Words are powerful, which is why some of the most important literature a recovering individual will come across in their life will stem from addiction books. There are certain, specific narratives about substance abuse that cannot be imagined, but lived, which is why some of the best addiction books are created by people who’ve gone through it—all the misery, the regret, and the eventual salvation.
And much as how addiction can be covered in a variety of ways, addiction books can present the narrative of a recovering addict in several ways. From an investigative journalism point of view to intimate memoirs to even a graphic novel, this is a short list of addiction books that you just need to read while on your journey toward sobriety.
Unbroken Brain by Maia Szalavitz
First on our list of addiction books is Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction by Maia Szalavitz, who also co-authored The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog. Szalavitz focuses on two particularly outdated viewpoints on addiction—the moralist perspective and the medicinal perspective—and argues that addiction should be observed as a learning disorder, one that allows people to fall on a spectrum and get treated according to where they lie. For people who argue that addicts choose their lifestyle or are victims of a brain disease, this new definition by Szalavitz serves as a revolutionary understanding of addiction as a learned behavior primarily within the youth community.
Through various commentaries on the criminalization of drugs, racism within the addiction community and law enforcement, and treatment methods, Szalavitz attempts to reinterpret how problems in the substance abuse industry should and can be addressed. Unbroken Brain remarks on how young people, particularly those who have experienced a form of trauma in their lives, learn addictive behaviors from their culture, environment, and families, but also tend to halt their addictions early on as if to “outgrow” their addictions. Szalavitz illustrates the various factors that are involved with addiction—from genetic history to relationships—and refutes the existence of an “addictive personality” or a “broken brain.” With no one-size-fits-all treatment method out there, Unbroken Brain provides readers with the tools to understand the complexities within addiction and possibility a starting point to begin discussion.
Dreamland by Sam Quinones
Sam Quinones weaves an intricate tale of prescription opioid painkillers, the Mexican cartel, and small town America getting sucked into a world of heroin addiction in Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic. Nationally acclaimed by the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, The Guardian, and other respected publications, Dreamland parallels two main plots while commenting on the country’s opioid epidemic: the story of how blue-collar city of Portsmouth, Ohio, fell in love with OxyContin and how the Xalisco Boys from Nayarit, Mexico, fueled Americans’ heroin addiction. As is a common theme in the book, “Wherever those pills go, heroin comes.”
The nonfiction book touches upon various sectors of the opioid epidemic issue, focusing on the pharmaceutical industry and doctors overprescribing pills to patients without providing enough—or any—drug education along with it. Written like a novel, Dreamland separates itself from most addiction books as unique insight into the relations between the legal and illegal drug worlds, giving readers a better understanding of how substance abuse addiction can send people into unsuspecting pitfalls of desperation, crime, and fatal mistakes.
Sobriety: A Graphic Novel by Daniel D. Maurer
Writer Daniel D. Maurer and illustrator Spencer Amundson worked together to create a graphic novel, Sobriety, as a visual ode to life in recovery. Following the stories of five Twelve Step group members, Sobriety literally illustrates the various pathways recovery can go for separate individuals while bringing in their separate backgrounds of how their addiction formed in their lives. From “old-timer,” strict by the Big Book Larry to 20-something single mother Debby, the graphic novel provides several relatable stories for recovering individuals who wonder if recovery will ever be possible for them.
Maurer incorporates several race and sexuality issues in his characters, along with age differences and the severity of meth addiction compared to a brief stint with alcohol. Much as how one would meet and learn about new people in a Twelve Step meeting, Sobriety lets readers understand the range that addiction can cover among people. While most addiction books don’t venture into the graphic novel territory, the benefits of the visuals add to the separate narratives, providing a full glimpse at what recovering persons have to face each day as they try to stay clean and sober.
Sober Stick Figure by Amber Tozer
Amber Tozer is a stand-up comedian and comic writer on various television shows and publications, such as Cartoon Network’s MAD, Adult Swim’s Moral Orel, and addiction news website, The Fix. This year, after seven years of sobriety from alcoholism, Tozer released her hilarious, yet dark, memoir, Sober Stick Figure, in which she narrates her life adventures and travels from Colorado to New York to Los Angeles. Accompanied by crude stick figure illustrations, hence the title of the memoir, Tozer provides a quirky authenticity in the process of her coming out of denial and realizing the need for change.
Tozer’s family has a history of alcohol abuse, which is touched upon in the narrative in the chapters that cover her high school years as an overachieving student-athlete, but which she admits she ignored as she began to experiment with drugs and alcohol in her youth. Then comes a series of blackouts, passing out on public transportation, embarrassments of a lifetime, and wicked hangovers—all of which Tozer would tell herself was just a result of the fact that she liked to party and was having fun. Readers will be able to laugh and relate to Tozer’s amusing narration while also sympathizing with her struggles with alcohol abuse in Sober Stick Figure, making it one of the most hilarious addiction books out there that also slaps you in the face with brutal honesty about substance abuse.
Drunk Mom by Jowita Bydlowska
Most people are not willing to admit that they were drinking while raising their newborn child, but Jowita Bydlowska lays it out all in her memoir Drunk Mom. Having been sober for three years before the birth of her son, Bydlowska recalls the moment she was given a glass of champagne to celebrate the joyous occasion and how it was that glass that shot her right back into alcoholism, a relapse that would have her struggle to raise her child as a young mother.
Not many addiction books focus in on the narrative of a mother battling her substance abuse addiction, but Bydlowska presents a powerful look inside the mind of an addict as she details every stage of denial she was in, the excuses she made in order to fuel her alcoholism, risky behaviors and situations she engaged in, and the shame and humiliation that comes with being an alcoholic mother. Drunk Mom is a sobering memoir that shows the courage of a young woman admitting her faults and mistakes while showing the pathway back into recovery for the sake of her family, her health, and her life.
Reading books can be a relaxing journey to a healthier mind, with the lessons they teach and the new perspectives they give readers. At California Highlands, we try to utilized new perspectives and life skills training within our treatment methods, and also encourage healthy activities like reading to our clients. Our specialists are available 24-7 to help you determine which treatment options are best for you or a loved one suffering from addiction. Call 855-935-0303 and start a new chapter in your life: sobriety!
There are so many addiction books out there that it would be far too overwhelming to list them all, but California Highlands would like to hear some of your favorite suggestions in the substance abuse genre! So what books would you recommend?