24-year-old sobers up, writes a memoir

Best-selling author of “Smashed’ will hit on serious issues in talk

Tatum Fjerstad

Koren Zailckas missed out on adolescence’s innocence because she was drunk.

“To this day, I can’t remember when I had my first kiss.” With this, she begins her troubling and acclaimed memoir, “Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood.”

But Zailckas’ drunkenness didn’t end in girlhood. She continued the binge into college, where she earned A’s and held onto the “work hard and party hard” mentality.

“I always thought, This is my last chance to be irresponsible before I have to sit in a cubicle,” Zailckas, 24, said in an interview with A&E.

For Zailckas and other young women, this mentality turns into true alcohol abuse. The number of women drinking in college has increased by 150 percent since the 1990s, she said. That number is spiking and getting younger, Zailckas said.

It’s been one year since Zailckas’ book, chronicling from her first drink at age 14, was published. In that year Zailckas has visited bookstores and campuses around the country, telling the story behind her memoir. This week, she’ll stop here.

Zailckas used alcohol to cushion the rough journey through young adulthood ” talking to boys, bonding with friends and creating an identity outside her family. But the cushion wore thin. And now Zailckas has some catching up to do.

“I’m so stunted in those areas; I still feel like I’m working to keep up,” she said.

The response to her book has been amazing and more than she expected, Zailckas said.

“I hoped the book would resonate with young people, but parents became interested, and I even got letters from men who said they could relate,” Zailckas said.

The University will be the 19th college Zailckas has visited since the publication of her book.

The author doesn’t like lecturing or telling people what they should or shouldn’t do. To do so would be hard, as she considers herself “still newly sober.” Instead, she talks with students about their own drinking and answers questions.

Many students ask about when she drank (“never during the day”), how often (a lot) and with whom (“never alone”).

“I was always at parties or bars with a friend,” she said. “Many of the students I speak with try to feel out where rock bottom is.”

But she doesn’t want students to wait until rock bottom.

“If you’re drinking and feeling depressed, that ought to be enough,” she said.

Everywhere she goes, girls tell her “that happened to me.” Five girls have told her they have already had their stomachs pumped, and all were younger than 18, she said.

Talks and book signings are the more personal version of a great deal of media attention.

Zailckas will be on an upcoming edition of ABC’s “20/20” speaking about her experience in a piece about young women and alcohol abuse.

Zailckas also wrote an investigative feature that will appear in March’s issue of Glamour about porn Web sites featuring drunken college girls.

She is working on a second book focusing on another topic concerning women: female aggression and anger.

“Just like drinking,” she said, “we tend not to talk about it because it’s not pretty.”