About half of all people treated for a substance use disorder are sober a year later. What did they do right? What can you learn from them? And should you even consider treatment in the first place?
Reading books about addiction and recovery can help you answer these questions.
You may also find comfort in the words of families that have come before you. Addictions are isolating, but seeing a community in recovery is inspiring.
These are some of the books we love about addiction and recovery.
Drug & Alcohol Abuse
What does it feel like to have an addiction? What makes people commit to sobriety? These memoirs dive deep into the experience of addiction, giving a glimpse of what life with addiction is like on a day-to-day basis.
Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola
This 2016 memoir digs deep into life as an alcoholic. Hepola was a self-described party girl who drank until late in the evening and woke up wondering what had happened the night before. Her career suffered, and eventually, she knew she needed to change something before she lost the chance to do so.
Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp
This 1997 memoir also focuses on alcohol and alcoholism. Knapp began drinking when she was a teenager, and she spent the next 20 years trying to cover up her problems. Knapp talks movingly about how she thought alcohol was helping her. And she is unsparing in discussing how her drinking ruined her opportunities.
High Achiever: The Incredible True Story of One Addict’s Double Life by Tiffany Jenkins
This 1997 memoir exposes the harsh consequences of an unaddressed addiction. Jenkins was arrested for her habits, and she spent 180 days in a women’s prison in Florida. Jenkins discusses what her incarceration (and supervised detox) felt like, and she explains the steps she took to rebuild her life after release.
The Sober Diaries: How One Woman Stopped Drinking and Started Living by Clare Pooley
This 2019 memoir was written by a woman who seemed well put-together and successful on the outside. But on the inside, she struggled with her mental health, and she self-medicated with alcohol. When she suspected she had an alcoholism issue, she started a blog. And in time, those entries coalesced into a book. Pooley also has a health scare that is interwoven into the writing.
Dry: A Memoir. Augusten Burroughs
More than half a million copies of this memoir have been sold since it was published. Burroughs talks about his addiction clearly and cleverly. He describes how his drinking differed from the drinking his friends did. And he talks about his experience in rehab and how he pieced together a recovery and returned to his life in New York.
Drug & Alcohol Addiction: Outside Perspectives
Addictions are personal, and they can cause incredible inner distress. But your habits can also harm those around you. This collection of books explores how others reacted to addiction in their lives and where they found hope and healing.
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction by Gabor Mate, MD
For two decades, Dr. Mate treated people with addiction, and many of his patients lived on the streets of Vancouver. In this 2010 memoir, Dr. Mate discusses his thoughts about the roots of addiction and how it impacts people who have it. There’s plenty of research underpinning this book, but the doctor uses accessible language.
Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America by Beth Macy
This 2019 book was written by a journalist who covered the addiction beat for years. Macy examines how addictions impact small towns, and her questions lead her to major pharmaceutical companies in city centers. Families looking for hard facts about pill addictions could appreciate this book.
Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff
This memoir was written in 2009, and it was recently made into a movie. The text is still worth reading. Sheff has a journalism background, and he uses his investigative reporting skills to understand how his son became addicted to crystal meth. He examines addiction signs he may have missed, treatment options that didn’t work, and more.
Leave Out the Tragic Parts: A Grandfather’s Search for a Boy Lost to Addiction by Dave Kindred
This 2021 memoir has a sad ending. The child at the center of the story loses his life to alcoholism, homelessness, and grief. Kindred was the boy’s grandfather, and he explains how family dynamics can sit at the heart of some addictions and how people left behind can learn how to heal.
Terry: My Daughter’s Life-and-Death Struggle with Alcoholism by George McGovern
This memoir is one of the oldest on our list. McGovern published this book in the mid-1990s as he was recovering from his daughter’s death due to alcoholism. McGovern interviews his daughter’s friends, doctors, and acquaintances, and he looks through medical records and police reports to understand what really happened to her.
Whether you’ve just emerged from a treatment program or recently decided to get sober, the early days of your recovery can be the most difficult. This set of books contains memoirs about treatment and some workbooks and tips others have found helpful. If you’re in early recovery, these books are for you.
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
In the early 2000s, Frey spent six weeks in a rehab facility to address his addictions to alcohol and crack. He was in his 20s, so he had much of his life ahead. But he was told that his addiction could take his life in the next year unless he got sober. Frey’s account of his rehab could inspire you if you’re in a similar program.
