Writer Jackie Mantey sits on a bench outside in the park

Notes on a Couch Warming Party


OK, look, this is very exciting because, ever since your breakup—a wretched, booze-soaked affair that ended with you prematurely exiting the shared apartment with a wobble-wheeled suitcase packed and not one but two chip-nailed middle fingers in the air—you haven’t owned a couch.

Door slams. Lock bolts.

That was two years ago. You’ve lived and lounged and lamented your life since then on a bed (a raft, really, in an OCEAN OF TEARS), moving from that stupid shared apartment back to your stupid parents’ house, then to a stupid studio that smelled like if moths had their own closets, then to ~here~…

Your new home. A gorgeous one-bedroom, bottom-right quarter of a falling down, white-and-brick house in a hip part of town. It doesn’t have windows that open, but it does have your cat, which your ex hated, and as of noon today—of all glorious, single lady days—it has this: A suede dreamboat in the color of “Stone.” It’s called the Darcy Sofa. It is seven-and-a-half-feet long, which is ideal for your five-foot-two frame and your feet-cuddling cat. It is perfect.

This Darcy Sofa cost you $500 and is officially one thousand times more valuable than any diamond ring, you’re sure of it.

You eye it now, mentally applaud how it looks on the hardwood living room floor, shoved up against the butter-colored wall you don’t want to paint because you’re renting so you’ll have to paint it back eventually and who has time for that, and across from the brick fireplace you can’t use because the chimney has been plugged-up with who knows what because squirrels or drug dealer Santa or something.

The couch looks familiar. It’s almost identical to the one you bought for your first apartment out of college. You remember, that $150 bear-brown thing that your brother and your cousin helped you transport from the Big Lots (née Odd Lots) where you bought it. Afterward, feeling oh so grown up, you offered for your moving mates to stay and hang out and here, have a beer, I bought it just for you! (even though you already drank half the pack).Your cat, a mere teenager at the time, hopped on the couch and onto your cousin’s lap and everyone had a perfectly lovely evening sitting on your brand new couch, bought and paid for by you and only you, until you probably blacked out and they went home.

It was the best day you had in that apartment.

Who knows where that couch is now.

Your friends are coming to meet the Darcy Sofa in just a few hours. You have decided to host a Couch Warming Party, because this is to be celebrated, an occasion to remember! It represents healing and independence, this furniture, this moving-on-up. This couch means a new world is opening up to you. You made it. Couch Warming Party is being held on the weekend of your terrible ex’s birthday. You didn’t plan this timing on purpose, at least you don’t think so, but it does make the second glass of wine at three p.m. taste even sweeter.

Now it’s nine. You are fuzzy and warm and a little bit sick. The couch, soft as a petal, feels like a lily pad beneath you. Bobbing, bobbing.

Your friends are here! Your friends pile in the aching red-rimmed door. Your friends clamor in the living room and oh and ah appropriately before tumbling down the long hallway to the kitchen and out its back door to the fire pit you share with the other dwellers of this broken home-you-love’s divvied-up apartments.

Your friends are good friends. They agree to pose for photos on your new couch. They make a big deal about it, even though this couch, it’s not that special.

They are just happy to see their friend happy again.

They bring you Couch Warming Party gifts they’ll know you’ll enjoy, like a new blanket, lounge pillows, cat toys, vodka, smokes, cocaine. By the end of the night, you are all outside howling at The Man and the moon, crouched beneath the giant tree you don’t know the genus of, that the city hasn’t torn down yet but will soon. Your backyard’s wooden fence stands guard. Tonight, as the fire licks the air and your friends lick each other, the perimeter feels like a hug and not a cage.

The couch has been forgotten. But that was the point.

At two a.m., you sit alone on your back porch smoking a gifted Parliment. Your cat has joined you, that loyal little thing. You both purr and wish every moment was a Couch Warming Party moment. You wish this especially because you know what awaits, what you’ve been running from. Morning. When you will wake up and every inch of you will hurt, including your heart. Especially your heart, and the yet-unknown thing rotting beneath its floorboards. It will be seven more months (exactly one month after your 30th birthday) before you wake up on another stranger’s couch—again!—and finally—finally!—decide it’s time to get sober. And you do it! You beautiful, goofy, grateful recovering alcoholic! You finally break through. Find a home inside yourself.

