Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Good Place To Start

I get a fair number of emails from people, mostly women and mostly mothers, about recovery. Some are still figuring it out, deciding whether or not they have a problem. Some are new to recovery, and some have been sober for a while. I appreciate hearing from everyone - as I've stated again and again I feel that in sharing our stories, our struggles and our triumphs we go a long way towards combating the disease of addiction. I respect anonymity and confidentiality above everything - I have great respect for the fact that facing fears about drinking, or drugs, and whether or not you want to do something about it, is an intensely personal and private decision. I feel strongly, too, that talking with people who understand, who are safe, is pivotal to finding a strong path in recovery. If you think you may have a problem, it is hard to figure out how to take that first step.

I am often asked about information, books or articles that may be helpful. I have read several books that have to do with recovery - I'll share some of the best here. If you want to understand more about addiction - whether you think you may have a problem, are in recovery yourself, or have a loved one with addiction, these books are worth the read.

My favorite book on addiction and recovery, as it pertains to women, is Drinking, A Love Story by Caroline Knapp. Caroline is an excellent writer, and describes her journey into addiction, the struggle to get out of it, and life in recovery, with honesty and eloquence. I first read her book in 1997 - ten years before I stopping drinking. I wish I had paid more attention to the distant alarm bells that went off in my head when I read her story. If you are a woman who is wondering whether or not you have a problem with alcohol - this is the book to read.

Dry, by Augusten Burroughs (he wrote Running with Scissors, among many other books), was a compelling read. While I can't identify as much with his personal circumstances, he writes eloquently about his fall into addiction with drinking and drugs, a first attempt at recovery and subsequent relapse, and eventual sobriety - all while facing significant personal trials and tribulations.

The Night of the Gun, by David Carr. A reporter for the New York Times, Carr investigates his own history of drinking, drugs and addiction through interviews with friends, families and co-workers who were there through it all. The Night of the Gun is a fascinating exploration of memory, as well as a gripping memoir about addiction and recovery. It is also an interesting read from the perspective of people who love addicts, and a graceful story of regret and redemption.

There are several books I would describe as more in the "self-help" category, but some of them are particularly good. Living Sober, published by AA services, is kind of an owner's manual to early sobriety. Although published by AA, it doesn't deal with the 12 steps as much as how to navigate the tricky waters of early sobriety. I read it over and over as I faced some "firsts" in sobriety: first wedding, first party, first family gathering, and even how to face day-to-day stresses sober.

A Place Called Self: Women, Sobriety and Radical Transformation, by Stephanie Brown, is also a "self-help" book, written with eloquence and compassion by a woman in recovery. Brown discusses addiction and recovery as it relates to how women define themselves, delving deeper into the psychological, social and cultural issues that impact women in addiction (from anything - drugs, alcohol, shopping, sex or gambling) and in recovery.

One of the reasons I wanted to blog about the good recovery stories out there is in response to some of the parenting books that make light of drinking as a survival tool in parenting. Robert Wilder's Daddy Needs a Drink and Chris Mancini's Pacify Me, are examples of this. Interestingly, Stefanie Wilder-Taylor - who wrote Sippy Cups are Not for Chardonnay - recently admitted on her blog that she has a problem with alcohol, and is now in recovery. I commend her for speaking publicly about her journey. She writes with courage and grace - plus she is very, very funny. I recommend checking out her blog here.

This list is nowhere near comprehensive - just some thoughts on the books that were the most meaningful to me as I tried to figure out if I had a problem, struggled to get into recovery, and as I progress through my own journey in sobriety. If you have suggestions of your own please share them here, too.

If you are wondering whether or not you have a problem, reading can be a safe, quiet and private way to begin. Thank you again to everyone who has reached out to me - keep on coming - you all help me and I appreciate it very much.


  1. Hi Ellie -
    Did you ever meet Ray Tamasi @ Gosnold? He is my Godfather and is the president of Gosnold. My Godmother wrote a great book called "I'll Stop Tomorrow" which is not widely published but a really moving story.

    You write so well & I enjoy your perspective & can relate to many of your stories - particularly about your days with the kids!

    Katie Duff :)

  2. Hi Katie!

    Yes, I did meet Ray - he is an incredible man! I hadn't heard of "I'll Stop Tomorrow" - I'm definitely going to check it out.

    Thanks for your message, too!