness of the consequences. Things you do when you are blackout drunk may look like voluntary acts to others, but they really aren't since your brain's capacity for deliberative action is radically impaired. If anything sexual happened while you were in this state, you could not have consented to it and it wasn't cheating. Definitely do see a doctor, just in case, and be a bit gentler with yourself: at minimum, you've been through a pretty scary and traumatic experience, waking up in a stranger's place with little idea of what happened to you in the last 6 hours, and you don't need misplaced guilt on top of that.
posted by Aravis76 at 1:23 AM on December 27, 2016 [7 favorites]

The thing that stands out for me which makes it very unlikely that you were cheating was how much you were trying to contact him - phoning 3 times and texting later are signs of someone who really wanted to get in touch with him - possibly asking for help getting home? If you were focused on another person, you wouldn't have been trying to talk to your fiancee. Drunkenness has a tendency to make people get tunnel vision - to only be able to pay attention to one predominant idea at a time, you are unlikely to have been doing such opposite actions at the same time.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:29 AM on December 27, 2016 [15 favorites]

You woke up fully clothed. You are conflating issues!!
posted by jbenben at 1:33 AM on December 27, 2016 [7 favorites]

I don't think I was assaulted.

If sex took place while you were blackout drunk and therefore incapable of consenting, then yes you were. If it didn't, you weren't. In neither case did you cheat on your fiance.

I feel as if I will never get past what I could have done.

I strongly advise you to let go of the idea that "what you could have done" is the issue. The issue is what you apparently did do, which is get blackout drunk. Again: if you were so drunk as not to be able to account for six hours of probable wakefulness, you were completely incapable of consenting to sex; if sex happened, it didn't happen because you chose to have it happen - it happened because you were assaulted. Which the available evidence tends to suggest you weren't.

I know my fiance still loves me, he is a saint, but will he ever be able to trust me again?

Trust you to do or not do what? Get blackout drunk?

If I were him, I would be more likely to trust you not to do that again after the emotional consequences you're experiencing after doing it this time.
posted by flabdablet at 1:42 AM on December 27, 2016 [6 favorites]

Why did your friend leave you alone in a bar with strangers when you were so drunk? My friends and I took a friend out for her 30th and she got really drunk. We walked her to another friend's house, gave her water, waited until some of the alcohol had worn off, put her in an Uber, and then confirmed that she got home safely.

If anything happened to you, it was assault not cheating. I would be freaked out if I woke up in a stranger's house with no idea what had happened, so it's understandable that you're upset about this. But please don't agonise over whether you cheated on your fiancé because of this.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 1:43 AM on December 27, 2016 [7 favorites]

I agree with Aravis76. You didn't consciously betray your partner. You ended up in such a vulnerable situation that someone else may have violated you. That is upsetting and scary. But it's not "cheating."

And on preview, you don't actually think that's what happened. In fact, you strongly believe that it didn't, based on specific evidence (and probably on other details that you'd didn't describe). Overall, it feels like you're paying too much attention to one hypothetical scenario and how that unlikely possibility makes your fiance feel, when the focus should be on your well-being and what you truly believe happened. As a fiance, I could see wanting to hear that in the future, you'd do XYZ to be safer -- but because I was concerned for you!

Alcohol is a depressant and worsens anxiety. I've had hangovers whose chief symptom was intense shame of the "what did I do?" variety (even when all I did was act drunk and stupid). Google "hangover anxiety" and similar searches. Consider that some component of your emotional reaction here stems from the physical after-effects.

I think a lot of people have some drinking event that is a wake-up call when they realize that they have to take care of themselves, and that something bad could have happened to them due to the situation they got themselves into while drunk. While it's scary to reflect upon an event like this, it can be a helpful turning point going forward. Waking up on some rando's couch (with your clothes undisturbed and all your belongings intact) might be a relatively positive thing if it saves you from a future blackout. Maybe talk to a doctor about why you blackout more easily than others do.

Don't beat yourself up; you're probably feeling sick enough already. Focus on regaining your physical well-being, and these emotional aspects might settle down as well. Be well.
posted by salvia at 2:00 AM on December 27, 2016 [13 favorites]

Wow everyone is insisting you were assaulted when you have described physical evidence that you were not. A woman using a pad on her period is going to know whether anything else got into the mix, so commenters might want to trust the OP to know her own body.

OP it sounds to me like you were very drunk and vulnerable at last call and whoever you were talking to at the time was a decent person who got you safely to shelter and put you on their couch to sleep it off. There are many, many decent people out there. Be grateful and focus your attention on your habitual out of control blackout drinking.
posted by headnsouth at 2:32 AM on December 27, 2016 [73 favorites]

Just to be clear, I'm not at all saying that OP was assaulted -- only that any act that could be described as "cheating", when done by a sober person, would have been an assault in this situation. Her concern that she cheated on her partner is misplaced, whatever else happened. Ideally nothing sexual happened and then neither cheating nor assault took place. If anything at all sexual happened, that is not OP's fault because she could not have consented.
posted by Aravis76 at 2:44 AM on December 27, 2016 [8 favorites]

Given that you were fully clothed and on the couch could the scenario instead not be that a concerned lady or gent, took you home with them because you were black-out drunk and unable to get in touch with your fiancé. Either you were too drunk to give your address or this person didn't just want to put you in a cab and trust that you'd be safe.