Celebrate Recovery 365 Daily Devotional: Healing from Hurts, Habits, and Hang-Ups by John Baker, Jonny Baker, and Mac Owen
Use this book to help you navigate your first year of recovery. The authors are steeped in the 12-step recovery movement, and references to conventional Christianity are scattered throughout the pages. But if you’re interested in prayer and looking for a guidebook to help you focus on recovery, this could be a good resource.
Integral Recovery: A Revolutionary Approach to the Treatment of Alcoholism and Addiction by John Dupuy
A holistic approach to addiction recovery considers your past, thought patterns, mental health issues, and more. Putting all factors together could help you build a life you’ve always wanted.
Dupuy’s book is a guide to the Integral Recovery form of treatment. You will want to discuss these theories with your treatment team, of course. But the workbook could give you a good place to start your work.
Alcoholics Anonymous: The Big Book by Anonymous
First published in 1939, The Big Book serves as the cornerstone for Alcoholics Anonymous. The script combines first-person accounts of addiction and exercises people can use to think about and revise their own habits. Whether your treatment program is based on AA or you just want to understand how this theory works, The Big Book could be right for you.
Rewired: A Bold New Approach to Addiction and Recovery by Erica Spiegelman
Self-actualization is the core concept discussed in this 2015 book. Readers learn how to tap into qualities such as honesty, gratitude, and solitude when dealing with their addictions. And stories from people in recovery can help inspire you to keep working even during tough times.
Ongoing Sobriety Support
Your healing doesn’t stop when you check out of treatment or complete your last therapy session. You will likely need added support for the rest of your life to avoid temptation and build the life you want.
The right support can help you to embrace a healthy, balanced life in recovery. And you’ll gain new insight at every step of your journey as long as you seek out that support. This set of books could help.
Spirit Junkie: A Radical Road to Self-Love and Miracles by Gabrielle Bernstein
While in her 20s, Bernstein was struggling with alcohol and drugs. She overcame her addictions and wrote this guidebook to help others.
Readers can learn to recognize inner fear, change thought patterns, and share happiness with others. Some readers consider this a guide to leading a happy life, whether or not you’re dealing with an addiction.
Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change by Jeffrey Foote
Families touched by addiction may appreciate this book, especially if their loved one isn’t ready for full sobriety. Foote discusses how gentle conversation and support can help people change their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Rather than holding damaging interventions, families can learn how to use their bonds to make change seem appealing. Foote also offers some advice on navigating the addiction treatment system.
Not Drinking Tonight: A Guide to Creating a Sober Life You Love by Amanda E. White, LPC
White is a recovering alcoholic, and she chose to stop drinking for a few simple reasons. She didn’t think the habit was helpful, and she couldn’t make moderation stick. White discusses techniques she uses to navigate a world where drinking is everywhere, and she helps people figure out how to build the lives they want.
Staying Sober: A Guide for Relapse Prevention by Terence T. Gorski and Merlene Miller
People looking for an approach that differs from the 12-step model may appreciate this book. Gorski focuses on how addictions change brain chemistry and how even tiny decisions can lead to relapse.
Learn more about how families and friends can support someone in recovery. And examine what could trigger you to abandon your progress.
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown
Brown is well-known as a self-help guru. This is one of her earliest books, and it could be most useful for people in recovery.
Learn more about how people develop habits and lifestyles that don’t really support them. And find out how you can express your authenticity and live a life you can truly be proud of. People working through guilt and negative self-talk may really appreciate this book.
Why Should You Study Addiction & Recovery?
Almost 10 percent of all Americans have recovered from some kind of substance abuse issue. Plenty of people in your circle of family, friends, and colleagues have dealt with the same issues you’re facing. But few of these people may discuss their histories openly.
By reading these books and studying what worked (and what didn’t), you could make your sobriety stick. You could also use the lessons you learn to help your loved ones who are dealing with addiction.
There’s a lot to be learned from others’ stories of addiction. Pick up one of them today.
Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. (November 2016). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
1 in 10 Americans Reports Having Resolved a Significant Substance Use Problem. Research Recovery Institute.
Targeting the Barriers in the Substance Use Disorder Continuum of Care With Peer Recovery Support. (June 2021). Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment.
Mapping the Literature of Addictions Treatment. (April 2013). Journal of the Medical Library Association.