Thursday, September 21, 2023

8 Books to Help You Drink Less, or Quit Altogether

Six months before Kim Kearns quit drinking, she cracked open a book called, “We Are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life,” by Laura McKowen. But it “hit too close to home,” she said.

Ms. Kearns put the book down. But when she returned to it — the day after she told her husband she needed to stop drinking — she read it cover to cover. Ms. Kerns, co-host of “The Weekend Sober” podcast, credits the book with helping her quit.

When people start to evaluate their relationship with alcohol, they often “collect different prompts and data points,” said Aaron Weiner, a clinical psychologist practicing in Chicago. “Books are one of these data points” that help people realize they might have a problem, he said.

We asked more than a dozen addiction experts, sobriety counselors, podcasters and people in recovery to share the books they found most helpful.

Ms. McKowen, a podcaster who founded the community The Luckiest Club, sees sobriety “as being free,” Ms. Kearns said.

Straightforward, relatable and full of personal stories, Ms. McKowen writes about “how hard, lonely and scary early sobriety is,” said Casey McGuire Davidson, a sobriety coach and host of “The Hello Someday Podcast.”

“It’s something many women feel but don’t talk about,” she said.

In “Dry,” Mr. Burroughs recounts dealing with alcoholism and recovery. Eric Reinach, who works in addiction treatment marketing, picked up the book months before he stopped drinking. He wanted to read an experience of sobriety that felt authentic, he said, “not simply a tale of everything improving with abstinence from alcohol.”

Now Mr. Reinach recommends it to anyone who might identify as a problem drinker “with the idea that they may relate to his story, and the sometimes-rocky path to getting sober.”

In “Stash,” Ms. Robbins offers a candid look at a Black woman grappling with addiction. She was married to a Hollywood director and writes openly about how glamour and privilege could not save her from her problems.

Black authors are largely absent from quit lit, and the treatment landscape is very white-centric, said Ryan Cain, executive director of Fund Recovery, a nonprofit that provides access to treatment programs. But stories like “Stash” can help reduce stigma around addiction, he said.

“Black women are treated differently in recovery,” said Emily Lynn Paulson, recovery coach and founder of the Sober Mom Squad. “The expectations on them are different.”

In “This Naked Mind,” Ms. Grace explores the psychological, neurological and social forces that influenced her addiction, and reveals “the powerful marketing that goes into convincing us that drinking helps us to relax and connect and have more fun,” Ms. Davidson said.

“It’s one of those books you read that gives you such an inside look at alcohol and the industry,” she said. “You can’t unsee it.”

During early sobriety, many people wonder if they can still have fun without alcohol, Mr. Cain said. Ms. Gray tackles this misconception by presenting tools that helped her through the first month of her recovery. She explores moments like crying uncontrollably, taking long baths, and learning to recognize her addictive voice, Ms. Davidson said.

Ms. Gray “helps you see that you’re not weak but strong for stopping drinking and going against the grain,” she said.

“The Big Book” is the definitive book in the 12-step recovery program, outlining how 100 people in Alcoholics Anonymous quit drinking.

Published in 1939, however, it doesn’t resonate with everyone. The word “God,” for instance, might turn people off, Mr. Cain said. It’s also dated and really rigid, he said. Yet there’s a reason it’s one of the most popular books on alcoholism, with more than 30 million copies sold. And it has been translated into over 70 languages.

“Parts of it are stilted and sexist and stuck in a culture decades old,” said Elizabeth Vargas, member of the board of directors for the Partnership to End Addiction. “Yet parts of it stand the test of time.”

Much of what keeps people from getting sober — worries about social life, friendships and dating — is addressed in “Sober Curious.” Ms. Warrington also shares advice on getting through “firsts,” like the first wedding or holiday party you attend without drinking alcohol.

It’s “less black-and-white” than ‘The Big Book,’” Mr. Reinach said. “It reminds me of the many things I have gained from being sober.”

“Quit Like a Woman,” became enormously popular when Chrissy Teigen posted on Instagram that it helped her quit drinking. It’s Ms. Whitaker’s personal story, interwoven with critiques of societal forces, like marketing, that keep women hooked on alcohol.

Ms. Whitaker is controversial in the recovery community, Ms. Davidson said. (The author published a critique of A.A. in 2019.) “People either love or hate” this book, she said, “and I absolutely love it.”

Hope Reese is a journalist who writes for Vox, Shondaland, The Atlantic and other publications.

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