Author shares her experiences with alcohol

Erica Dolson

Koren Zailckas, author of “Smashed: The Story of a Drunken Girlhood,” visited campus on Oct. 17, to kick off Substance Abuse Awareness Week. The novel’s title inspired the acronym and theme of the week for Villanovans: Smash’d (Students Making and Supporting Healthy Decisions).Zailckas, a 2002 graduate of Syracuse University, presented her book chronicling her experiences with alcohol as a high school and college student. As a 23-year-old, Zailckas stopped drinking. She was inspired to write her story when a memory of herself at age 16, when she needed her stomach pumped after a drinking episode, resurfaced in her mind. Also, new statistics published showed that, since the 1990s, teen- and college-aged women are drinking more. She began her presentation with a slide show of advertisements for alcoholic beverages from the 1980s and compared them with those of today. The ads from the 1980s were directed towards men, showing women as sexual objects. In the 1990s, a heightened awareness of sexual harassment reformed the images of women in advertising. Women began to be portrayed as assertive and playful. The look of men in advertisements also changed from the debonair, James Bond look-alikes of the 1980s to ads depicting an Average Joe.Zailckas then read an excerpt from Smashed describing the “excess” she often took when drinking. This passage described the story of the drinking associated with her sorority, their parties and their formals. She also read about scary consequences often connected to alcohol consumption, such as sexual assault.Zailckas has received no negative comments about the book from Syracuse University or her sorority (whose name she changed). In fact, she recently returned to Syracuse to speak to a class of freshmen about her experiences. The University hopes to use her book as a tool to educate students about decision-making with regards to alcohol. During the question-and-answer period, Zailckas was very open with her audience. She described her first experience with alcohol (Southern Comfort with her best friend on the way to a birthday party) at the age of 14. “We’re more likely than our moms, by a lot, to take that first drink before 16,” she said. Zailckas also shared her wake-up call to stop drinking. She was living in New York and, after a night of drinking, woke up one morning in a strange apartment with no memory of what had happened the night before. She described this incident as a “new kind of scary.” She realized she was no longer on a college campus with students, but in the real world with adults. She acknowledged that she used alcohol as a “social crutch.” When she quit drinking, she was faced with her lack of social skills, such as how to behave at a party or express her feelings of admiration to a member of the opposite sex. “I felt really shy in those first six months when I was quitting drinking,” she said.Zailckas received a warm, positive response from her Villanova audience. “I thought it was interesting, sophomore Colleen Comerford said, “I feel like it’s a lot of people’s stories. The average college student has probably experienced a similar situation, [maybe] not to that extreme, or knows people who have been in situations they regret the next day.” Allison Konick and Kristin Dithmer are co-directors of P.A.S.S, who sponsored the events of the week along with P.O.W.E.R. “I had read the book before Koren came to talk … I really enjoyed the talk,” Konick said. “Part of why we brought her to campus is because she is very real and open [with her] material.”P.O.W.E.R and P.A.S.S held events all week to increase awareness about alcohol abuse. To learn more about these organizations and the services they offer, visit their web site at