Books

I have been cramming information into my brain ever since I started working to retrain it out of a life of wine drinking.  I'm quite addicted to recovery memoirs now..

Here I'm going to list out the books I enjoyed or got useful material from.  I'll try write out what it was that spoke to me within the pages.

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Probably the best book for retraining my brain has been Jason Vale's 'Kick The Drink ... Easily!'. I read it really early in my sobriety and it was brilliant.  He's got some great words, I really enjoyed it actually.  He's breaks down life into a series of events and examines exactly what you are getting by adding alcohol into each one (answer: nothing) and talks about how we are brainwashed and conditioned into accepting this drug as a normal part of life from day one.  Really examining what alcohol does to the brain and body, and how the addiction rules you, and how it's not necessary to drink alcohol in order to have fun or enjoy any special occasion.  He talked about being free.  And I like that.  Free!  It's a light word, denotes a lightness of mood and mentality.  A fun, free attitude to being sober.  Not brooding around being tense and glum, dreading events, feeling left out or hard done by.  Free!  Sober but still fun. This book really worked for me.

It was after my 90 days sober that I read Allen Carr's "The Easy Way To Stop Drinking" and by then I had done a lot of the retraining that he is also talking about.  Allen Carr's book felt like he was working much harder to really get inside my brain and make me see alcohol in a completely different way than society has had me see it all my life.  It offers you nothing, it doesn't make anything better, it tastes awful, no drinker is in control of their intake we're all just alcoholics in waiting, you're not giving anything up, you're gaining so much.  He talks about the 'critical point' being when the drinker has two parts of their brain working just as strongly as the other.  One part wants to drink as often and as much as you want, the other part now sees your drinking as a problem.  I got to that point two years before I gave up!  But he says the problem is that both parts when working make you miserable, they work in complete opposition to each other.  So the only solution is to stop drinking but doing it by (what he calls) the 'willpower' method doesn't work as you'll still feel miserable that you're depriving yourself of something desirable.  You have to use his method (which is what I've been doing!) and retrain your brain to realise that you're not giving anything up you are freeing yourself of something you don't want or need.

Both Allen Carr and Jason Vale have the technique that I am working on.  Not living a life feeling deprived and miserable but being free and happy and living just as well and fun realising that the booze doesn't make any event better.


The memoir 'Blackout' by Sarah Hepola is fantastic. First half a rollicking drinking memoir, second half a fantastic recovery memoir. This is one of the main reasons I love this book, there is LOADS about the recovery process... the 'getting sober' bit of the story. Usually so many memoirs are just the car crash drinking/drugging story and then a tiny blip at the end about giving up. This book spends many chapters on what the author went through in redefining her life and her self-image after drinking. She's a fantastic writer, and brutally honest.

After I'd been sober a while I was lucky enough to be sent a review copy of 'Recover to Live' by Christopher Kennedy Lawford. It is bloody marvellous resource and exactly what I was looking for when I first got sober and was frantically looking around for books and information to educate myself about alcohol addiction. This book  is a massive tome bursting at the seams with loads of information from so many clever, educated and knowledgeable recovery experts. If you have a question about anything to do with addiction the answer will be here. It's great. And I really like that it calls itself a 'self-treatment guide' as self-treatment is all I've been doing. Actually that's a big fat lie. Self treatment and the undisputed, undeniable, unbelievable support of a community of online bloggers and readers.  Kudos to you lot too. 'Moments of Clarity' by Christopher Kennedy Lawford is also very good.

Augusten Burroughs brilliant memoir "Dry" I got a lot out of.  Bloody brilliant, really recommended it.  A great story well told.  Ripping through the story of his terrible boozing, being sent into rehab by his employer, going through rehab, home and into recovery, a shocking relapse finishing with recovery mark 2 (which, from looking at his website, has lasted to this day).  Such a great story and heaps of insights into rehab and AA and stuff that I'm not doing giving I'm reshaping my new sober life on my own.  He reveals a counsellor telling him to 'tell on your addict.' Apparently you need to visualise your own internal addict.  Think of it as a separate 'being' that lives inside of you. And it wants nothing more than for you to drink.  It's that whole 'only as dark as your secrets' thing or whatever that saying is.  I also learnt from this book about Pink Clouds, the wonderful feeling in early recovery when it all starts clicking and the using days seem far behind and life is just great great great.  I think the Pink Clouds come and go actually.  Also learnt from this book about warnings of a 9-month point in recovery when lots of people relapse.

"Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety" by Sacha Scoblic,  I practically read the damn thing in one sitting.  Seriously.  Yes this book is as good as everyone says.  She just writes so well and so punchily.  It motors along and probably about 250 times I was thinking - yup, me too.  There was so much that I could relate to; when she described how she drank and why she drank, and what a reliance on alcohol is all about, and what becoming sober is like.  It's very good. 

I speed-read "Smashed: Growing Up A Drunk Girl" by Koren Zailckas. A great read if you want to read all about someone's crazy boozy exploits (and boy did she have some crazy boozy exploits). As seems to often be the way with these memoirs the bit where she got sober was pretty brief (this is always what I want to read about) but she does sum up nicely what she has learned about herself since she took the booze away (a lot, and not all of it peaches and roses). She ends up by railing against the alcohol industry; "which alternates between pandering to women and using us to bait men" and with a great feminist rant about all of the evils alcohol creates for women; "I've had it with a world that has created a generation of women who are emotionally dependent on alcohol". And then there's this: "I'm tired of the world that won't rescue girls until we're long past the point of saving. Too many people rely on outward signs of aggression to indicate their daughters or girlfriends or sisters have problems with alcohol. They wait for fights, or D.U.I charges, or destruction of property, when girls who drink are far less apt to break rules in overt ways. As a gender we are far more likely to turn our own drunken destructiveness inward, to wage private wars against ourselves, to attempt suicide, to be pinned down by fear and depression. So very true, remove the alcohol and we un-pin ourselves and really start to live

"Mackenzie Phillips "High on Arrival". That woman is living breathing proof of just how much a human body can take.  It's quite a dark read of drugs, drugs, drugs.  Sad, intense, prolonged drug taking.  Her dad clearly had no moral compass whatsoever so from a young age she was pretty stuffed.  When writing about what she learned at her final rehab, and what hadn't worked with previous rehabs which led to relapses, she said; '..maybe what I'd also gotten wrong was that I couldn't throw away who I was to be clean.  It sounds corny, but what I realised was that I could still be my quirky left-of-centre self without doing drugs.'

'A Piece of Cake' by Cupcake Brown which I finished in tears, and felt all inspired by, is similarly hard-core. You must read this memoir!!! What an amazing story of a woman who drank and drugged from the age of 11 until her late 20's when she turned her life around. I could not put it down. Harrowing yet wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. So life-affirming and powerful - how to turn even the shittiest life around. I do so recommend it.

'All or Nothing' by Jesse Schenker is a rip-snorter of a memoir by a very successful young chef in the States. This is one of those books you read and can't believe that the author made it out of their debauchery alive let alone with enough brain cells to actually write a book! Boy was he big into pills & needles etc. It rips along and is really compelling, he seems very honest and upfront. I would have liked more about the getting-sober process and what it's like to be in recovery and how he works at it but that's always how I feel after reading a lot of these memoirs. Still a great read.

Really enjoyed 'Happy Accidents' by Jane Lynch the coach from Glee.  It was the fact that she lives sober now that got me to her book, I always like reading about other people's paths to sobriety.  She says she was 'struck sober' one day.  I thought that was cool.  Once she decided to stop she just stopped, went to AA for a long time but doesn't any more because she feels she's locked in her non-drinking habit.  I love that her mind seems like a steel trap that she can exercise at will and bend to form the new habits she wants to form.  She's a woman totally in control of her own life.  Cool!

'Unhooked: How to quit anything' by Dr Frederick Woolverton and Susan Shapiro I really really enjoyed.  He's quite a full on addiction therapist who doesn't believe in pussy-footing around people who are seriously hooked on a substance.  He's really blunt and gets really stuck in with practical and direct instructions for people who need help re-learning how to live without their crutch of choice.  He's got these really meaty case-studies (he says they're stories of past patients but I'm sure they're made up) to help illustrate the point he's making in each chapter.  Great reading for someone like me who is addicted to stories of recovery. One of his big recommendations to patients wanting to quit an addiction is to start writing every day.  Write your feelings, your food and drug intake, your plans, dreams, hopes, frustrations, favorite songs.  He says write write write, be honest and write. He says "It is my belief that you cannot successfully treat an addiction without confronting the deep, emotional issues that are giving rise to the substance abuse in the first place.  If you do not dig deeply enough into the roots of the behavior, you will either start using again, or you will switch vices sometimes without even realizing it."

