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Baylor Line Bonus Content: Author discusses binge drinking with Baylor journalism students

The new issue of the Baylor Line, which should hit your mailboxes soon, includes an edited story on a recent visit to campus by bestselling author Sarah Hepola.  It was written and photographed by Baylor students.  Here’s the full story:

Stolen gulps of beer by the age of 6 launched The New York Times bestselling author Sarah Hepola’s dependency on booze, blackouts, and bedrooms.

Sarah Hepola (photo by Maya Butler ’19 for The Bundle)

Baylor’s Department of Journalism, Public Relations, and New Media hosted Hepola in Bennett Auditorium on Feb. 2 to share excerpts from her memoir, “Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget,” and answer student questions.

Hepola told students that she struggled with a sense of belonging throughout her life. Bars were her places of love and community. She believed heavy drinking helped her find her courage, sexiness, and intelligence. It was not until her mid-thirties that Hepola realized she had no sense of self when she wasn’t intoxicated.

“The person I became when I drank wasn’t the real me at all,” said Hepola, who was nominated for the Texan of the Year Award by the Dallas Morning News editorial board for her essays in many national publications on culture and drinking.

Baylor is aware that while not every student has a problem with alcohol, many can relate to Hepola’s journey of belonging and self-discovery. Throughout college, students are constantly asked who they are and who they want to be.

“I didn’t know how to be around other people because I didn’t know how to be around myself,” Hepola said, explaining that alcohol drowned her doubts, her fears, and her insecurities. Then it drowned her ability to make decisions.

“At first you take the drink and then the drink takes you,” Hepola said.

While there was some risk to welcoming a recovering alcoholic to speak with underage students, organizers said it was important for students to understand the impact of alcohol on sexual assault. During Hepola’s blacked-out nights, she was not capable of consenting to sex.

“Binge drinking and the inherent problems that go along with it can be the 900-pound gorilla in the room, especially at a Christian university,” said Dr. Sara Stone, chair of the department of Journalism, Public Relations, and New Media. “I (was) pleased that Baylor students (could) hear first-hand about the dangers, both physical and psychological, that drinking to the point of blackout incur…Our whole society – not just Baylor students – deals with the impact of alcohol on sexual and domestic violence.”

Sophomore Arion Crenshaw said he was believes Baylor was right to provide a forum to discuss such issues as underage drinking and non-consensual sex.

“While underage drinking and non-consensual sex may not be school subjects, the role of college is to educate us…both underage drinking and sexual assault are real and they are happening now,” Crenshaw said.

Besides raising awareness on the subject, there was another benefit for the journalism students.

“She is a beautiful writer,” said Journalism Professor Macarena Hernandez. “It was an incredible opportunity for our students to hear and interact with a writer of her caliber. She’s a good example of how mining one’s story can lead to powerful writing and transformative work.”
By Alex Muehlberger ‘20, Overland Park, Kansas

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