The 28-year-old opens up in her new book, 'Outofshapeworthlessloser,' about the loss of her best friend to suicide after sexual misconduct allegations
In her new book, Outofshapeworthlessloser: A Memoir of Figure Skating, F—--- Up, and Figuring It Out (out Feb 6. from Penguin Random House) the 28-year-old tells the story for the first time. She recounts how it felt to learn that Coughlin, 33, had died by suicide after being restricted from figure skating for sexual misconduct allegations, and how it affected her as a sexual assault survivor herself.
“When you are a woman who, two years before, had been raped by someone in the skating community, and—short of your sister —your favorite person in the world is accused of sexual misconduct against women in the skating community . . . it’s a tough place,” Gold tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue.
The Olympic figure skater first formed a deep friendship with Coughlin in 2017 after she returned home from spending 45 days in inpatient treatment at the Meadows in Arizona for her ongoing eating disorder, severe depression and anxiety.
Upon completing her stay, Gold turned on her phone to find supportive messages from many loved ones, including Coughlin, whom she credits in the book with “facilitating her comeback in ways great and small.” She writes that he quickly became one of the few people who believed in her, “at a time when the distance between me and my family of origin was palpable.”
Gold says her mother, Denise, a retired ER nurse, was drinking heavily at the time. Her father, Carl, an anesthesiologist and a longtime addict, had just been laid off after stealing drugs from the hospital where he worked. She and her twin sister Carly were going through a difficult time, after Carly encouraged her to get help for her eating disorder and mental illness.
Healing for Gold meant learning how to continue on after being sexually assaulted by a fellow skater - “I survived the assault, but when I consider [photographs] from before it happened, I barely recognize the trusting person staring back at me,” she writes in her memoir - with the help of friends like Coughlin.
Her recovery took a painful turn on Dec. 17, 2018, when the U.S. Center for SafeSport restricted Coughlin—the man who had been such a guiding force when she finished treatment—from professional ice-skating competitions after he was accused of sexual assault by several other members of the skating world. Gold says she found the news “painful and confusing,” and that she struggled with multiple truths - being a survivor of sexual assault and being best friends with someone who was accused of sexual misconduct.
Coughlin died by suicide in 2019 before SafeSport concluded its investigation, and Gold has had to come to terms with uncertainty surrounding the loss.
“When I think of John, I only have fond memories, but I also in no way would invalidate the truths of the people that accused him,” she says. “If he’s guilty, my favorite person sexually assaulted women. If he’s innocent, my favorite person is [still] dead. There’s not going to be an answer in this lifetime. I loved him, and I have to live with that.”
For more on Gracie Gold's revealing new memoir, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, out Friday, or subscribe here.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or go to 988lifeline.org.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.
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