Good people do exist in this world.

Do you not remember the apartment you came out of? Could you not go back there and knock on the door?
posted by missmagenta at 3:15 AM on December 27, 2016 [13 favorites]

Honestly, I think you're focusing on the cheating to distract yourself from your problematic relationship with alcohol. It's unlikely that sexual contact occurred, and if it did, it was assault. What is 100% known is that you got blackout drunk again, and drank so much even though you know that you can black out on much less. This is not healthy behavior. Figure out why you can't stop doing it.
posted by snickerdoodle at 3:32 AM on December 27, 2016 [85 favorites]

If you had sex while on your period, it would likely have left enough of a mess of the area that you would know. That plus contacting your fiance, waking fully clothed on the couch (including a bra? Is it likely you'd have put it back on to sleep?), etc. makes it pretty unlikely that you cheated.

I'd focus on that to reassure yourself and your fiance, and focus on prevention moving forward.

So now you need to decide what you want to do going forward about your tendency to black out when you drink. I also black out unpredictably, and sometimes on surprisingly small quantities of alcohol. Some folks would say this means I should never drink. But given that blacking out still only happens a small percentage of the times I drink, is not clearly related to the context or amount I drink, and I often go years without blackouts, that seems like an excessive response given that I enjoy drinking. Witness reports from periods I blacked out suggest that I never seemed terribly drunk or did anything that was out of character.

Options to consider:

Only drink quantities that you know won't cause blackouts. This may or may not be reasonable for you.
Only drink at home.
Only drink with someone who is specifically tasked with keeping an eye on you.
Only drink with your fiance.
I personally haven't changed anything, but I'm single and unaccountable to anyone else and I don't really drink at bars/ with strangers just because that's not my thing.

When you talk about this with your fiance, be sure to isolate what concerns him from what you THINK concerns him. Otherwise you may overreact based on what you think he wants, or because you feel like you need to do penance, rather than learning his real feelings.
posted by metasarah at 3:54 AM on December 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

Thanks for the answers so far.
Given that you were fully clothed and on the couch could the scenario instead not be that a concerned lady or gent, took you home with them because you were black-out drunk and unable to get in touch with your fiancé.

This is what I really want to believe. I think the truth is somewhere between this (best case scenario) and me making out with a guy at the bar who then took me home, which gives me almost as much anxiety as the idea of having sex with someone else.

waking fully clothed on the couch (including a bra? Is it likely you'd have put it back on to sleep?

Woke up with everything on but my coat, including my bra. I think it's incredibly unlikely I would have taken anything off and then put it back on again in my state.

Do you not remember the apartment you came out of? Could you not go back there and knock on the door?

I was somehow still drunk when I woke up, which I will say is not normal for me. I could still barely send a coherent text. I do remember standing up and leaving, but the memory is fuzzy. I have the address where an Uber picked me up, and I know I didn't walk far when I left the apartment complex. I think I may know what floor I was on, so I might do just this, as much as I don't want to appear crazy I really want answers.

Thanks too to everyone here who has pointed out the real problem is my blacking out, which I completely agree with. I am planning on taking a real hard look at my drinking habits as I want nothing more than to never live through this again.
posted by queens86 at 4:05 AM on December 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

That real hard look should be after a few months of total abstinence. Repeated blackout drinking is a very bad sign, and you'll probably feel much better if you never drink again. Ask me how I know.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 5:16 AM on December 27, 2016 [15 favorites]

Do you even know it was a guy's house? I've taken (in my younger years, pre-kid) women who were super drunk and seemed to have shitty guys hanging all over them home with me, mostly to keep them safe from being assaulted. The texts and calls would bear that out - I'd be like "hey do you want to call someone to come get you?" Then I'd show you the couch.

If you were making out with someone, you'd be much more likely to be sleeping on the bed even if you didn't have sex.

Also you need to get new friends. Your friend left you alone talking to a guy trashed at 2am. What the actual fuck.
posted by corb at 5:34 AM on December 27, 2016 [42 favorites]

From what you describe, it sounds unlikely that you were assaulted (which is what sex is with a person in that state), but also like you might have been given a date rape drug somewhere in the evening, thankfully apparently not by the person whose couch you were on.

I think that you need to forgive yourself and maybe make different choices about friends and alcohol in the future. If I was your partner I would not be mad at you, but I'd never want you to go out drinking with a person who would leave you at two am.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:48 AM on December 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

You can possibly figure out where you were, but I would urge you to get your priorities straight.

You blacked out. You've done it before and continued to drink. This is a wake up call. What would it mean to you to consider that you're alcoholic?

Go to the doctor and get your physical health needs addressed, and go to an AA meeting. Today. Listen to what people there have to say. If you can identify with what people say, take it in. If it feels safe, tell your story. Repeat. Your big priority should be to work on your recovery and build a life where you don't drink. Today. And again tomorrow.

A colleague of mine mine wrote a book you might find helpful. You might want to check it out.

