Books on Sobriety and Recovery

I wrote a blog over a month ago that had been working its way through me for months, even years, on sobriety (here).


Even though my personal journey shared is cloaked for privacy, my intent was to begin conversations as well as assist in ending the stigma of addiction. And begin conversations, it did, with many of these conversations wonderfully unfinished (so much Work to do on this topic, personally and collectively).


In opening this dialog, I have found many intentionally sober people in my life: my martial arts coach, my piercer (is that a word?), my tattoo artist, a friend with a partner in recovery, etc. We bolster each other (“Good for you!” and “I’m high on life!”) and trade advice (”have you tried al-anon yet?”).  I had no idea that there were so many mirrored experiences and would have never known without navigating this topic openly.  We also discuss what we are reading or resources that we found helpful, which prompted this book review.


Recommended reading for addiction and recovery:


Within my blog piece, I provide some addiction and recovery resources and want to highlight a few of those here, 3 books in particular: Beyond Addiction (by J Foote et al.), One Breath at a Time (by K Griffin), and The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober (by C Gray).


Written for family and friends, Beyond Addiction explains the recovery process in light of current neurological and behavioral/motivational understanding (Some examples of gems: 1) Relapses are a normal part of recovery. 2) To help with recovery, you and/or your loved one will need to find the motivation driving the addiction and substitute with competing, beneficial behavior. 3) You have triggers too and your self-care is an important part of your own and your loved one’s recovery). Foote et al. also explain the different treatment options, why less invasive is often best (“proportional therapeutic intervention”), and instill hope for families and those in recovery. “We recommend that you think less about getting your loved one to admit to an addiction and more about what it takes to build a better life.”


One Breath at a Time reflects on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) from a Buddhist perspective. Many addicts and those in recovery stay away from AA because of its religious undertones. Buddhism, in contrast, isn’t a theology but a philosophy of self-inquiry and methodology for spiritual growth, and Griffin skillfully adapts the steps to reflect Buddhist principles.   Ex. on Step Four, moral inventory:

“When we see how desire is created out of focusing on the things we crave, we learn about restraint. As an alcoholic and addict, I knew how every day that I drank or took drugs reinforced that habit. If I went a week without smoking pot, then got high one night, the next day I’d crave it again. Through meditation I began to see how this principle worked on more subtle levels. Anything I indulged in, be it sugar, TV, or sex, I tended to crave more of. Learning to live with desire may be the single most important act for an alcoholic. Our relationship to pleasure and self-gratification was distorted, and until it becomes relatively balanced, we will suffer….As human beings, desire will always be there; the point isn’t that we must achieve the fully enlightened state of desirelessness….Rather, we must learn to allow desire to come without acting on every impulse. It will go if we let it.”


The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober explores the author’s relationship to alcohol with remarkable honesty, reflecting on how it impacted her career, relationships, and self-esteem. What I appreciated from this book was her portrayal of sobriety – not the stuff of gray and dull, but vibrant and full of feeling and possibility, an intensity that can feel overwhelming when your go-to coping mechanism is escape. She also investigates moderation vs. abstinence, summarized some of the research on the health impacts of alcohol, and provides a list of resources for support and alternative activities (um, did you know there are sober raves in Scotland???!!! Called Shake Awake – adding it to the bucket list).

You can read more about her book here.


Personal insights continue since writing the blog:


I am day XX sober (insert NOYB; also, numbers don’t motivate me). I’m doing ‘this’ with the support of partners, friends, social media, meetings, podcasts, and books, like the above. And I am so thankful for all the personal insights and deepening conversations and truths that are revealing themselves on this journey.


A few of those **personal** truths I’ve learned and relearned (and I expect this list to grow indefinitely):


  • You don’t have to be an alcoholic or hit rock bottom to choose sobriety (*I am not an alcoholic as defined medically nor did I hit rock bottom, which by the way, can always get worse*)
  • I am likely a Highly Sensitive Person and used alcohol to numb – ex. kids too loud?, drink. I am sure I am not the only one (are you an HSP?)
  • Coping strategies for sobriety also work for bigger life tasks that are incredibly stressful like parenting (see the book Beyond Addiction)
  • Sobriety requires individual as well as familial and collective moral and behavioral inventory. There is familial healing, lineage/ancestral healing, and collective healing all linked to the personal.
  • Society benefits from people being dumb, drunk, dis-eased, in debt, and in self-doubt. I refuse all these narratives to the fullest extent that I can, am understanding that choosing sobriety is a privilege, and that we require the dismantling of major systems to live our best lives (see bell hook’s description of imperialist white supremacist patriarchy). The shaming, silencing, and stigma around addiction keeps people small and oppressed. (There are no throw away people. *Repeat to yourself as necessary*)
    • Sobriety is part of my path to healing (wholeness) and inner wisdom/instinct, or the wildish self
      • Clarissa Pinkola Estes, one of my favorite authors, wrote about addiction in Women Who Run with the Wolves. Excess and addiction happen when we no longer listen to or value our instincts (the wild self).
        • “…excesses break small psychic bones, then larger ones, until finally the entire underpinnings of psyche collapse and a person becomes a puddle instead of a powerful force….. Within the wild psyche are a woman’s fiercest instincts for survival. But, unless she practices her inner and outer freedoms regularly, submission, passivity, and time spent in captivity dull her innate gifts of vision, perception, confidence, and so forth, the ones she needs for standing on her own. The instinctual nature tells us when enough is enough. It is prudent and life-preserving. A woman cannot make up for a lifetime of betrayal and wounding through the excesses of pleasure, rage, or denial……a woman in her right, wilding mind rejects convention when it is neither nurturing nor sensible. Substance abuse is a very real trap. Drugs and alcohol are very much like an abusive lover who treats you well at first and then beats you up, apologizes, gives you nice treatment for a while, and then beats you up again.”
      • Although the book is written for women, this book and quote applies to all genders. Insensible excess is disconnection and the breaking of psychic bones, regardless of culturally-imposed gender normatives.


Reflections for the reader (continued from the above blog):


  • What is your relationship to alcohol and other ‘substances’?
  • Would you know the edge between pleasure and addiction? Or feel the gravitational pull of that slippery slope?
  • If you drink, smoke, over eat, over shop, etc, do you know why? Peering into that dark corner – that is the stuff of real insight and growth that will foster personal and collective healing.



Please drop me a note if you read the above recommendations and have any personal insights. ( I wish you all the best on your own journey to your Self and community. In gratitude




Written by Dr. Allison Mitch, PT (DPT), RYT500 and copyright protected, please cite accordingly.