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Addiction can consume your life, whether it’s alcohol, drugs, or a certain behavior. For people with addictions, finding support can mean the difference between success and relapse, or even life and death.
About 21.5 million people in the United States ages 12 and above have substance abuse disorders. This includes 17 million people who live with alcohol use disorder. For these millions of people and the many more who love them, the throes of addiction and everything it brings with it are very real.
We’ve rounded up the best books for people with addiction and those that love them.
According to Albert Ellis, PhD, the author of “When AA Doesn’t Work For You,” there’s another approach to treating alcoholism. Despite Alcoholics Anonymous helping many people in their recovery, Ellis argues people with alcoholism have irrational thoughts and beliefs that keep them tied to their addiction. Through rational emotive therapy (RET) — developed by Ellis — people with alcohol addictions can challenge these thoughts and beliefs and replace them with healthier ones.
“Living Sober” is an anonymous volume designed to provide people with addictions the tools for healthy day-to-day living. The book doesn’t merely focus on giving up alcohol or drugs, but says this is only the first step. Real recovery comes in the days and weeks following, when you’re challenged with living sober no matter what life throws at you.
In “The Trip to Echo Spring,” author Olivia Laing delves into the lives of several prolific writers and their relationships with alcohol. Laing discusses F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and more, exploring how creativity in these artists is linked to their drinking. More importantly, though, she dispels the myth that alcohol is somehow responsible for their genius.
People drink for different reasons. For author Sarah Hepola, drinking was a way to find courage and adventure. But her drinking usually ended in blackouts. In “Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget,” Hepola takes readers on her journey through alcoholism and recovery. She found alcohol wasn’t making her life better, but in fact draining it. In her recovery, she discovered her true self.
Writer Melissa Broder became known through her Twitter account @sosadtoday. It became a place where she could anonymously share her struggles with anxiety, addiction, and low self-esteem. In “So Sad Today,” she expands on her tweets, giving readers insight into her poetic struggles through personal essays. This volume isn’t only useful for people living with anxiety and addiction, but anyone who acknowledges that life isn’t always happiness and joy.
For people with alcoholism, looking back at a life of drinking can be tough, but it can also be therapeutic. Pete Hamill grew up in Brooklyn with immigrant parents. Having a father with alcoholism shaped his view that drinking was a manly thing to do — so early in life, he started drinking. “A Drinking Life” was written 20 years after Hamill took his last drink, and in it he shares how drinking in his early years affected his life trajectory.
Augusten Burroughs lived like many people with alcoholism: days and nights swirling around, longing for the next drink. And like many, Burroughs only sought help when forced. In his case, alcoholism was affecting his work, and his employer gave strong urging to enter rehab. In “Dry,” Burroughs recounts his drinking, time in rehab, and the obstacles he faced coming out as sober.
It’s not unusual to have more than one person with addiction in the family. In “Double Double,” mystery writer Martha Grimes and her son, Ken, share their experiences with alcoholism. Two memoirs in one, it offers two very unique journeys and perspectives on living with an addiction. Both spent time in 12-step programs and outpatient facilities, and both have their own takes on what makes recovery work.
Why can’t you just quit? It’s perhaps one of the greatest myths surrounding addiction — that sheer determination is all you need to overcome it. In “Under the Influence,” authors James Robert Milam and Katherine Ketcham dispel this and other myths. They discuss recovery, how to help someone with alcoholism, how to increase the chances of a successful recovery, and how to tell if you or someone you love has alcoholism. The book has been in print for decades and remains an important resource.
Annie Grace left her career as a marketing professional in order to share her journey with alcoholism. The result is “This Naked Mind,” a guide for people with alcoholism to discover what makes them happy without the bottle. The book is very well-researched, analyzes just how alcoholism happens, and dissects the relationship between drinking and pleasure. Grace assures readers recovery is more than a difficult process — it’s a path to happiness.