Andrew Weil and others wrote in 'From Chocolate to Morphine'; "We think that addiction is a basic human problem whose roots go very deep.  Most of us have at some point been wounded, no matter what kind of family we grew up in or what kind of society we live in.  We long for a sense of completeness and wholeness and whatever satisfaction we gain from drugs, food, sex, money, and other "sources" of pleasure really comes from inside of us.  That is, we project our power onto external substances and activities, allowing them to make us feel better temporarily.  This is a very strange sort of magic.  We give away our power in exchange for a transient sense of wholeness, then suffer because the object of our craving seems to control us. Addiction can be cured only when we consciously experience this process, reclaim our power, and recognise that our wounds must be healed from within."

Jane Velez-Mitchell wrote 'iWant; My Journey From Addiction and Overconsumption to a Simpler, Honest Life'.  So she's quite intense and sounds like she was an alcoholic, workaholic, co-dependent, super-consumer, altogether a much more intense person than I think I am. But the alcoholic chapter I was very interested in, I always love to read about others battles with the bottle, and she gave up at 40 too!! Anyway in the book, after chronicling her boozy lifestyle she writes about her euphoria at discovering she was free of the obsession to drink. She says; 'Before I got sober, the notion of any kind of spiritual conversion would have made me roll my eyes'. Me too!  She also writes about having to mourn the death of her old self and get to know a new one, learning who she really is along the way.  Yes I know what she means. She also gives tips of the sober trade.  Saying you can't replace drinking with just not-drinking and you have to re-tool a lot of daily habits so they're not associated with wine.  'It took me a while to disentangle alcohol from everyday pleasures and reinvent them.'  But here's the passage that really spoke to me.  'Another component of the disease, which is both a cause and an effect, is a spiritual toxicity.  Some call this the alcoholic's soul sickness.  This rancid attitude manifests itself in an overall cynicism about life, a sense that life is a joke and not worthy of being taken seriously.  Perhaps more than anything else practicing alcoholics abhor earnestness.  The alcohol dichotomy is this: while alcoholics exert tremendous energy pretending to be happy-go-lucky and carefree, alcoholism is really a terrible coping method for an underlying fear and pessimism about life.  After all, we drink to escape.  So, obviously, alcoholics - in feeling the need to drink a lot - believe there is much from which they need to escape.  That's why experts call boozing or drugging self-medicating. The happier a drunk acts, the more depressed he or she actually is.'

'The Happiness Project' by Gretchen Rubin, that's a great book about taking control of your life.  I like that she offers loads of detail about lots of little things she did to make positive changes. It's kind of silly and ridiculous in its simplicity, and a kind of uptight and really methodical way of making yourself feel better but it is full of ideas of things to do to improve day-in-day-out living.


Kelly Cutrone in her book "If you have to cry go outside" had some good words about being mentally powerful and controlling your own life.  I found her words really helpful.
"The mind uses fear throughout our lives as one of many blunt objects with which to clock our soul over the head before gagging it, binding it with black electrical tape, and throwing it out of the driver's seat and into the trunk.  So I started to play ball with my fears.  "Bring it!" I'd say when seized by that familiar pit in my stomach. .. I asked my fear exactly what it had to say to me.  .. I followed my fears to their worst possible conclusions, .. , and what I realised each time was that no matter what happened, I was going to be fine.  I remembered that family and tribe members are key, but also that ultimately I have everything I need to survive inside of me.  I believe that the universe constantly rearranges itself to support your idea of reality.  If you're always thinking Life sucks, and I suck, you're definitely going to see a lot of dismal shit out there.  On the other hand, if your idea of reality is that you're a privileged, elegant human being and every day you think, I am a privileged, elegant human being I am a privileged, elegant human being then eventually you will become a privileged and elegant human being.  It may take five minutes or it may take five years, but that will become your experience of yourself."





22 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. HI Mrs D
    Thank you so much for your generosity and kindness in sharing your journey. From your recommendation I have already read Jason Vale's book and already it feels like a huge weight has lifted off me as I see the real possibility of my life without alcohol. I have only started reading your blog and am only on Day 4 of my new life - but for once I really feel I have the tools I need to succeed.
    Thank you so much
    S.

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  3. Hi:
    Thanks for all of this great information, I just read through it, and will do so again, and have ordered Jason's book.
    Best!

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  4. If you haven't read it yet Drinking: A Love Story is a wonderful memoir, my favorite!
    ---L

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  5. Drinking: A Love Story is my favorite recovery book. I have read it at least 3 times and I never read books twice :)

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  6. Mary Karr's books are fantastic. They are available on Audible. I listened to each of them twice. Great resources.