Tonight, though. Tonight is as bright and dark as a chewed up cherry pit, as twisted as the tongue-tied stem, and to be lived to the last briny drop.

You have so much further to go, but tonight you honor everything it took to get to Here. To the Stone-colored sofa. Your new Plymouth rock.


Zero Proof: I’m Black and I’m Sober


On the newest episode of Zero Proof Book Club podcast, Shelley and I discuss “I’m Black and I’m Sober” by Chaney Allen, the first autobiography written by a recovering African American woman. Jackie and Shelley talk about the low number of sobriety memoirs by people of color, how women who drink heavily are judged more harshly than men, and the unique challenges faced by black men and women during recovery.

Listen to the new episode wherever you listen to podcasts or here, at ZeroProofBookClub.com, and follow us on Instagram at @zeroproofbookclub.

About “I’m Black and I’m Sober”

What to expect: An important work, this is the first autobiography written by a recovering African American woman

From the book jacket:

I’m Black and I’m Sober traces author Chaney Allen’s life from growing up poor and hungry in Alabama through her gradual addiction to alcohol as a young mother in Cincinnati, Ohio. This powerful story documents Allen’s journey into the soup kitchens of Selma, Alabama, to the tenements and late night joints in Cincinnati, and finally to sobriety in San Diego, California. Allen, a minister’s daughter, discusses her relationships with her mother, brothers, and children; the impact of discrimination; and the obstacles African Americans face as they become sober.

— I’m Black and I’m Sober: The Timeless Story of A Woman’s Journey Back to Sanity

Zero Proof: The Boatbuilder


In the new episode of Zero Proof Book Club, Shelley and I talk about “The Boatbuilder” by Daniel Gumbiner. 🛶It’s a novel about, in part, recovery from opioids. We discuss developing an appreciation for nature and being off the grid in recovery, the many benefits of working with your hands, and our own varying experiences with drugs vs. alcohol. 🛶

Listen to the new episode here, at ZeroProofBookClub.com, and follow us on Instagram at @zeroproofbookclub.


Pairs well with:

  • Cardamom Peach Shrub

We thought a shrub would be fun to drink with this week’s book pick, as “The Boatbuilder” stars California’s rugged trees and forests. To make this Cardamom Peach Shrub, chop up four ripe peaches and bring them to a simmer with one cup water, 3/4 cup sugar, five cardamom pods and a cinnamon stick. This part smells SO GOOD. Simmer over low for at least 15 minutes, then strain out the liquid and mix with one cup apple cider vinegar. Chill. When you’re ready to serve, pour over ice and top with sparkling water. 🍑🍑🍑 

About “The Boatbuilder”

What to expect: A fictional, meditative journey of a young man struggling to overcome an opioid addiction

From the book jacket:

“At 28 years old, Eli ‘Berg’ Koenigsberg has never encountered a challenge he couldn’t push through, until a head injury leaves him with lingering headaches and a weakness for opiates. Berg moves to a remote Northern California town, seeking space and time to recover, but soon finds himself breaking into homes in search of pills. 

Addled by addiction and chronic pain, Berg meets Alejandro, a reclusive, master boatbuilder, and begins to see a path forward. Alejandro offers Berg honest labor, but more than this, he offers him a new approach to his suffering, a template for survival amid intense pain. Nurtured by his friendship with Alejandro and aided, too, by the comradeship of many in Talinas, Berg begins to return to himself. Written in gleaming prose, this is a story about resilience, community, and what it takes to win back your soul.

“The Boatbuilder”

Zero Proof: Nothing Good Can Come From This


In the new episode of Zero Proof Book Club, Shelley and I talk about “Nothing Good Can Come From This” by Kristi Coulter. We discuss the drinking triggers that are everywhere in the summer and how you can signal you’re still cool after you stop drinking.