PS unless you've turned off location tracking, your phone likely knows where you were. Go to Google maps, and My Timeline.
posted by jasper411 at 5:48 AM on December 27, 2016 [8 favorites]

I'm sorry you're going through this. I don't think that searching for answers about what exactly happened is going to help you*; as praemunire mentioned, there's no guarantee that anyone involved would even be truthful (or may also have been drunk and not remember clearly). I would focus on moving forward and making a plan to control your drinking. Maybe once a little time has gone by you could ask your fiancé to help you come up with one, so he knows you're taking the issue seriously?

I hope you can resolve things. It sounds like your fiancé will work with you, which is a great start.

*If you thought that you were assaulted my advice would change but it seems like you have good reason to believe you weren't, and instead are just searching for closure, which I think you are unlikely to find, or find satisfying if you do.
posted by ferret branca at 7:10 AM on December 27, 2016

Whether you "cheated" is a smokescreen.

If I was your fiance, my concern would be 100% on the fact that you periodically drink to blacking out. Drinking this much can be life threatening: you are at high risk for assault, accidents, and alcohol overdose. You say you are a "flirtatious drunk". Not sure what that means to you, but sounds like you are aware that you behave in ways you do not want to when intoxicated. So much so that you're concerned you had sex with a stranger in violation of your monogamy agreement.

This incident is your wake up call: you are drinking too much.

Said with love from a stranger on the internet.
posted by latkes at 7:37 AM on December 27, 2016 [20 favorites]

Yea I think you really need to swallow the big realization that you have a drinking problem. Don't be tracking down randos demanding answers. The answer is that you blacked out as you know you are prone to do and now you regret it. Thankfully you do not think you were assaulted. There are good people who would let you crash on their couch. They probably would not want to be confronted for answers after their night of being a good samaritan. Move on and stop drinking.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:02 AM on December 27, 2016 [7 favorites]

It sounds very unlikely that you had sex that night. Waking fully dressed on the couch is the big clue in my mind. You don't know whose apartment you were in, and that's the frightening part. (Well, really the frightening part is the missing time. Blackouts are terrifying.) It could be a man's apartment, it could be a woman's. It could be the apartment of the bartender or the bouncer or a cab driver who were looking out for you. It could have been someone who took you home only to realize fooling around wasn't going to happen, or shouldn't happen. (Of course, it would be probably be a good idea to get some STD tests just to be sure.)

I think the blackout drinking is the real problem here. It is incredibly dangerous, and usually a symptom of a very bad relationship with alcohol. If you can't reliably control how much you drink, quitting drink entirely is a great option. I know this firsthand.

I found a lot of help learning to live sober at AA meetings. They are everywhere and basically free, and come in a wide variety of different formats and group personalities. They can be a huge help. Please feel free to ask if you'd like any more information, or just to talk.

Wishing you all the best.
posted by Cranialtorque at 8:41 AM on December 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

Ask the bartender if they remember seeing you that night. Maybe they recognized the person you left with or could describe your behavior.

FWIW, I once found a stranger passed out on my couch. When she woke up she was as frightened as I was and left in a hurry. It seemed like she had been drunk the night before, looking for a friend's apartment, then found my door unlocked and just passed out there. That's another possibility for you.
posted by milk white peacock at 9:27 AM on December 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

You didn't cheat on or betray your fiancé. You drank too much and were abandoned by someone who should have looked out for you. I'm glad that you ended up unharmed, but it's a wake-up call regarding both drinking and choosing better friends to accompany you when you go out. Under no circumstances would I ever leave a drunk/drinking woman friend at a bar late at night with a strange man or strange men.
posted by quince at 9:37 AM on December 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

Your friends don't sound like terrible people, but they do sound like drunk people, and you can't really trust other drunk people to help you make sound decisions when something goes wrong. Perhaps you don't need to quit drinking or going out, but it might be a good idea to reconsider drinking with people who typically don't drink in moderation. Going out is a lot more fun when you don't need to worry that every night out will end in a booze-fuelled clusterf*ck. The nice thing about being in your 30s is that it's a lot easier to find moderate drinkers than it is when you're in college.

Also, go easy on yourself. You're allowed to be freaked out over what happened, but I get the feeling that your fiancé is reacting to your self-recrimination more than anything else. So you got blackout drunk and there was some unrealized risk to your personal safety. It's not a good thing to have happened, but you didn't actively put your relationship at risk. Framing this as a potential infidelity issue might be weirding out your fiancé more than necessary, so perhaps try to focus on improving your relationship with alcohol. I wish you well.
posted by blerghamot at 10:02 AM on December 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Your friend left you alone talking to a guy trashed at 2am.

Before we come down too hard on the friend consider that they tried to get OP to leave and couldn't, or have had a babysitter she had to get home to or an early morning job. I know by age 30 I was completely over babysitting habitual blackout drunks.

OP, it sounds like a kind person gave you a couch to sleep on. Be grateful for that and take some responsibility for your drinking going forward. The shame spiral isn't helping you move on, it's a distraction. I think what would fix things with your fiance is you showing a new sense of responsibility regarding drinking.
posted by fshgrl at 10:07 AM on December 27, 2016 [6 favorites]

Nthing that the thing to focus on now is your drinking habits (and I think you should give yourself a break on the "cheating" thing--you did not consciously choose to be romantic or sexual with someone else.)

