Recommended Reading on Addictions

If you’re looking for a list of great books to read on the subject of addictions/recovery, we’ve put together a short list for your convenience


Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol
By Anne Dowsett Johnston 2013

In Drink: The Intimate Relationship between Women and Alcohol, award-winning journalist Anne Dowsett Johnston combines in-depth research with her own personal story of recovery, and delivers a groundbreaking examination of a shocking yet little recognized epidemic threatening society today: the precipitous rise in risky drinking among women and girls.

With the feminist revolution, women have closed the gender gap in their professional and educational lives. They have also achieved equality with men in more troubling areas as well. In the U.S. alone, the rates of alcohol abuse among women have skyrocketed in the past decade. DUIs, “drunkorexia” (choosing to limit eating to consume greater quantities of alcohol), and health problems connected to drinking are all rising—a problem exacerbated by the alcohol industry itself.

Battling for women’s dollars and leisure time, corporations have developed marketing strategies and products targeted exclusively to women. Equally alarming is a recent CDC report showing a sharp rise in binge drinking, putting women and girls at further risk.

As she brilliantly weaves in-depth research, interviews with leading researchers, and the moving story of her own struggle with alcohol abuse, Johnston illuminates this startling epidemic, dissecting the psychological, social, and industry factors that have contributed to its rise, and exploring its long-lasting impact on our society and individual lives.


Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself
by Melody Beattie

Is someone else’s problem your problem? If, like so many others, you’ve lost sight of your own life in the drama of tending to someone else’s, you may be codependent–and you may find yourself in this book.

The healing touchstone of millions, this modern classic by one of America’s best-loved and most inspirational authors holds the key to understanding codependency and to unlocking its stultifying hold on your life.

With instructive life stories, personal reflections, exercises, and self-tests, Codependent No More is a simple, straightforward, readable map of the perplexing world of codependency–charting the path to freedom and a lifetime of healing, hope, and happiness.

Melody Beattie is the author of Beyond Codependency, The Language of Letting Go, Stop Being Mean to Yourself, and Playing It by Heart.


Healing the Addicted Brain: The Revolutionary, Science-Based Alcoholism and Addiction Recovery Program 
by Harold Urschel

Healing the Addicted Brain is a breakthrough work that focuses on treating drug and alcohol addiction as a biological disease—based on the Recovery Science program that has helped thousands of patients defeat their addictions over the past 10 years. It combines the best behavioral addiction treatments with the latest scientific research into brain functions, providing tools and strategies designed to overcome the biological factors that cause addictive behavior along with proven treatments and medications.


Everything Changes: Help for Families of Newly Recovering Addicts
by Beverly Conyers

Like the people who care about them, addicted individuals in early recovery are filled with hopes and fears. They want to be free of the pain and chaos their addictions have brought them. They hope to build a productive life. But they also fear that they may not be able to live without their drug of choice.

During uncertain times of early recovery, families face new and difficult challenges in their relationship with their loved one: How involved should we be? How can we be supportive without setting ourselves up for disappointment? How can we help without enabling? What kinds of boundaries should we maintain? And what kind of relationship will we ultimately have?

Everything Changes is a guide to help families navigate the first year of recovery. It explores the addicted individual’s many challenges, examines ways that families can be supportive without sacrificing their own peace of mind, and suggests ways to build a new, more rewarding relationship with their recovering loved one.


My Dad Loves Me; My Dad Has a Disease a Child’s View: Living with Addiction
by Claudia Black

For children ages 5-12.  The original pictures were all drawn and the stories written by children age five through fourteen that had one or two alcoholic parents. After many years and thousands of children using this workbook, it has been revised to address the fact that today, if a child lives with addiction, it may not be alcohol addiction. The family member may be addicted to other drugs as well. Words have been rewritten; some pictures changed and new pictures added making it possible for more children of addiction to experience their own recovery process.

Many years ago when Claudia Black was a counselor in an alcohol and drug treatment program, she asked a six-year-old daughter of a man in treatment for his addiction if she knew why her father was in this program. The girl paused and with confidence said, My Dad Loves Me, but My Dad Has a Disease. In spite of her father’s addiction she knew her father loved her. That is a message Claudia would like all young people to be able to believe. Unfortunately when people are addicted they often lose the ability to act in loving ways toward those they love. Growing up in an addicted family usually means living by the rule: it is not all right to talk about the drinking or using in your family. Having been raised in an alcoholic family herself, by the age of six Claudia shared the feelings of loneliness, fear and frustration of her family.