Listen to the new episode here, at ZeroProofBookClub.com, and follow us on Instagram at @zeroproofbookclub.


Pairs well with:

  • Carrot Ginger Turmeric + lemon sparkling water + fresh orange juice

Paired with our new episode, a carrot-ginger juice (we love Knudsen’s Carrot Ginger Turmeric) mixed with lemon sparkling water and some fresh squeezed orange juice. 


About Nothing Good Can Come From This

What to expect: A frank, funny, and feminist essay collection (dare we say, beach read?) by a keen-eyed observer no longer numbed into complacency

From the book jacket:

“When Kristi stopped drinking, she started noticing things. Like when you give up a debilitating habit, it leaves a space, one that can’t easily be filled by mocktails or ice cream or sex or crafting. And when you cancel Rosé Season for yourself, you’re left with just Summer, and that’s when you notice that the women around you are tankedthat alcohol is the oil in the motors that keeps them purring when they could be making other kinds of noise.

In her sharp, incisive debut essay collection, Coulter reveals a portrait of a life in transition. By turns hilarious and heartrending, Nothing Good Can Come from This introduces a fierce new voice to fans of Sloane Crosley, David Sedaris, and Cheryl Strayed―perfect for anyone who has ever stood in the middle of a so-called perfect life and looked for an escape hatch.

— Nothing Good Can Come from This

Zero Proof: Sober Curious

In the new episode of Zero Proof Book Club, Shelley and I weigh in on the hottest sobriety book of the moment: Sober Curious by Ruby Warrington. We talk about Warrington’s sometimes confusing terminology and also applaud her for starting to change the conversation surrounding sobriety.

Listen to the new episode here, at ZeroProofBookClub.com, and follow us on Instagram at @zeroproofbookclub.


Pairs well with:

  • 🦄Unicorn shots 🦄

This week we’re sipping on UNICORN SHOTS! In the book, Ruby writes, “I served these at a Club SODA NYC booze-free brunch, and you couldn’t get people off the dance floor.

Here’s how you whip them up (makes 18 shots): 4 cups almond milk, 1 ripe banana, 3 tablespoons raw cacao powder, 2 tablespoons kava powder, 2 tablespoons honey, handful ice, rainbow cupcake sprinkles. Blitz all the ingredients except the sprinkles in a high-speed blender and divide among shot glasses. Top with sprinkles and serve immediately.” Fun! Tastes like a yummy chocolate milkshake. 


About Sober Curious

What to expect: A contemporary treatise for more mindful drinking and all the benefits to be reaped as a result

From the book jacket:

“It’s the nagging question more and more of us are finding harder to ignore, whether we have a ‘problem’ with alcohol or not. After all, we yoga. We green juice. We meditate. We self-care. And yet, come the end of a long work day, the start of a weekend, an awkward social situation, we drink. One glass of wine turns into two turns into a bottle. In the face of how we care for ourselves otherwise, it’s hard to avoid how alcohol really makes us feel… terrible.

How different would our lives be if we stopped drinking on autopilot? If we stopped drinking altogether? Really different, it turns out. Really better. Sober Curious is a bold guide to choosing to live hangover-free, from Ruby Warrington, one of the leading voices of the new sobriety movement.

Drawing on research, expert interviews, and personal narrative, Sober Curious is a radical take down of the myths that keep so many of us drinking. Inspiring, timely, and blame-free, Sober Curious is both conversation starter and handbook—essential reading that empowers readers to transform their relationship with alcohol, so we can lead our most fulfilling lives.”

— Sober Curious

Zero Proof: Judgment Detox


In the latest episode of Zero Proof Book Club, Shelley and I discuss popular spiritual junkie Gabrielle Bernstein’s self-help book Judgment Detox: Release the Beliefs That Hold You Back From Living a Better Life.

We tried following the six steps of the Judgment Detox process in an effort to become better, less judgmental people. Our results vary. 😝 We talk about why we judge other people who continue to binge drink, learning to forgive ourselves for being judgmental, judging our past selves, and more.