While it sounds like taking a break from drinking would be the wisest choice at this juncture, I want to throw out just for reference that sometimes people's alcohol tolerance is lowered a LOT by medications they are taking, and that that might be a factor for you.
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:17 AM on December 27, 2016

nthing that tolerating blackouts as a normal part of drinking is a really Bad Thing.

Our culture has this binary idea that you are or are not an alcoholic, and, if you are not, everything is fine. This kind of plays into the denial that's typical of substance abuse, because it is very easy to persuade youself that you're not an alcoholic. I did this myself, for many many years of abusive binge drinking, and also too much "normal" drinking, even when I managed to stop before getting seriously drunk. I didn't drink everyday, I didn't ever get a DUI, I didn't check off a lot of things that, it seemed to me, would mean that I was an alcoholic. Finally I ended up deciding that I could think of myself simply as a person who really needed to stop drinking (although I do self-identify as an alcoholic now).

I think it's perhaps more useful to ask yourself, is my drinking harming me? Is it at a safe level, both in terms of health and behavior, and relationships to people? Try to stop drinking for a while (unless you are already physically dependant on alcohol) and then see if you can drink in moderation. Even the AA big book suggests this experiment. Can you stick to it? If you can't control how much you drink once you start (a typical failure mode for people who cannot drink safely), or you can't not drink when you had decided not to, then you'll know you need to seriously make some changes.
posted by thelonius at 10:23 AM on December 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

So basically what really alarms me about your question is how quickly you jumped to assuming you must have cheated on your fiancé, when by your own description and the statements of witnesses, you have no evidence to say that's what happened, nor any real reason why you would logically think that. There's a lot of self-recrimination here, and I think it would be worth it to examine that with the help of a professional before you get married.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:29 AM on December 27, 2016 [7 favorites]

Stories like yours are a widely recognized sign of alcohol dependency or addiction. Getting "blackout" drunk -- to where you literally don't remember *anything* about multiple hours of the night before or how you wound up on a stranger's couch -- is a primary symptom of alcoholic levels of drinking and a very *high* tolerance for large amounts of alcohol beyond the point where most ordinary people would be physically sick as hell in ways you'd likely remember (and your clothes would be covered with puke).

I drank very heavily in my youth (through my mid 20s), often to the point of passing out and getting sick, sometimes in combination with other drugs, typically leading to episodes of poor judgment and ill-advised risk taking. I can honestly say I *never* "forgot" everything that happened the night before. I usually remembered it with chagrin and embarrassment. Sometimes things were a blur. But how I got to someone's house and spent the night there? Nope. However, I have known lots of alcoholics (ask me why I had to get out of being a professional musician when I hit 30) and "losing" hours of time while on a bender was a typical experience for many of them.

Either that or you were drugged. It's possible, but you seem to be discounting it yourself. You are beating around the bush on the main issue for your relationship and your future and worrying about something that makes this a really different problem than the one you seem to be describing as the context. I agree with others above that you are actually deflecting your anxiety onto an unlikely scenario-- given that your instincts say you were not assaulted, I'd trust that intuition. You need medical help with alcohol addiction. You need to not go out drinking with "friends" for a long time.

And you need to find new "friends." Or take that nice fiancé with you to watch your back and stop you from drinking too much. Your current friends are enablers at best. They abandoned you in a dangerous situation at worst.

Even if you think it's not that bad, at least once you drank to a level of toxicity that you lost an entire night and damaged your most important personal relationship. That's a red alert siren going off.
posted by spitbull at 12:34 PM on December 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

Things that don't matter:

- the "cheating" hypothetical. You didn't cheat, or you'd have some evidence of that. Forget this; it's a distraction.
- whether your friend "abandoned" you. She was probably drinking too. She's not your mom, anyway. You're an adult.

Things that do matter:

- your drinking problem, as evidence by you getting blackout drunk
- your communication with your fiance about your drinking

Both of these are things that you'll be wanting to work on as you move into the next phase of your life, anyway. You're 30 and engaged - that's perfect - you're right on schedule to end your drunk '20s and develop better habits. Being your fiance into the project.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:47 PM on December 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

It sounds to me like a kind stranger (who might not even have been a guy) noticed you were way too drunk and in danger of being assaulted and took you home so you could sleep it off on their couch.

I'm not sure if the huge amounts of guilt and self-recrimination are becuase of deeper issues in your relationship, hangover depression/anxiety, or a way to try to cope with the terror of being so out of control that you could have been raped, assaulted, whatever-- losing that kind of time and waking up in a strange place is terrifying. It's even more frightening because you're saying this was not even a normal reaction to the amount of alcohol you drank-- whether that's because of your body processing it differently as you get older, being drugged like some other commenters are suggesting, or something else, that's a dangerous, frightening experience, and taking on this massive guilt over your actions might be a way of trying to take back at least some control over what went on in those missing hours.

I'm also a little ??? that so many commenters here are telling you that you're not taking your drinking seriously enough, because that was the conclusion you came to in the text of your original post-- "Obviously I need to make some big changes in what I drink, how much, and in what situations I drink. I never want to put either one of us through this again." You seem aware that this is an issue and like you're being proactive about taking responsible steps to deal with it.

