Monday, September 26, 2011


SMASHED: STORY OF A DRUNKEN GIRLHOOD, is Koren Zailcka’s memoir detailing her nine- year battle with alcohol, which began when she first tried alcohol at the age of 14 and ended with her choice to abstain from alcohol at the age of 23. Koren was raised in a white middle-class family and grew up in the Northeast. The oldest of two girls, she lived with both parents until she moved away to college. Koren’s first experience with alcohol was at the age of 14 with her best friend while her friend’s parents were at work. Once Koren entered high school, she continued to drink infrequently on the weekends with friends, but during one of her drinking episodes, she over-dosed at a party and was found unconscious lying in her own vomit. She was taken back to a friend’s house where her father was called. He immediately rushed her to the hospital. Tests reported that the 5’2”, 105 pound, 16-year old had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.25.

After graduating high school, Koren attended Syracuse University where her drinking intensified. As a way to make friends, Koren started attending parties and drinking with girls from her dorm. By the end of the first semester of her freshman year, she had fallen into a pattern of frequent drinking, and her life revolved around obtaining, using and being hung over from alcohol. During this year, Koren joined the school cheerleading team and rushed a sorority. Both of these peer groups encouraged the heavy consumption of alcohol.

By her second year of school, Koren was drinking at least four nights a week. Koren’s dating life also began to center around her substance use; she dated guys who heavily used alcohol and drugs. Koren’s first sexual experience was against her will when she was blacked out after a night of drinking. Due to these experiences Koren developed sleeping problems and a hatred of men, which, in turn, fueled her desire to drink. She also began feeling depressed and uninterested in many things that she had previously enjoyed.

At the end of her second year, Koren realized her drinking was out of control and attempted to stop, but by the summer she had found a group of friends that she bonded with over drinking. By Koren’s third year in school, her depression had worsened, and she started having anxiety attacks. She moved into a sorority house which proved to be detrimental because there, she always found people to drink with. a constant opportunity to find people to drink with. She was soon drinking five or six nights a week, which led to risky behaviors, such as promiscuity and driving while intoxicated. During a portion of both her third and fourth year of college, Koren attempted to take a break from drinking but was never able to stop for an extended period of time.

After graduating, Koren moved to Manhattan and lived with a drinking buddy from college. She continued to drink heavily and was hungover to the point of spitting up black specks (which she later discovered was indicative of stomach bleeding). While living in New York, she attempted to quit drinking again after she and her friend woke up in a strange apartment after a night of partying. Neither she nor her friend had a clue how they had ended their night at this apartment.
Koren was very conflicted about her drinking. On one hand, she felt that she didn’t have a problem. She didn’t think her body was physically addicted and didn’t see her use as any more extreme than the next college student or graduate. On the other hand, she believed her use of alcohol held her back from fully maturing into adulthood.

Koren attempted to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting but changed her mind before she walked in the door, telling herself that she didn’t need help and could quit on her own. After that, Koren attempted to limit her consumption, but, as with previous attempts, she began drinking again. Finally, after a night of heavy drinking, it struck her that as long as she continued to drink, she would not be able to live the life she wanted. She realized she had not developed the ability to hold conversations or make friends with people outside of alcohol. She then made the decision that abstinence was the best way for her and was able to quit without any formal treatment process.

~Kristen Dubin