Listen to the new episode here, at ZeroProofBookClub.com, and follow us on Instagram at @zeroproofbookclub.


Pairs well with…

  • Watermelon juice mocktail

Since our new podcast dropped on Fourth of July week, we’re pairing this book with a watermelon spritzer, made with fresh watermelon juice, seltzer water, and fresh berries.

To make the watermelon juice, throw watermelon chunks into the blender and pulse until smooth. Pour watermelon purée through a fine mesh strainer over a bowl, using a rubber spatula to squeeze out all the juice. Fill a glass with ice, strawberries, and blueberries, then fill halfway with watermelon juice and top off with your choice of sparkling water. Squeeze in a little lime juice if you have it! 🍉🍓🍉🍓


About Judgment Detox

What to expect: A six-step guide to letting go of petty judgements (for self and others) and tapping (sometimes literally) into a self that can release painful feelings without having to turn to booze for relief

From the book jacket:

“From #1 New York Times bestselling author Gabrielle Bernstein comes a clear, proactive, step-by-step process to release the beliefs that hold you back from living a better life.

This six-step practice offers many promises. Petty resentments will disappear, compassion will replace attack, the energy of resistance will transform into freedom, and you’ll feel more peace and happiness than you’ve ever known. I can testify to these results because I’ve lived them. I’ve never felt more freedom and joy than I have when writing and practicing these steps.

My commitment to healing my own relationship to judgment has changed my life in profound ways. My awareness of my judgment has helped me become a more mindful and conscious person. My willingness to heal these perceptions has set me free. I have been able to let go of resentments and jealousies, I can face pain with curiosity and love, and I forgive others and myself much more easily. Best of all, I have a healthy relationship to judgment so that I can witness when it shows up and I can use these steps to quickly return to love.

The Judgment Detox is an interactive six-step process that calls on spiritual principles from the text A Course in Miracles, Kundalini yoga, the Emotional Freedom Technique (aka Tapping), meditation, prayer and metaphysical teachings. I’ve demystified these principles to make them easy to commit to and apply in your daily life. Each lesson builds upon the next to support true healing. When you commit to following the process and become willing to let go, judgment, pain, and suffering will begin to dissolve.

And the miracles will keep coming. Once you begin to feel better you start to release your resistance to love. The more you practice these steps, the more love enters into your consciousness and into your energetic vibration. When you’re in harmony with love, you receive more of what you want. Your energy attracts its likeness. So when you shift your energy from defensive judgment to free-flowing love your life gets awesome. You’ll attract exactly what you need, your relationships will heal, your health will improve and you’ll feel safer and more secure. One loving thought at a time creates a miracle. Follow these steps to clear all blocks, spread more love and live a miraculous life.”

— Judgment Detox: Release the Beliefs that Hold You Back


Zero Proof: Dry


In the latest episode of Zero Proof Book Club, Shelley and I discuss the famous #quitlit memoir Dry by Augusten Burroughs (who you might recognize from “Running With Scissors” fame/ hilarity/ tragedy).

Our book club convo covers rehab, 12 step programs, relapse, and, most importantly, the notion of being a “dry drunk,” a term that Shelley balks at but that I found particularly helpful when trying to understand why I was struggling with similarly impulsive behavior patterns after the pink cloud of early sobriety lifted. See also: using humor in addiction writing, how men talk about addiction compared to how women talk about it, and how hard it must have been to seek recovery before the internet (yikes, hello, embarrassing hotlines).

Listen to the new episode here, at ZeroProofBookClub.com, and follow us on Instagram at @zeroproofbookclub.


Pairs well with…

In “Dry,” Burroughs has a bit about ordering a seltzer and lime soon after leaving rehab. As he waits for it to arrive, he reflects, “Suddenly I can feel how depressing alcoholism really is. Basements and prayers. It lacks the swank factor.” We happen to disagree, and we happen to love drinking seltzer and lime. To pair with our podcast discussion of “Dry,” we’re drinking seltzer water, lime, and a splash of Seedlip Herbal nonalcoholic spirit to up the swank factor. 