Wrt the supposed cheating and you feeling like the scum of the earth-- I'm more concerned that your fiance is allowing you to hurt like this, after basically abandoning you to a dangerous situation on your birthday. You were in distress and trying to get in contact with him all night, and he completely failed you. If he was asleep for your calls and texts, fine, but letting you spiral into this crisis of guilt over something that the material evidence of your clothes and pad are telling you pretty clearly did not happen is a shitty thing to do. When you've given yourself some time to physically recover, you might want to do some soul searching about what's going on in your relationship that "I'm a cheating scumbag" was the place that both you and your fiance went, in a situation that the majority of commenters here would characterize as you having possibly been raped. The preoccupation with being flirty and dancing with other people is not an indicator for cheating, and if that accusation is coming from your fiance, that's not on you, that's on him. If this kind of framing of you as the always-wrong party, even in situations where you are innocent or even a victim, is normal to your relationship, this is something you need to seriously work on before you consider marrying this person.

Hugs-- it really doesn't sound like you did much wrong. I'm glad you're safe. You are not a bad person or bad partner for having this happen to you.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 2:16 PM on December 27, 2016 [10 favorites]

I wish I had woken up in a woman's apartment, but unfortunately when I woke up there was a guy sleeping on the floor next to me, so I did go home with a guy. This is the only real evidence I have that I cheated, but it seems pretty bad.
Tried Google Timeline, I never disenabled this but it seems to have never been turned on.

I don't think I have a very high tolerance to alcohol, unfortunately I don't seem to vomit no matter how much I drink and maybe that is part of the problem. I don't drink often, maybe once a month or so, and only go 'out drinking' a couple times a year. Usually when I drink I have one - two drinks (if I am out to dinner), I'll drink more when I am at a party because 1-2 drinks typically just puts me to sleep. If I am out drinking a lot it's common that details get fuzzy or I forget the end of the night, but I have been drunk to a level of blacking out hours like this a couple times in the 8 years since I graduated college. For reference I began blacking out after my fourth drink over around 4 hours this particular night.

I do think that maybe I unfortunately just cannot drink or cant drink in uncontrolled environments like this. I just don't know how to make sense of what happened or move forward. I told my fiancé that for my own mental wellbeing I would like to just hope for the best and that nothing happened, but he said that makes him feel like he has no right to be upset which he obviously does have a right to be.
posted by queens86 at 3:09 PM on December 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

some things you may never know: if your drink was tampered with (blacking out after 4 drinks in 4 hours sounds hella suspicious to me, but I'm not mr. tolerance level expert or anything); to what extent, if at all, you messed around with the person you went home with (for god's sake don't post flyers)

some things you can do, going forward: get a STD test; stop drinking in uncontrolled environments; forgive yourself for whatever happened, since at this point it's unclear how much was even your responsibility/under your control

why and at whom does your fiancée want to be upset?
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:33 PM on December 27, 2016 [7 favorites]

4 drinks in 4 hours? You metabolize roughly a drink an hour, my money is now on your drink being tampered with in some way.
posted by corb at 4:21 PM on December 27, 2016

People who suffer memory loss don't always do so because they drink more than others - certain brains are just prone to losing memories when under the influence, according to a new study using MRI brain scanners.

Around 40 per cent of students will suffer memory loss while at college.


The differences between the two "party types" are visible in their brains, with those prone to blackouts showing different responses in brain areas involved in memory and attention processes after ingesting just a slight amount of alcohol, compared with people who don't blackout.
posted by salvia at 4:26 PM on December 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

OP, what would you feel if your boyfriend told you the same story? Would you feel you have the right to make up your mind that he cheated on you and punish him for it? To outsiders, this sounds really controlling and unfair — why is it okay for your boyfriend to focus on his feelings rather than your own safety and wellbeing?

Depending on how long it's been, you can get tested for date rape drugs. I'd urge you to do that, as it doesn't sound like you were drinking irresponsibly.

Please be kind to yourself. Treat yourself the way you would treat a friend or your fiancé in this situation. If you had written this question in a way that indicated you don't take this seriously, you can be sure the salty mefites would tell you to do so. But you've said clearly that you take this seriously. So why isn't your fiancé believing you?
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 5:16 PM on December 27, 2016 [6 favorites]

I told my fiancé that for my own mental wellbeing I would like to just hope for the best and that nothing happened, but he said that makes him feel like he has no right to be upset which he obviously does have a right to be.

Let me get this clear. You told your fiancé you are scared that you could potentially have been assaulted, but your gut instinct - based on the evidence - is that this probably didn't happen. Also, you told him that you prefer to believe that nothing bad happened and to move on for the sake of your own mental health. His reply is that you shouldn't do this, because his "right" to be upset with you, in this situation, is more important than your mental well-being. Is that really what he is saying? Or is he only saying that he will need more time to process his own feelings but of course you should do whatever is best for your own mental health in the meanwhile?

I am trying my best to give your fiancé the benefit of the doubt here, but I am surprised by this idea that his right to be upset somehow limits how you should move on, or not, from this incident. That makes it sound like he thinks that his own sense of being possibly wronged - in some way you can't remember and certainly didn't intend - is more important than your current distress and anxiety and concern over problematic drinking. You can't be allowed to move on and feel better and tackle the problem drinking if that means he has to deal with his own upset without blaming you for it. If this is really what he is saying, that seems really off to me.

