Reading kind of got me sober. I started with blogs (click here to see our list of top 20 recovery blogs) then moved on to memoirs. I know the title of this story is “THE 10 Best Addiction and Recovery Memoirs” but it could also be called, “Mary Patterson Broome’s Favorite Books ‘Bout Drinking” because all 10 helped me immensely in my journey to (and continuation with) sobriety. I’m sure there are tons of others I haven’t read that are equally incredible and inspiring so please comment below if you have more and we’ll do another round of top picks soon. In the meantime, here are some reads I highly recommend for anyone looking to get or stay clear of mind altering substances, especially booze:
Drunk Mom: A Memoir by Jowita Bydlowska (Penguin Books, 2014)
Perhaps Poland native Jowita Bydlowska’s story is one of the more memorable for me because the depths of her problem occurred while she was in the care of her young son. When she’s unable to breastfeed him at the beginning of the book due to cocaine still being in her system, you know you’re going to be in for quite a journey. After three-and-a-half years of sobriety, she relapses, then almost immediately discovers she’s pregnant. She stayed mostly sober through nine months of pregnancy and the book begins with her life after his birth. It’s gut wrenching and heart breaking at times but a stark reminder that the -ism spares no one, even new mothers.
Dry by Augusten Burroughs (St. Martin’s Press, 2003)
Dry is the gold standard for recovery memoirs and an inspiration to so many. The Running with Scissors author uses his unmistakable voice to tell his journey through realizing he has a drinking problem to how he solves it…which leads me to my next top read…
This Is How: Surviving What You Think You Can’t by Augusten Burroughs (St. Martin’s Press, 2012)
Okay, so this isn’t technically an addiction or recovery memoir but I reference this book all the time. It’s one of the most helpful “self-help” books I’ve ever read, mostly because a lot of it just acknowledges our helplessness in so many circumstances. And he has one chapter dedicated to quitting drinking, “How To Finish Your Drink,” not to mention others that could certainly be considered applicable to any alcoholic in recovery, including “How To Shatter Shame” and “How To Make Yourself Uncomfortable (And Why You Should).” The tone of all the advice is uniquely his and refreshingly pragmatic.
Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety by Sacha Z. Scoblic (Citadel, 2011)
Unwasted collects the relapse fantasies Scoblic had the first year she was sober as well as just the universal struggles anyone has the first year of not being able to numb feelings or process emotions with alcohol, tied in with memories of her drinking days. She recounts seasons of sport drinking with her two best friends in DC but writes, “I would try to remember that I hadn’t done anything wrong, that it was okay to stay up all night, that I was an adult. But somewhere I felt the red flag flashing in the back of my mind, and I poured myself another drink.” Sing it, sister.
Blackout by Sarah Hepola (Grand Central Publishing, 2015)
A favorite guest on the AfterPartyPod and featured interview in our Recovery section, Hepola is clearly an AfterParty fave. And for good reason: Blackout is gripping from start to finish. Not only is Hepola an incredibly talented writer who could probably keep you glued to the page if she was writing about irrigation systems but she is also unabashedly honest, unfiltered and reflective. This one has been a massive best seller for a reason.
Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp (Dial Press Trade, 1996)
Most of the sober women I know have read this gem, sometimes two or three times. Something about Knapp’s story, both the outward appearance of her life and the inner turmoil she details, is so, so relatable. Sadly Knapp died from lung cancer in 2002 but her story continues to inspire long after its release and her passing.
Understanding The High-Functioning Alcoholic by Sarah Allen Benton (Praeger, 2009)
This book is more of a life story intertwined with a lot of statistical data and research on the concept of “high-functioning” alcoholics. I deem it a must-read for anyone who maybe didn’t show a lot of the most commonly known signs of struggling with substance abuse—say, those who are secretly dying inside but convincing themselves they must not have alcoholism if they haven’t gotten a DUI, been sent to rehab by a court or drank in the morning. Benton weaves her own personal journal entries from the days of when she first started trying to control her drinking into all of her findings about high-functioning alcoholics and the result is quite compelling.
I Swear I’ll Make It Up To You by Mishka Shubaly (Public Affairs/Perseus Books, 2016)
I praised this book when it was released in March of this year and obviously still stand by it. Shubaly’s tale is riveting, complex and not your average rags (drunk) to riches (sober) tale. His bold artistic endeavors and struggles to complete his education, stay afloat at various jobs and keep his familial and relationships intact all make for a capitvating narrative with a dose of solid advice applicable to sobriety and life in general.
Sober Stick Figure by Amber Tozer (Running Press, release date May 31, 2016)
This one’s being released in May and it’s by none other than AfterParty contributor Amber Tozer. Tozer, who is also a stand-up comic and television comedy writer, figured out a way to make talking about alcoholism really funny. The stick figure illustrations alongside all of her stories are a double perk. We always appreciate a non-earnest spin on addiction and recovery at AfterParty and Tozer gives us just that. Stay tuned for a special Q&A with her closer to the book’s release date and pre-order it on Amazon ASAP!
The Easy Way to Stop Drinking by Allen Carr (Sterling, 2005)
From the author of the immensely popular The Easy Way to Stop Smoking, this book made the list because for me it was a really good litmus test for whether it was possible to quit on my own. (For the record, it wasn’t.) Regardless, Carr has some substantial arguments that have nothing to do with alcoholism for why drinking isn’t necessary. If anything, it’s another alternative to 12-step recovery that some might find helpful, refreshing and based in thoroughly well researched logic.
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