    Thank you, Mrs. D. for these resources and for your blog. Truly, thank you.

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  7. wow I was looking forward to Sunday this week and still have tears rolling down my face now. What an inspiration you are. I feel your pain and want to be where you are now. I am a single mother of a teenager and don't want my teenager to see its ok to drink every night. I don't really have someone that I can tell about my drinking. I don't want to drink any longer. I don't want to be looking forward to 5 pm wine time every day. I want July to be my dry July but I'm scared and don't know where to start. To know that I'm no the only person with a high profile job with this problem is a start. I'm sure your blogs are going to go crazy after the Sunday programme tonight.
    What an amazing story and an amazing husband you have you are a special lady

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  8. Oh crikey I can not believe what I saw on Sunday tonight. You are me only I took drugs as well I am clean 5 weeks on Tuesday actually I am sober as well I tried to take my own life in the end 5 weeks ago. One more mental hospital later and I am living a life feeling happy free and looking forward to the future. I too look like a respectable little house wife LOL I have had to tell my WHOLE family who rushed to my bed side every gory detail and that has been freeing THANK GOD I had to hurt my beautiful mother Gross and awful not to mention my three very beautiful kind generous cleaver girls and oh not to mention my hubby who has stuck by me for 22 years Poor him but I adore him for his loyalty. I have written a poem for you Mrs D all in an hour. I want to contact you I want to let you read it and tell you my story I want to follow you and be inspired by you as I need help too. I am in intensive alcohol and drug therapy totally supported by my family and my TRUE friends who I discovered thru this bloody awful darkness. I started drugging and drinking at four pm so I got an hour on you LOL probably half pissed by the time you started. I don't even know where to start. I was diagnosed with bipolar 13 years ago same age as my baby triggered by my 3rd pregnancy and what pisses me off the most is I did not ask for any of this craziness the mentalness the drugs the booze however I am learning this is my lot and that's ok I can live with it I can be bigger than these monsters in my room. I must hit the sack as it is very late for these bipolar types LOL Sleep is a special drug all of its own LOL time for my lithium my lamotrigine my sleeping pills my antabuse Oh and my laxitives due to the bloody lithium so sleep well all God bless and hang in there. xx

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  9. hi,
    i really enjoyed last night's show, very brave, thanks - it's always great to see someone taking one for the team!
    i'm very new to this whole sobriety business.. I too am from Chch originally but moved up to Welly recently, and then made the decision that it would be the last of many moves to run away from my drunk life.. so here i am, fully ensconced in AA, so far (not very) so good : ) I did try going it alone, but live alone and don't really have the support in Wellington, so it proved not to be the right option..
    I do struggle with AA at times though, I would be interested in hearing your views.. You have obviously read through tomes, and done the research on recovery (straight after work I'm home to watch the 'Anonymous' doc, looks great) I'm curious as to what your views on AA are, and if you have come across any working alternatives in NZ?
    Thanks again
    Justine

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  10. very inspirational story, thank you! can definitely feel the cogs of shift slowly moving toward my sober future. Slowly but surely :)

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  11. Hi thanks for going public, I to am in recovery. I will be buying your book for sure. Some times it feels like a lonely disease both in addiction and recovery. But your blog is a light,a beaccon. You have helped so many by going public. Thankyou.

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  12. Just read your blog entry for the 24th September 2011. You probably won't even remember that day but it's significant to me. At that point, you had been sober for two weeks. I've been sober for 14 days tomorrow, and your appearance on TV on Sunday has kept me going. You are an inspiration to so many. Thank you.

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  13. Well done Mrs D for providing such wonderful insights into some of the literature on sobriety. The growing number of books on the issue highlights the problems we face as individuals as well as a society. Jill Stark's 'High Sobriety' in which she decides to remain alcohol free for 12 months is another excellent read. The sections where she discusses the alcohol industry's attitude to the problems is both illuminating and maddening. I am very much looking forward to reading your book - my bookcases are starting to brim with recovery memoirs but I see it as a much healthier addiction :) Thank you missjane xx

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  14. I don't know how you have managed to stop drinking, but I am going to find out. Just ordered Kick the Drink Easily, having worked out I need some other thoughts to push out "Time for a wine", "a drink would be nice" and "I'll only have one". Thanks Mrs D :)

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  15. Hi Mrs D, the last few times I tried to stop drinking the insomnia brought me undone. Have you come across any info in your research about how to manage this bugger?? I can only last about 4 days with
    out sleep and then I don't have the grit to fight the addict brain. Have been having a bit of a look on the web. Will also chat to my doctor

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    1. Hi Gai, I found drinking sleepy tea in the afternoons and taking sleep ezy tablets before bed useful. Also I have used Bach flower remedy anxious times when I wake up in the night. I have been going right back to sleep after taking these. Before this I was a real bad sleeper, bit of an insomniac. Tart Cherry us pretty good too, though if you have too much it can make you wake feeling drowsy. Good luck :) Hope it is helpful advice.