I can see there could be a situation where one person's right to be upset is more important than another person's mental wellbeing. If I were to, say, beat someone up, their right to be upset by that would more important than my desire to avoid thinking about it. This is because they would have suffered a serious unambiguous harm, deliberately inflicted on them by me, and the only way for them to be sure I will never do that again is to make sure I understand how wrong it was and how much it hurt them. So holding onto the right to be upset, until it is clear that I will never do something like that again or until the relationship ends, is fair. It's a necessary right that allows them to protect themselves from harm.

But your situation is not at all like that. First, you are not sure that anything even happened that could count as harming him. Second, assuming that he is harmed by the idea of another man even touching you (since you seem sure you did not have sex in any case), and even assuming that there was some sexual touching when you were blackout drunk, this is something you didn't choose to do and already feel horrible about. So what does he gain by holding onto his right to be upset with you, that is so important that it is worth trading off your mental well-being against it? The idea of pitting his right to be upset against your mental well-being is pretty problematic to me. Sure, he is upset and so are you. If you guys are a team, the important thing is for you to help each other through it. Why is protecting his right to be upset the most important thing here, and such a priority for both of you?

I still can't see that he in fact has any right to be upset with you for "cheating on" him, in a situation where you did not choose to do anything of the kind. But let's accept that you and he both feel he does have such a right: not only is he actually upset, he has a right to be upset and upset with you because of what has happened. So what? What does that actually mean for the relationship, for his life, for your life? Is there something specific he needs you to do or say or promise to feel better? Or is it only possible for him to feel better if you continue to feel terrible? The latter seems like a pretty miserable holding pattern for a relationship, regardless of who has a "right" to do what.
posted by Aravis76 at 5:29 PM on December 27, 2016 [8 favorites]

Wait. Your fiance wants to be upset about the infinitestimally-unlikely, hypothetical cheating scenario; or about you going out and getting blackout drunk? Because he's got a right... maybe... to be upset that you were irresponsible with your own safety; but it's not at all ok for him to be clutching at the remote possibility that you cheated as a reason to be affronted. And honestly now that I think of it, the fact that he couldn't be arsed to answer your multiple calls that night pretty much eliminates his right to any finger-wagging, anyway.

Can I ask you -- this whole anxiety about whether you cheated -- did you come up with that? Or did he?
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:45 PM on December 27, 2016 [10 favorites]

Look- I think the OP has a good handle on fixing this going forward and has gotten some good advice about hangover depression and moving on, instead of obsessing with what she did. But the last few posts are being ridiculous twisting this around as to be the fiance's fault, imho and are NOT helping the OP. He sounds like he's been pretty reasonable- just doesn't want it to happen again. And worrying about your spouse's tendency to get blackout drunk is entirely reasonable. I have broken up with someone over an inability to drink in a socially acceptable manner more than once in my adult life.

For reference I began blacking out after my fourth drink over around 4 hours this particular night.
This is not how blacking out works. You lose memory retroactively. I've heard people say they don't remember anything after leaving work or after arriving at a bar. You could have had zero more drinks or 10 more, you don't know. Honestly I would frame this however you want in your mind since you don't know. You are pretty darn sure you never took any clothes off or anything so the most likely story is a nice person giving you a place to sleep so I'd run with that and move on.
posted by fshgrl at 8:11 PM on December 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

He sounds like he's been pretty reasonable- just doesn't want it to happen again. And worrying about your spouse's tendency to get blackout drunk is entirely reasonable.

Absolutely. If he is saying "I'm upset because your drinking was unsafe and I need to be sure you will not drink like that again before we stop talking about this" that is eminently reasonable. But if, instead, he is saying "I think you may have cheated on me and I have a right to be upset so you must continue to believe you could have cheated on me, so that I can continue to be upset", that's a completely different and more worrying thing.

She says that she thinks she should give up drinking for good and that she "would like to just hope for the best and that nothing happened"; her fiancé is upset by this plan, according to her, not because of anything to do with drinking but because she wants to frame this differently in her mind, and take out the "cheating" narrative. The problem is not his very reasonable concern about drinking, it's his apparent refusal to let OP abandon this story that she probably/possibly "cheated on him" during the memory gap.
posted by Aravis76 at 12:15 AM on December 28, 2016 [5 favorites]

In general obsessing over "what I may or may not have done" is a classic, all-time-greatest-hits anxiety thought pattern, and acute alcohol withdrawal will of course tend to spike anxiety/depression even higher. (Confessing stuff that may or may not have even happened is another "greatest hit", fwiw.) So (much like hurdygurdygirl above) I suspect you maybe have a problem with guilt and anxiety, not with infidelity.

I even think your problem has more to do with anxiety than it does with alcohol. For example, I feel like most people, or at least a big minority, are actually "flirtatious drunks" in the way you describe (being extra friendly, dancing with others in a fun way, while not actually seriously pursuing or making out with people who are not your partner). Yet you're describing this pretty normal behavior -- which apparently didn't even faze your fiance before tonight -- almost like it's a character flaw of yours. And while blacking out is definitely something you want to avoid and might well feel scary and/or embarrassing, blacking out during a night out once in your early 30s is not something I would consider way out of the ordinary, at least in my friend group. I don't see any rationalizing or minimizing in your question, either, and if anything, I see the opposite: you seem very quick to take blame onto yourself.