About Dry

What to expect: A hilarious, heartbreaking tale of recovery after rehab by one of the best in the memoir biz

From the book jacket:

“You may not know it, but you’ve met Augusten Burroughs. You’ve seen him on the street, in bars, on the subway, at restaurants: a twenty-something guy, nice suit, works in advertising. Regular. Ordinary.

But when the ordinary person had two drinks, Augusten was circling the drain by having twelve; when the ordinary person went home at midnight, Augusten never went home at all. Loud, distracting ties, automated wake-up calls and cologne on the tongue could only hide so much for so long. At the request (well, it wasn’t really a request) of his employers, Augusten lands in rehab, where his dreams of group therapy with Robert Downey Jr. are immediately dashed by grim reality of fluorescent lighting and paper hospital slippers.

But when Augusten is forced to examine himself, something actually starts to click and that’s when he finds himself in the worst trouble of all. Because when his thirty days are up, he has to return to his same drunken Manhattan life―and live it sober. What follows is a memoir that’s as moving as it is funny, as heartbreaking as it is true. Dry is the story of love, loss, and Starbucks as a Higher Power.”

— Dry: A Memoir

Zero Proof: Drink


In the latest episode of Zero Proof Book Club, Shelley and I discuss Ann Dowsett Johnston’s “Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol.” Spoiler alert: Not our favorite book. Johnston gives us plenty to talk about, though, and we chat about how drinking is a feminist issue, how alcohol is marketed to women, and the extra burdens carried by moms who drink.

Listen to the new episode here, at ZeroProofBookClub.com, and follow us on Instagram at @zeroproofbookclub.


Pairs well with…

  • Berry + banana smoothie

Give these babies a whirl in your blender: One frozen banana, a handful of blackberries, a bunch of strawberries, some almond butter, and a drizzle of honey. 🍓🍌

About Drink

What to expect: A compilation of narrative journalism articles about how and why alcohol negatively affects women today

From the book jacket:

“In Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol, award-winning journalist Ann Dowsett Johnston combines in-depth research with her own personal story of recovery and delivers a groundbreaking examination of a shocking yet little recognized epidemic threatening society today: the precipitous rise in risky drinking among women and girls.

With the feminist revolution, women have closed the gender gap in their professional and educational lives. They have also achieved equality with men in more troubling areas as well. In the U.S. alone, the rates of alcohol abuse among women have skyrocketed in the past decade. DUIs, ‘drunkorexia’ (choosing to limit eating to consume greater quantities of alcohol), and health problems connected to drinking are all rising—a problem exacerbated by the alcohol industry itself.

Battling for women’s dollars and leisure time, corporations have developed marketing strategies and products targeted exclusively to women. Equally alarming is a recent CDC report showing a sharp rise in binge drinking, putting women and girls at further risk.

As she brilliantly weaves in-depth research, interviews with leading researchers, and the moving story of her own struggle with alcohol abuse, Johnston illuminates this startling epidemic, dissecting the psychological, social, and industry factors that have contributed to its rise, and exploring its long-lasting impact on our society and individual lives.”

— Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol

To do: Goat yoga


You agree to goat yoga at the Garfield Park Conservatory because you could use a break. A stretch break. And if baby goats are available for the whole process, why not include that little bonus of zoological Zen? Like fury parkour experts, these newborns. Or so you’ve assumed from YouTube videos of parkour and of baby goats.

When you arrive, you’re amazed at the conservatory’s calm and wonder why you have never been here before? Because you’re busy. You’re worried. You’re reading the news and staying up to date and even Story Corps advertisements are promising to “restore your faith in humanity,” which in-and-of-itself kinda does the trick because at least someone—even just a lonely NPR advertisement copywriter locked in a basement somewhere—is admitting people like you are getting nervous and feeling a little hopeless and climate change is real and ecoanxiety is also real (as of 2017, according to the American Psychological Association) and holy goats can we fix this or is it too late?

