Mayoral candidate Christine Quinn insisted she was not trying to blunt the hard corners of her image by confessing her struggles with alcoholism and bulimia in a Barnard College discussion on Tuesday and recent interviews with newspapers.

The city council speaker, who is preparing a memoir for release next month, said she felt the time was right to be honest to herself and to help others. But some political rivals and commentators suspect her   exercise in soul-baring to be aimed at the sympathy vote.

“This discussion, this book, it’s not about softening my image,” said Quinn. “It’s not like being an alcoholic makes your image that much softer anyway. It’s about having an opportunity to both be honest to myself, about who I am in my totality, and… being out there helping other people.”

Why now?

E-mails Quinn had received last year, following her marriage to Kim Catullo, saying how  inspirational they found her story, prompted her to make the leap., she confided.  One e-mail touched Quinn in particular.

“In a million years, I never expected to get an e-mail from a father who had recently lost his wife and had a teenage daughter,” she said. “He had to be so moved of the picture of me and Kim, and my dad, and her dad. And that e-mail felt like, not to sound a little too cheesy… he said he sent it to me to thank me, but really, I got it as a kind of way to push me forward.”

Quinn’s struggle with alcoholism and bulimia began when she was 16 and taking care of her mother, who was dying of cancer. It gave her “control” and “escape” during a difficult time, she said. And even today, the mayoral candidate considers herself a “recovering alcoholic.”

“With bulimia and the alcoholism, I asked for help, and I got help” she added. “In both of those situations, I was very lucky.”

But she wouldn’t say if that help came from specific sources.

“The second ‘A’ in ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’ is ‘anonymous,’ and so I’m going to honor the tradition of that program. But I want to be clear, with both of those challenges, I’ve been able to overcome them because I’ve asked for help and I got help.”