Working through the loneliness, fear and frustration by expressing feelings is what this book is all about. This workbook gives children age 5 – 12 the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings and to better understand addiction.

Although this workbook was designed for and the illustrations created by young children, it may also hold insights for the now adult age person raised in an addictive home.


Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey through His Son’s Addiction 
by David Sheff  2008

Amazon Best of the Month, February 2008: From as early as grade school, the world seemed to be on Nic  Sheff’s string. Bright and athletic, he excelled in any setting and appeared destined for greatness. Yet as childhood exuberance faded into teenage angst, the precocious boy found himself going down a much different path. Seduced by the illicit world of drugs and alcohol, he quickly found himself caught in the clutches of addiction. Beautiful Boy is Nic’s story, but from the perspective of his father, David. Achingly honest, it chronicles the betrayal, pain, and terrifying question marks that haunt the loved ones of an addict. Many respond to addiction with a painful oath of silence, but David Sheff opens up personal wounds to reinforce that it is a disease, and must be treated as such. Most importantly, his journey provides those in similar situations with a commodity that they can never lose: hope –Dave Callanan


Tweak: Growing up on Methamphetamine   
by Nic Sheff 2009

Nic Sheff was drunk for the first time at age eleven. In the years that followed, he would regularly smoke pot, do cocaine and Ecstasy, and develop addictions to crystal meth and heroin. Even so, he felt like he would always be able to quit and put his life together whenever he needed to. It took a violent relapse one summer in California to convince him otherwise. In a voice that is raw and honest, Nic spares no detail in telling us the compelling, heartbreaking, and true story of his relapse and the road to recovery. As we watch Nic plunge the mental and physical depths of drug addiction, he paints a picture for us of a person at odds with his past, with his family, with his substances, and with himself. It’s a harrowing portrait — but not one without hope.


The Addict:  One Patient, One Doctor, One Year  
By Michael Stein  2009

The Addict opens a window on the very private world of prescription drug addiction, revealing the harrowing and riveting story of a young woman whose life has been taken over by an impulse that she can’t control and a need that she can’t extinguish.

Lucy’s first appointment with Dr. Michael Stein was on a sunny day in April, and the minute she sat down she said, “I’m here for your program,” beginning a series of intimate encounters during the course of a year that took her back to the origins of her addiction and unraveled a life driven by compulsion and the constant pursuit of the next pill. The Addict follows Lucy from the start of her treatment, through relapse, to her eventual long-term recovery, including her breakup with a destructive boyfriend whose own addiction to drugs surpassed hers. This is an unforgettable tale of a young woman living on the edge but determined to take control of her life.


Dry:  A Memoir  
By Augusten Burroughs 2003

From the bestselling author of Running with Scissors comes Dry—the hilarious, moving, and no less bizarre account of what happened next.

You may not know it, but you’ve met Augusten Burroughs. You’ve seen him on the street, in bars, on the subway, at restaurants: a twenty-something guy, nice suit, works in advertising. Regular. Ordinary. But when the ordinary person had two drinks, Augusten was circling the drain by having twelve; when the ordinary person went home at midnight, Augusten never went home at all. Loud, distracting ties, automated wake-up calls, and cologne on the tongue could only hide so much for so long. At the request (well, it wasn’t really a request) of his employers, Augusten landed in rehab, where his dreams of group therapy with Robert Downey, Jr., are immediately dashed by the grim reality of fluorescent lighting and paper hospital slippers. But when Augusten is forced to examine himself, something actually starts to click, and that’s when he finds himself in the worst trouble of all. Because when his thirty days are up, he has to return to his same drunken Manhattan life—and live it sober. What follows is a memoir that’s as moving as it is funny, as heartbreaking as it is real. Dry is the story of love, loss, and Starbucks as a higher power.


A Drinking Life: A Memoir  
By Pete Hamill  1994

20 years after his last drink Pete Hamill looks back on his early life. As a child during the depression and World War II he learnt that drinking was to be an essential part of being a man, it was only later he discovered its ability to destroy lives.