I mean I understand why people are going there based on what you said originally, and moderating your alcohol intake is rarely a bad idea, for sure. And I don't know you personally so I can only really offer conjecture about this. But again, blacking out twice in eight years, or having 3-4 drinks over the course of a party as you describe, is just not the kind of alcohol-related behavior that would make me go "wow this person has a drinking problem," and I have definitely known people about whom I felt that very strongly. Based on the rest of your question and the overall tone, and especially based on your update where you clarify your alcohol history a little, what I suspect is actually going on is that you are magnifying the unhealthiness of your history with alcohol, because right now you feel shitty, and you feel like everything is bad and dangerous in this kind of global way.

So I think you'd be most helped by talking to a therapist, and/or doing some reading about strategies for dealing with anxiety and inappropriate guilt -- maybe read a little Brene Brown or something on self-compassion in the meantime. A therapist can also give you a reality check about whether your level of drinking is actually as big a problem as how you've presenting it here initially, or if it's more the case that you've just had a few not-very-fun learning experiences over the course of a decade or so of social drinking.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:33 AM on December 28, 2016 [8 favorites]

It's ok, you got super duper blackout drunk on your birthday. A thing you know you don't want to do again. A thing you're going to take steps not to do again.

It's weird and disorienting and scary to wake up in a strange place with a good chunk of hours missing from your memory. I've done it before and I never want to do it again.

I so agree with en forme de poire: I think a big part of how you reacted to this, particularly the tearfulness and self-flagellation, is the hanxiety (otherwise known as 'the horrors'). The alcohol mucks your brain up for a few days, and you're feeling sick and guilty and raw and emotionally shaky. And you fill those blank hours with the worst thing you can imagine happening.

Based on your description, it does not seem that you cheated or were assaulted. It seems that you got smashed, drunk dialled your fiance and slept on a couch. Be gentle with yourself and drink a bit less. Hugs x
posted by wreckofthehesperus at 5:03 AM on December 28, 2016 [6 favorites]

Thanks guys. I don't think my fiance is being unreasonable about this, I think he's having a hard time processing how he feels because he feels like he can't talk to anyone about it except for me, and I'm just so upset he ends up comforting me. I think he just doesn't understand why I ended up at this stranger's house which was pretty far from my own, and equidistant from the place I was drinking. I guess it could have been because I was super drunk and someone was worried about me, but whenever I have been drunk enough to black out in the past I've been told I wasn't even acting very drunk at all. Although I couldn't even send a coherent text this night which is very unlike me. But I also know myself and I know it's totally possible I could have been just flirting with this guy all night and didn't feel like going home alone, even if nothing did happen.

I drank the fourth drink way too fast, and I have patches of memory after that. I don't remember drinking my next drink but I know that I did, and maybe an hour or so after the fourth drink is when I blacked out for good. I don't think this is unusual for me, I was definitely drunk before I had it and it just put me over the edge.

Thanks for the advice everyone. I know the healthy thing is to try and put this behind me and stop looking for answers, as just learn from it as best I can. I think my fiance is pretty traumatized too but I hope that eventually we can put it behind us.
posted by queens86 at 6:10 AM on December 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I even think your problem has more to do with anxiety than it does with alcohol.
I don't see any rationalizing or minimizing in your question, either, and if anything, I see the opposite: you seem very quick to take blame onto yourself.

I very much agree with all of this. And that's why this piece with your fiance worries me. It seems like it would be better if he knew this about you and encouraged you to go easy on yourself, not held onto some worst case scenario and stayed angry at you.

I feel like a reasonable narrative would be: "It was her 30th birthday party when we/she finally realized that queens86 has a medical issue that made her more susceptible to blacking out than the average person. Thank goodness she/I wasn't harmed. We never will know what kind of flirting or pity led queens86 to end up on some random guy's couch while ringing Fiance's phone all night (ha ha). But it was far better than so many alternatives and was a good wake-up call about the need to be safer about / quit drinking."

That narrative is not blaming (while allowing for future prevention) and focuses on your safety.

But your fiance is staying mad? I can understand him having a lot of big feelings if you called him up guilt-stricken like "I'm so sorry, I may have cheated on you last night." Your excessive feelings of guilt may have shaped how he saw things. But I still feel like a good partner would focus on your well-being and help you find a more realistic view of the evening, one that considers all the facts, and one that doesn't blame you for what someone may have done to you while incapacitated.

He should be concerned for you and supporting you in worrying about / feeling grateful for your own safety -- not making it all about how it makes him feel. I mean, where does that stop? If you'd gotten mugged and beaten up, would he be more worried about his discomfort at having to look at the bruises than about your pain? Would you guys be discussing whether you provoked it by saying something fighty? No? In my opinion, this wouldn't have been that different.

