15 Best Books on Alcoholism and Treatment for 2021
Author: Thomas Roth
Last Updated: 2/07/2022
Alcoholism is defined by medical professionals as a physical and or psychological dependence on drinking alcohol. The condition can manifest in both mild and extreme cases, and impacts every individual differently. Alcoholism can be harmful to the mind, causing mental illness, and to the body, causing a variety of dangerous and sometimes life threatening diseases. If not handled responsibly, alcoholism can lead to such a serious dependence that recovery and professional rehabilitation is required, although both of those resources can provide permanent relief. One of the tools that individuals battling alcoholism can turn to are books that describe the experiences different individuals have with alcoholism and the many methods that the addiction can be treated.
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1. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
“The Big Book”, written by William Griffith Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (more commonly referred to as Bill W.) is also known as “The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism”. Completed in 1939, “The Big Book” is considered a predecessor to the twelve-step process, as it details the foundational elements of the tradition of recovery and sobriety utilized by Alcoholics Anonymous.
Spanning over 400 pages, “The Big Book” houses memoir styled stories from Bill W, and co-writer Dr. Bob, (the founder of A.A. in Akron, Ohio) called Bill’s Story and Dr. Bob’s Nightmare. These personal experiences detail how the 12-step process came to be, and explain how the reader can find it within themselves to reach a high power over alcohol and maintain permanent celibacy from drinking. A major theme of the book is the belief, of the authors, and thus their theory regarding sobriety, that it is not possible for a person suffering from alcohol dependency to overcome their addiction on their own. This is one reason why Alcoholics Anonymous has always operated as a group, as the sobriety organization follows the methods outlined in, “The Big Book”.
“The Big Book,” has sold over 30 million copies to date, making it one of the most purchased books in history. Not only a tool used by members of Alcoholics Anonymous, it has been endorsed by doctors and critics alike as a positive force in the battle against alcohol dependency. “The Big Book” has helped millions of people in their journey towards sobriety, as the stories told by Dr. Bob and Bill W. are relatable, and also because the 12-step process is one means of recovery that is widely accepted.
As far as the history of alcohol and alcoholism is concerned, “The Big Book” takes its place as one of the first examples of a new perception regarding the science of alcohol addiction. Before its publication, the 19th Century Darwinian philosophy that character traits were inherited said that alcoholism was a genetic flaw. Seeing alcoholism as a disease was a scientific leap which “The Big Book” helped propel. The book is still read today, and is a serviceable tool for an individual suffering with alcoholism to help understand their addiction and find a long lasting solution.
2. Girl Walks Out of a Bar: A Memoir
Written by Lisa F. Smith, and originally published in 2016, “Girl Walks Out of a Bar: A Memoir” is the author’s story about her battle with alcoholism in the 1990s and early 2000s. At 288 pages, Smith begins by highlighting how her drinking spun out of control until she was completely addicted to alcohol. An extremely successful lawyer, Smith almost lost everything, before battling back and overcoming her alcoholism.
Considered darkly comical by many critics, Smith’s story is made very relatable by her candid narrative voice and realism. Taking place in New York, Smith details exactly what she underwent, and how horrible her life became, before she was able to find sobriety and change her life.
Such a personable narrator can help to draw a reader in and can make for a truly relatable story. For this reason, many readers have found “Girl Walks Out of a Bar” to be incredibly helpful in causing them to see the dangerous and destructive patterns in their own lives, whether or not their addiction is alcoholism or another vice. As Smith contended with her alcoholism for over ten years, her story has many twists and turns, and having sold over 100,000 copies, it has reached a fairly wide audience.
3. Unwifeable: A Memoir
Published in 2018, “Unwifeable”, written by Mandy Stadtmiller, is a 352 page memoir by a columnist and comedian who wrote for New York magazine amongst many other jobs in journalism and publishing. The book begins with Mandy, just divorced, moving all the way to Manhattan to pursue a career in journalism. As she meets success, she falls into the traps of addiction, and her memoir details her battle with alcohol and other addictions over many years.