From  Binge to Blackout:  A mother and Son Struggle with Teen Drinking
By Chris Volkman  2006

Throughout his college years, Toren Volkmann partied like there was no tomorrow, having what was supposed to be the time of his life. Like so many parents, his mother, Chris, overlooked Toren’s growing alcohol problem. But when he graduated, Toren realized he’d become a full-blown alcoholic. And he was not alone.

Considered a rite of passage, teenage drinking has skyrocketed to epidemic proportions, fostering a generation of young adults whose lives are already beginning to come apart under the strain. This book, written from the viewpoints of both mother and son, is a riveting, enlightening, and heartbreakingly true story of a family that was able to confront the fear, pain, and denial that threatened to destroy them—and survive the epidemic of teenage drinking that’s putting America’s future at risk.


My Name is Bill:  Bill Wilson, His Life and the Creation of Alcoholics Anonymous 
By Susan Cheever 2004

In this definitive and groundbreaking biography, acclaimed author Susan Cheever offers a remarkably human portrait of a man whose life and work both influenced and saved the lives of millions of people. Drawing from personal letters, diaries, AA archives, interviews — and Cheever’s own experiences with alcoholism — My Name Is Bill is the first fully documented, deeply felt account of Bill Wilson and Alcoholics Anonymous.


When Your Adult Child Breaks Your Heart: Coping with Mental Illness, Substance Abuse, and the Problems That Tear Families Apart
by Joel Young

Behind nearly every adult who is accused of a crime becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol, or who is severely mentally ill and acting out in public, there is usually at least one extremely stressed-out parent. This parent may initially react with the bad news of their adult child behaving badly with, “Oh no!” followed by, “How can I help to fix this?” A very common third reaction is the thought, “Where did I go wrong–was it something I said or did or that I failed to do when my child was growing up that caused these issues? Is this really somehow all my fault?” These parents then open their homes, their pocketbooks, their hearts, and their futures to “saving” their adult child–who may go on to leave them financially and emotionally broken.  Sometimes these families also raise the children their adult children leave behind: 1.6 million grandparents in the U.S. are in this situation.

This helpful book presents families with quotations and scenarios from real suffering parents (who are not identified), practical advice, and tested strategies for coping. It also discusses the fact that parents of adult children may themselves need therapy and medications, especially antidepressants. The book is written in a clear, reassuring manner by Dr. Joel L. Young, medical director of the Rochester Center for Behavioral Medicine in Rochester Hills, Michigan; with noted medical writer Christine Adamec, author of many books in the field.

In the wake of the Newtown shooting and the viral popularity of the post “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” America is now taking a fresh look, not only at gun control, but also on how we treat mental illness. Another major issue is our support or stigmatization of those with adult children who are a major risk to their families as well to society itself.  This book is part of that conversation.


Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness
by Pete Early 2007

Former Washington Post reporter Pete Earley had written extensively about the criminal justice system. But it was only when his own son-in the throes of a manic episode-broke into a neighbor’s house that he learned what happens to mentally ill people who break a law.

This is the Earley family’s compelling story, a troubling look at bureaucratic apathy and the countless thousands who suffer confinement instead of care, brutal conditions instead of treatment, in the “revolving doors” between hospital and jail. With mass deinstitutionalization, large numbers of state mental patients are homeless or in jail-an experience little better than the horrors of a century ago. Earley takes us directly into that experience-and into that of a father and award-winning journalist trying to fight for a better way.


A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction
by Patrick J. Kennedy 2015

Patrick J. Kennedy, the former congressman and youngest child of Senator Ted Kennedy, details his personal and political battle with mental illness and addiction, exploring mental health care’s history in the country alongside his and every family’s private struggles.

On May 5, 2006, the New York Times ran two stories, “Patrick Kennedy Crashes Car into Capitol Barrier” and then, several hours later, “Patrick Kennedy Says He’ll Seek Help for Addiction.” It was the first time that the popular Rhode Island congressman had publicly disclosed his addiction to prescription painkillers, the true extent of his struggle with bipolar disorder and his plan to immediately seek treatment. That could have been the end of his career, but instead it was the beginning.

Since then, Kennedy has become the nation’s leading advocate for mental health and substance abuse care, research and policy both in and out of Congress. And ever since passing the landmark Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act–and after the death of his father, leaving Congress–he has been changing the dialogue that surrounds all brain diseases.

 

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