Anyway, I hope this is all blowing over, and happy birthday!
posted by salvia at 6:14 AM on December 28, 2016 [6 favorites]

(Ooos, didn't see your latest comment before I hit post.)
posted by salvia at 6:25 AM on December 28, 2016

David Burns has a bit in "Feeling Good" where he talks about how sometimes people with anxiety or depression can be quite convincing about how bad they think they've been at the outset, because their self-perception is skewed and their emotional state feels so undeniable. I agree that your fiance should know you well enough and have enough faith in you to gently push back in a situation like this, despite his own initial emotions. But I wonder if part of why he's having a reaction right now is because you are in general a very honest person, and he took what you said to him first at face value, without thinking about how your emotional state might be affecting how you're presenting things. Again, it is an imperfect reaction on his part to be sure, but when the initial emotional shock starts to wear off and both of you can discuss it without feeling so awful, he may start re-evaluating what happened with a clearer head.

I would just give both of you a little time for now. If your relationship still feels strained in a week or two, or if you feel like he is becoming at all jealous or controlling or paranoid, then yeah, I'd say there's a problem -- but to be clear, this would be his problem. I think moonlight in vermont and salvia and others have it totally right that it would be a big red flag for him to continue to blame you for something that most probably didn't even happen and would clearly have not been your fault if it had. And if on reflection you feel like this anxiety and guilt-tripping is really coming from him in the first place, or if he is actively pushing you further down the guilt spiral right now, then he is absolutely not being a good partner.

I'm also a little concerned that he's fixating on this detail about the distance between the houses, which seems like a total red herring to me -- like, drunk people don't make rational decisions based on Euclidean distance, dude! (I can totally see this guy being like "no, come on, I just don't feel good about having you get home by yourself, come crash on my couch, it's not that far away," and you deciding it was harmless, without pulling out Google Maps and seeing if it would make the next morning's trip home way longer. I mean I once paid for like a $50 cab ride from downtown Manhattan to freaking Inwood because I was too trashed to be like "hold up, you live where?" before we got into the car. And I had to work the next morning! In NEW JERSEY.)

But at this early stage -- it's really only been a few days, most of which you've spent believing your feelings of being "the scum of the earth" -- I think it's also possible he is just temporarily freaked out and doing some emotional reasoning of his own, and that he will find a healthier narrative about what happened along with you.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:26 AM on December 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think he just doesn't understand why I ended up at this stranger's house which was pretty far from my own, and equidistant from the place I was drinking.

You. Were. Blackout. Drunk. This was not some reasoned decision you were making with awareness of the consequences--and that's assuming that you made the call yourself and weren't hustled into it by your "host."

I think it's very reasonable for your fiance to be concerned about your habit of drinking to blackout. It's very wrong of him to be fixated on a particular action you stumbled into while blacked out. One is about your general life, health, and safety. The other is about blaming you for lack of control over things you weren't actually in control of.

(By the way, I seriously hope that no driving has ever been involved in any of your blackout drinking.)
posted by praemunire at 10:53 AM on December 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

Re: ending up there, he should try to think like a drunk person. Good reasons include things like "I want some pancakes? Do you want some pancakes? I'll cook you pancakes." (Or if you hate pancakes, sub in "play some X Box" or "listen to some jazz" or whatever.) There could even have been a group afterparty, with others eventually heading home, leaving you.
posted by salvia at 7:48 PM on December 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

As far as I can tell, someone protected you and kept you safe until you sobered up. The only reason to find this person is to thank them profusely for keeping you from harm.

Your boyfriend didn't answer his phone and your friends ditched you drunk at a bar by yourself. Your boyfriend is upset and questioning what, exactly??

I don't expect folks to hear the phone after they might be sleeping, but for the love of your self-respect, please understand that the only person who did not let you down that night was the stranger that took you home to sleep on his couch.

Therapy for you, dump the useless boyfriend and friends. Re-start your life. Most of what's going on here is not working well enough to be worth your self-flagellation. Beating yourself up emotionally is not going to morph your friends and boyfriend into better people. Dump them and work a bit on yourself. Mostly, you're fine. Just don't drink alcohol since you have a tendency to black out. Your friends and boyfriend are not redeemable here. That's certain.

PS - FWIW -- On top of everyone's lack of decency, except that couch stranger's who kept you safe, I STILL don't understand your boyfriend's attitude. The only way his position makes sense is if he used your night out to fuck around behind your back. He's making a fuss about where you spent the night to distract you from whatever he was doing to prevent him from answering his phone. I'm old and I've seen this reaction a million times and that's what the truth turned out to be. Even if his roommate or mom corraborates he was innocently home in bed, people lie for others about stuff like this. They just don't want to be involved, y'know?

Your boyfriend's reaction is a neon flashing sign that he's trying to distract you from where he was during your night out. I'm really wracking my mental database trying to remember a time when I saw someone react like your BF and they weren't hiding something serious.... Nope. Can't think of a time. Take this under advisement from an old person.
posted by jbenben at 12:13 PM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seriously? Your fiance's feelings are reasonable. The woman that he's engaged with has just told him that she had a very scary experience where she blacked out and might have had sex with an stranger but she can't really remember anything about it.

He's probably very concerned about your well-being and your relationship simply based on the things you told him. And he probably feels guilty as hell that he didn't answer your calls and he has probably imagined countless horrible scenarios where things didn't work out so well for you.

He's reactions are pretty normal and he needs some time - JUST LIKE YOU - to process this.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 5:40 PM on April 23, 2017

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