want to know what happens when you drink? Kristi Coulter
can tell you, because she has had to deal with glugging,
glassy-eyed folks at work parties and hotel pools, at
holiday events and airport lounges, all while being
the third drink starts, people start repeating
themselves," Coulter told me recently. "They
get louder. Their opinions get more emphatic. Whatever
they think, they think more. They cling to that
get "hyperemotional," she said, and men get
overly tender and affectionate, saying things like
"I love you, man."
Coulter, well, she tends to feel a little alienated,
likely to peel off to the bathroom to play Words with
Friends on her phone, or just leave altogether.
are some of the things sheís learned to do since
quitting drinking five years ago, a decision she writes
about in her new book of essays, "Nothing Good Can
Come From This."
48, is a former writer for Amazon who got widespread
attention for a July 2016 Medium essay called "Enjoli"
about how the stress of working in tech and its
happy-hour culture led her ó and a lot of other women
ó to drink more than they liked.
yet, it seemed one of the only ways to dull the pressure
of being a "24-hour woman," strong and sexy
and successful, like magazines, TV and men urge you to
then I start to get angry at women, too," Coulter
wrote. "Not for being born wrong, or for failing to
dismantle a thousand years of patriarchy on my personal
timetable. And not for enjoying a glass of wine, alone
or with their girlfriends ?ó? cheers to that, if you
can stop at one or two. (I could, until I couldnít.)
But for being so easily mollified by overdrinking. For
thinking that the right to get as trashed as a man means
anything but the right to be as useless."
took some heat for the piece ó was she blaming her
drinking on the patriarchy? ó but she also touched on
something that many people (men and women) could relate
to. A book deal quickly followed.
essays are wry and smart, honest and vulnerable. She
writes about struggling to fill the time she had spent
drinking, and almost having an affair with a co-worker.
Three of the essays are lists ("A Life in
Liquids" is a timeline consisting of the year, who
she was and the drink that captured it all.) They are
not so much revealing as freeing.
of getting sober is that I lost my shame about
things," Coulter said.
night at the Capitol Hill restaurant Mamnoon in Seattle,
Coulterís husband, John, after joining her in
sobriety, asked the waiter for a nonalcoholic drink. He
got something that tasted "a little like tea, a
little like soda, and a lot like belonging."
I try those same words in the same casual tone,"
Coulter writes, "but the results arenít as
thrilling. Iím more likely to say, ĎIím fine with
waterí and mean it. Because I just donít really care
what the liquid in my glass says about me anymore. Iíd
like to tell you itís because sobriety cured my need
for specialness. Iíd also like to tell you I invented
the stapler and can start fires with my mind. But
time, she stopped worrying about what people thought.
Her shame fell away while at the same time, people
reached out to say, "Me, too!"
nothing to be embarrassed about," she said of her
sobriety. "Life on the other side is fascinating
and complicated. But itís not like joining a
wasnít one moment, one foggy morning or rock-bottom
landing that led Coulter to quit drinking. But there was
the night she returned to her hotel room after a work
dinner in London when she looked around like a swimmer
treading in wine instead of water, and sized herself up.
felt profoundly drunk," she remembered. "And I
was dreading the next morning because I knew I would
feel awful. And I didnít know how to stop. And in my
brain I said, ĎYou canít go on like this.í"
enough, she woke up with "a typical wine
headache" and made a decision: "I thought, I
canít do this anymore, and if I didnít grab this
moment, I was never going to quit."
didnít tell anyone, not even her husband, because she
didnít trust she could get through the night.
five days in, she realized she had "a little bit of
a foothold" that was a relief, but also a little
scary. Instead of being anxious about drinking, she
started getting anxious about not drinking ó
especially between the hours of 7 and 9 p.m.
thought, ĎIf I could just stay busy Ö"
she ran, looked at books, went to the movies.
didnít have some sort of social scene I had to
disconnect from," she said. "It was just my
job. But I had to learn how to exist before I could be
around other humans."
didnít write with the intent of teaching people a
lesson about drinking.
donít have a mission," she said. "Iíll
just hope they think about how they drink and why."
learned that drinking doesnít change reality.
have this fantasy that drinking is going to fix things,
but it does not," she said. "When people say
theyíre drinking their way through the Trump
administration, it makes me sad.
still have a life and youíre giving him too much
left Amazon in February to write the book, promote it
and start work on another.
for the story of her sobriety, well, she has put an
ellipsis on it. That is to be determined.
not going to tell people Iím done," she said.
"I have plenty of problems, and huge issues. Iím
a piece of work. But I see myself more clearly. And thatís