Quinn who would be the first gay mayor of New York stated that her Irish family history was dotted with alcoholic relatives.
In an interview with The New York Times the paper noted “While she often reminisces about her upbringing, describing herself as the loud, energetic striver in a wisecracking Irish family, it is clear from the interviews that the family had darker shadows too, especially alcoholism and an inability to talk about difficult subjects.
“In addition to a great-grandfather, a grandmother and a great-uncle who were alcoholics, her mother drank too much, fighting her despondency about cancer with alcohol and tranquilizers.”
Quinn’s mother died when she was 16 from cancer and her slow and painful death had a profound impact on the young woman.
As a result, she had her own battle with the booze and bulimia until entering a Florida rehabilitation center at age 26.
“I’m embarrassed about it now still,” Quinn said during an interview with The Times. “I wish I could say I wasn’t.”
She will speak about it on Tuesday at Barnard College and will also deal with it in her new book out next month.
She stated that “until you stop hiding things, you’re hiding things, and hiding things is not healthy.”
“I just want people to know you can get through stuff,” she added. “I hope people can see that in what my life has been and where it is going.”
She said her mother’s cancer deeply impacted her. “She would get sad, and she would get frustrated, and she would cry and be very forlorn.
Her mother, Mary Callaghan Quinn, was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy.
But her family kept the worst of the news from her, A classmate in school in Glen Cove on Long Island, New York told her after a nun asked her to be nice to Quinn because her mother had cancer
Her parents had told her the scars on her mother’s body were from an infection. When she asked her older sister she told her the truth that her mother was dying from cancer.
She began binge eating to help cope, “For a brief moment, you’ve kind of expelled from your being the things that are making you feel bad,” she said.
She also began drinking heavily in high school as her mother’s conditions worsened.
“What you’re doing is not something you do with other people,” she said of bingeing and purging, “so you have to kind of find moments or structure moments when you’re by yourself. And the bad thing about isolation is I think it fuels more isolation.”
After her mother’s death Quinn went on to college in Connecticut where she also struggled with her sexuality, After college she began working for Tom Duane the first openly gay politician elected in new York. She confided her problems to him.
“It was the first significant time in my life that I had asked for help, and I think up until that point in my life I associated asking for help with defeat,” she said.
Diane a recovering alcoholic urged her to go into rehabilitation which she did in 1992 for 28 days in Florida.
“I was fairly monosyllabic for a while,” she said. “I mean, this kind of conversation is not my greatest strength generally.”
“It put me on a path to letting go of the blame and the responsibility for the fact that my mother’s life didn’t work out how she had wanted it to — that she had gotten sick.”
After Florida she met Kim M. Catullo, a corporate lawyer from New Jersey who is now her wife.
“Asking for help, going to the rehab, dealing with bulimia, cutting back on drinking, getting drinking out of my life altogether — all of that helped me put the pieces back together,” she said. “And then when I met Kim, she was the final piece that really put me in a place where I was to some degree whole and could be happy.”
Her memoir “With Patience and Fortitude” is released next month.
“I want to be affirmatively proud of what I have made my way through,” she said. “And to do that, in the same way I had to tell my father and my family and my friends that I was gay, I need to not hide this anymore.”