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  16. And This Little Piggy Had NoneSeptember 18, 2014 at 3:01 PM

    Hi Mrs D :) What a weird past couple of months its been for me that led me to you. A very close friend of mine has been struggling with alcoholism, she had lost her home, her business, her family and sadly now is in prison for drink driving and breaching protection orders awaiting sentencing. She is one of the most amazingly beautiful and talented & caring person you could ever meet. Unfortunately 24 years of domestic abuse got the better of her. This journey I have been sharing with her made me start to look at my own drinking habits and questioning myself on how bad is my addiction. I easily can drink a bottle of wine a night...MUST be RED though. I'm 43, I function well, have four kids and am a Zumba fitness instructor(which I LOVE) , so outwardly I look like a normal functioning person. I recently read Jason Vales Kick the Drink Easily, what a great book, then I started on Allen Carrs book Easy Way to Control Drinking. A couple of days into reading this I bumped into a woman walking her dog who started Talking about Mrs D's Going Without..I mean, I didn't even know her and she starts talking about a subject that was at the forefront of my thoughts. I thought HELL, I better read this Mrs D book and downloaded it to my kindle. I cannot believe how similar our stories are(like so many other mums)and the whole WINE O CLOCK syndrome. I realise how much I have been controlled by alcohol and how so many decisions I make revolve around whether or not my wine o clock will be disrupted....wtf??? I am sick of it, sick of wasting my money, of being in numb mum land and sick from watching my friend's life crumble around her. I have decided that, THATS IT! I am going to stop drinking!! (just not today:) I am terrified of the prospect, god, will I be a boring fun-ess bitch now? I have a date in my head of when I will begin my new sober life and I am frantically reading, reading advice, books to help me on my way. I think I will do what you have done and pour all of my crazy, defeatist thoughts into a blog to hopefully help quell those nasty pangs. I want to be able to say to my friend when she comes out of prison that I am going to join her in her sobriety and that its about taking control of our lives rather than being controlled. So after all that gas bagging, what I really wanted to say Mrs D, was THANK YOU, for your inspiration, your humour, your gutsy-ness, your wisdom and your honesty. I watched your interview on 60 mins and I was in tears. I could so relate to your story & to your pain. You are bloody awesome...glad you're a kick-ass kiwi, hope I can be one too. arohanui & kia kaha xxx

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  17. Still Standing - From Debutante to detox a memoir by liz Jameison-hastings is brilliant. Strong message for long term sobriety from a boozy debutante

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  18. To read this is inspiring and just what i needed right now ,its only day 5 for me , so just starting my journey . Booze dictated alot of my life . Mrs D i can relate to your story immensely . Am really not sure just what to do now but dont want to drink anymore and get my life back and be happy .

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  19. What a fantastic website! I am so pleased I found it :) I have been adding quite a few of your book recommendations to my list. I am surprised however not to see Addiction is the Symptom by Dr Rosemary Brown (http://addiction-is-the-symptom.com/). It is amazing that after all my years of programs, counseling and books that there is a new concept still to be discovered. This book truly showed me that the tried and true 12 step program is, in fact, incomplete. Emotional “freedom” and independence is so crucial to the healing process, and reading this book has given me insight and tools necessary to find that freedom within myself. After finishing this book I feel reinvigorated, I was feeling very frustrated hearing the same old lines and advice, it was refreshing to hear this take on it. I really hope you will check it out and that it makes it on this site! I really feel like it could help a lot of your readers :) Good luck on your continuous successful recovery!

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  20. I can suggest you to read and follow the new website about self-improvement, self-help, bad feelings and mind wellness: mind-globe.com. This article deals with the effects of alcohol on your psyche, what is its psychological impact and what you should know about this situation. In this article you can find links to other articles in which is explained how to quit drinking alcohol either if it is a bad habit or if it is a strong dependance. If you follow the website, you will see day by day new articles about self-improvement, mind wellness and more. Feel free to check it out : http://mind-globe.com/effects-alcohol-psyche.

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