Regardless, all of this makes you grateful for the conservatory’s sheltered plants and the gated teeny triangle of prairie grass dotted with dandelions, which you’re now unfurling your brand new yoga mat onto, puffs of glittering seeds rise up to the morning sun. The L train zips by sporadically, charmingly. You begin to relax. You take some deep breaths. Stretch. Break.

When the goats come off the truck, you do everything you can to keep from squealing. But then you’re squealing anyway. You’re squealing and hand clapping like a child and have zero apologies for your excitement. Have you ever even seen a four-day old goat? Been climbed by one? Petted the peach fuzz of one’s recently crowned head?

You can’t focus on the poses, but that’s OK. Goat yoga is ultimately more about the goat—more specifically, what the goat is giving you—than the yoga but eventually you settle in to a warrior two or something like that and stop watching the bobbling babies struggle to walk the knee high grass and you push your drooling mouth closed and pop your eyeballs back into your head. And you breathe.

You hear the L ricochet by one more time and give thanks for a place like this and for your ability to move freely to and from it at whatever pace you like. You feel your legs in your yoga pants, which you haven’t replaced in years because you read somewhere yoga-pants-plastics were harming the water systems, but you’re not thinking about that now. You’re thinking about nothing but what this exact moment feels like to be you.

A goat bleats and you smile even more because that shit sounds so desperate and it’s funny because what sounds like a scream is really just him saying, “Hi. Got food?.” You cup the warmth of the sun in your open, welcoming palms. You smile. For a moment, this moment, it feels like you’ve got the whole world in your hands. Even if it’s a fucked up one. This is enough and you are happy here.

Zero Proof: Drinking, A Love Story


In the latest episode of Zero Proof Book Club, Shelley and I discuss Caroline Knapp’s memoir “Drinking: A Love Story.” We gush about Knapp and her writing and talk about our sometimes complicated relationships with our own families, friends, and more.

Listen to the new episode here, at ZeroProofBookClub.com, and follow us on Instagram at @zeroproofbookclub.


Pairs well with…

  • Bubbly strawberry lemonade

To pair with this week’s podcast episode, we’re drinking strawberry lemonade (we love Simply Lemonade with Strawberry) mixed with ginger ale. Super simple. Simply refreshing. Just in time for spring! 🍓❤️


About Drinking: A Love Story

What to expect: An extraordinarily candid memoir published in 1997 that changed the quit lit genre for good.

I drew these hearts around author Caroline Knapp before I Googled her and learned she died of lung cancer in 2002, just six years after “Drinking: A Love Story” was published. She was 42 years old. Her work changed the way we think, write about, and discuss addiction. Especially in terms of women and addiction. What an inspiring human.

From the book jacket:

“Fifteen million Americans a year are plagued with alcoholism. Five million of them are women. Many of them, like Caroline Knapp, started in their early teens and began to use alcohol as ‘liquid armor,’ a way to protect themselves against the difficult realities of life. In this extraordinarily candid and revealing memoir, Knapp offers important insights not only about alcoholism, but about life itself and how we learn to cope with it.

It was love at first sight. The beads of moisture on a chilled bottle. The way the glasses clinked and the conversation flowed. Then it became obsession. The way she hid her bottles behind her lover’s refrigerator. The way she slipped from the dinner table to the bathroom, from work to the bar. And then, like so many love stories, it fell apart. Drinking is Caroline Kapp’s harrowing chronicle of her twenty-year love affair with alcohol.

Caroline had her first drink at 14. She drank through her years at an Ivy League college, and through an award-winning career as an editor and columnist. Publicly she was a dutiful daughter, a sophisticated professional. Privately she was drinking herself into oblivion. This startlingly honest memoir lays bare the secrecy, family myths, and destructive relationships that go hand in hand with drinking. And it is, above all, a love story for our times—full of passion and heartbreak, betrayal and desire—a triumph over the pain and deception that mark an alcoholic life.”

— Drinking: A Love Story