**Disclaimer – before everyone freaks out, keep in mind that these books are just the opinion of the author. We intentionally kept The Book Book and the NA Simple Text off the list to broaden the scope.
The journey through addiction to recovery is a deeply personal experience, with no two people going though the same process to reach sobriety. Recovery is a tumultuous process, and recovering individuals often benefit from learning about the experiences others have undergone in their quest to live substance-free. There are countless books that have been written about addiction and recovery. The following list recounts 10 of the most notable books on this subject.
#1 – Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
Running with Scissors is true-life memoir that recounts Burroughs’ troubled childhood. His mother suffered from mental illness and addiction, creating a situation in which Burroughs was raised in a tumultuous and unpredictable manner. This book is unique in the fact that it chronicles his childhood trauma, as well as how it directly related to his first forays into drug and alcohol use. Although his childhood experience was remarkably different from the norm, it still illustrates the vulnerability that emotional abuse creates in relation to the formation of addiction.
#2 – Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood by Koren Zailckas
Smashed was a ground breaking novel, shocking people with the brazenly delivered truths experienced by young women all over the country. Zailckas’ story is similar to the millions of youths who engage in binge drinking at dangerously young age. Throughout the course of the book, Zailckas reveals the underlying emotional pain and lack of confidence that she tried to express through excessive drinking. She also closely examines both the internal and external factors that drove her to seek help in ending her destructive cycle of binge drinking.
#3 – When AA Doesn’t Work For You: Rational Steps to Quitting Alcohol by Albert Ellis
This self-help book encourages the reader to examine the maladaptive thoughts and irrational beliefs that often fuel the behavior of an alcoholic. Instead of focusing on the belief that an addict is powerless over their own behavior, this book offers exercises in positive thinking, self-care and visualization. The goal of this book is to aid in the development of healthy coping mechanisms. This publication is an excellent companion to counseling or group therapy. Find When AA Does Work For You on Amazon.
#4 – The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll
A memoir penned in the 1970’s, this book documents the the adolescent years of musician Jim Carroll. His writing is startling in its earnest simplicity, drawing a vivid picture of his descent into heroin use and addiction. His inner tumult seems to reflect the paranoia and uproar of the 60’s era, creating an intense portrayal of his formative years. The Basketball Diaries exemplifies the euphemistic fall from grace that an addiction can cause, as well as the devastation that relapses can wreak upon an addict’s life.
#5 – Living Sober by Anonymous
Published by Alcoholics Anonymous, this work does not offer advice on how to get sober; instead, it offers information on how to maintain sobriety on a day-to-day basis. Countless people in recovery have found the simple advice to be a comfort when faced with cravings, helping them to avoid a potentially disastrous relapse. One of the most important messages that resounds throughout this work is that sobriety is more than just not drinking, it is a daily practice of commitment to healthy and engaged living. Living Sober is a recommended read for anyone using the 12 step method.
#6 – Addicts in the Family: Stories of Loss, Hope and Recovery by Beverly Conyers
Addiction is not a disease that is experienced singularly by the affected individual. In Addicts in the Family, Conyers examines the heart-wrenching experiences of those who love an addict and have to experience the ravages of this affliction from the sidelines. With compassion and an erudite viewpoint, this book offers advice and hope for those who struggle with a loved one’s addiction. The author reveals startling details of her own struggle with her daughter’s addiction, reassuring the reader that she truly empathizes and understands the complexities of loving an addict. She educates the reader on how to best stop engaging in enabling behavior, in order to truly begin helping a loved one find the road to recovery.
#7 – A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
Frey recounts his journey through rehab, as both an alcoholic and a crack cocaine addict. Although this book was first released as a memoir, Frey later admitted that many of the instances described within A Million Little Pieces never happened. Regardless, his representation of the lack of control that addicts experience on their journey to rock-bottom struck a chord with millions of readers. He details his rehab experience in a 12-step oriented facility, and offers an honest viewpoint of both the pros and cons surrounding this therapeutic model. Despite the controversy surrounding Frey’s semi-fictional memoir, this book remains one of the most notable books on addiction and recovery in recent times.
#8 – Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel
Wurtzel’s book clearly illustrates the link between mental health issues and addiction. As a young woman, Wurtzel struggled with severe depression marked by manic highs and extreme lows. She turned to alcohol and drugs in an attempt to self-medicate and treat her emotional pain. She also poignantly expresses the feeling of emptiness and longing that so many addicts seek to fill through the consumption of their drug of choice. Prozac Nation is an important piece of work, notable for its distinctive youthful voice and confessional nature. It also chronicles the true pain that stems from depression and anxiety, the causes that lead many people to engage in substance abuse.
#9 – Ninety Days: A Memoir of Recovery by Bill Clegg
Clegg candidly recounts his stumbling journey to recovery: full of fails, relapses, confusion, self-realizations and moments of redemption. Taking place after a stint in rehab, the author delves with honesty into the torment that a recovering addict often must face in the early phases of sobriety. This book is an excellent reference for those hoping to understand the emotional toll of addiction and recovery. Clegg writes with a gripping immediacy that draws the reader directly into the maelstrom of his emotional struggle with addiction. Ninety Days is a relatable for anyone who has gone through similar experiences.
#10 – Tweak: Growing Up On Methamphetamines by Nick Sheff
In Tweak, Sheff paints a disturbingly honest portrait of addiction. Methamphetamine is a highly destructive drug, and he does not mince words when conveying the ruination that it brought to his life. His raw and graphic accounts of youthful experimentation with drugs and alcohol segues quickly into an out of control addiction. Sheff’s ability to convey the pain and loneliness that both causes and fuels addiction inspires simultaneous sympathy and fury within the reader. His descriptions perfectly capture the out of control life of a youth growing up with addiction, yet his story ultimately yields hope for the future.
If you have any more books to add to the list, please leave them in the comments section. 🙂