Corcoran grad helps others understand mental health issues
He achieved valedictorian at Corcoran High School and graduated from Brown and Syracuse universities.
So perhaps the fact that Seamus Kirst went on to publish a book isn’t a surprise. But the title might be: “Shitfaced: Musings of a Former Drunk.”
It’s been a rollercoaster ride for Kirst, who graduated from Corcoran in 2009 and now productively spreads himself thin as a freelance writer, social advocate, stand-up comedian, and podcast and web-show host.
The Brooklyn-based writer is excited about his projects in development, including a web series, “Modern Day Gay,” an illustrated children’s book about a little girl and her two dads, and a podcast, “Breaking and Enter(tain)ing.”
Kirst has come a long way in his five years of sobriety. His dad, who helped edit his book, couldn’t be happier.
“Seamus is a great guy with a lot of soul and talent,” said Sean Kirst, long-time local columnist who now writes for The Buffalo News. “I knew his memoir would be inspirational.”
“It was frightening the first time we discovered he had a problem, but since he got sober, everything has been easier,” his dad added.
Sean Kirst said he would travel miles to be with his son in his moments of vulnerability and weakness. He was also the one who pointed out his son’s imbalanced personality as a senior at Corcoran in his quest for valedictorian and his incessant revelry.
Seamus delivered the valedictorian speech in 2009 and continued to lead two lives as an A-plus student by day, and a substance abuser by night.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, over 600,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17 suffer from alcohol use disorder, and an estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol related deaths annually.
Seamus knew he did not want to be one such fatality and looks back to August 2013, when his life changed for the better.
It was a bleak summer morning in New York City. He had blacked out the night before, woke up and called his parents to tell them he decided to permanently quit drinking.
It certainly wasn’t easy, but Seamus is now confident in his “new normal,” as he describes life since.
He sifts through his planner and sips his coffee at a Pret a Manger in Manhattan. It’s a cool Monday morning and he goes back to a defining moment in August 2015 when he first published a 1,600-word essay on his experiences with substance abuse on his blog.
“The post got 100,000 views,” Seamus said. “It really was a boiled down version of what I experienced.”
The essay was republished in The Scribbler in India and in The News Lens International in Taiwan, two places he had spent time.
A crowd-funding campaign followed for the book he had envisioned, putting Seamus Kirst firmly on the path to releasing “Shitfaced.”
The summary description in the book reads, “Kirst goes back to find a self that he barely survived.”
Jeremy Harding, Seamus’ current roommate and friend since sixth grade, has been with him through those tumultuous years. “I have seen Seamus struggle with substance abuse in high school, but he’s always been lively. So you don’t see the dark side,” Harding said. “Today, he is so much more clear-minded and focused. Still wacky as ever.”
For a taste of that wackiness, consider the name of his two cats: Bernie Sanders and Sugar Baby.
Seamus must be focused as he works on his various projects: crowd-funding his comedy web series on finding love as a gay man in the modern world, awaiting publication of his picture book and launching his podcast on entering the entertainment world.
Lily Gildor, co-host of Seamus’ first podcast, “Mental Health Hangouts” and a classmate at Brown, says Seamus is dedicated to his work, and fun to work with.
“We bring a sense of humor to serious issues in a way that humanizes them,” Gildor said. “We have both been through alcohol abuse and sought help for mental recovery. So we wanted to offer a conversational space for those going through similar struggles.”
Seamus is quietly working on two more picture books, one for middle schoolers and one for adults. He continues to freelance on politics, entertainment and mental health for publications including Huffington Post, Vice, The Washington Post, Mic, Them and more.
“There’s so much to do,” he said. “I would like to write a second ‘Shitfaced’ that’s on a funny note, perhaps.”
His mother, Nora Kirst, looks back on that morning in 2013, when her son announced his call to sobriety for the first time. “It will remain one of the most memorable moments,” she said. All she could do was be there for her child.
“My mother even paid for my therapist when I was recovering and has helped me in so many ways,” Seamus said.
— By Lyle Michael, Syracuse University Goldring Arts Journalism student