Stadtmiller tells her story about battling a destructive lifestyle through the lens of romantic escapades and one night stands, all of which becoming increasingly perilous, until she realizes that she will never find safety in the habits she’s found herself stuck in. This kind of realization can happen for many people seeking sobriety, and Unwifeable resolves with Stadtmiller seeking rehabilitation and recovery from her addictive habits.
For people struggling with addiction, reading about Stadtmiller’s life can offer insight into how the glitz and glamor of a life of partying is really only skin-deep, and that the dangers of addiction will always rear their head in the end. Especially for single women, and women struggling with alcoholism, “Unwifeable” exists as an asset for helping to understand the dynamics of addiction and how relief, recovery, and a happy life free of destructive habits is attainable.
4. Understanding Alcoholism as a Brain Disease: Book 2 of the ‘A Prescription for Alcoholics – Medications for Alcoholism’ Book Series
Published in 2016, “Understanding Alcoholism as a Brain Disease”, by Linda Burlinson, is the second book in a four part series titled, “A Prescription for Alcoholics – Medications for Alcoholism”. Taking a far more scientific approach to the ongoing discussion about alcoholism and how it affects both the mind and the body, “Understanding Alcoholism as a Brain Disease,” discusses how alcoholism can overtake someone via a series of stages, as they have been identified by professional researchers, chiefly scientists. For this reason, the book seeks to explain alcoholism and how it affects people through a purely scientific perspective, rather than in the personal way in which a memoir might do the same, and without the spiritual component.
At 100 pages long, and written in what critics consider to be a plain, laymen style, “Understanding Alcoholism as a Brain Disease” is absolutely a resource for those who are trying to understand the cutting edge science behind alcoholism research.
5. Party Girl: A Novel
Written by Anna David and published in 2009, “Party Girl” is the story of a young woman in Los Angeles who falls into a habit of excessive partying and drug addiction. While at first her lifestyle as an entertainment journalist seems enviable, it becomes increasingly unhealthy, breaching on the point of self destructive. From David’s own point of view, the 288 page book is very personal, with a wit, humor, and honesty that makes it a very accessible approach towards one person’s battle with addiction.
Throughout the course of the narrative, David realizes that her party lifestyle is not conducive to a healthy life, which is a realization that many addicts do come to. The challenge is overcoming the addiction, and moving past the substance dependency. “Party Girl” resolves with David coming to such a realization, and for that reason her story can be very relatable for people who are battling addiction. Reassessing life, and coming to the conclusion that one’s life can still be fun and fruitful without the shackles of addiction, is exactly what David undergoes, and an important reason why “Party Girl” can be a helpful resource for those who feel their story mirrors Anna David’s.
“Parched”, written by Heather King, is another story about a young woman’s battle with alcoholism and her ultimate recovery after falling into the pits of despair. A tragic story, riddled with dark humor, King describes her fall from grace to alcoholism over 276 gripping pages. Without the gilded setting of such novels outlined above as “Party Girl ” and “Unwifeable”, King’s memoir is still about personal pain, and the way in which she was eventually saved from her addiction.
Following the same trend as other similar memoirs, King’s suffering is explained over the course of her life in a very relatable way, and that is one reason why readers who suffer with addiction might find solace in her story. King was an attorney who developed alcoholism, and then found recovery through spirituality, chiefly Catholicism, to which she converted. King herself refers to “Parched” as, “the dark years” of her life, which should give some indication as to just how severe her experiences with alcohol were.
Such a story serves as a warning, but also proof that recovery is attainable, no matter how negative the circumstances might be.
7. A Million Little Pieces
Originally released in 2003 as a memoir, and later marketed as semi-fiction, “A Million Little Pieces”, by James Frey, is the story of a 23 year old alcoholic and his battle with alcoholism and drug addiction. At 430 pages long, “A Million Little Pieces” largely takes place in an alcoholic rehabilitation center, where Frey winds up to get sober after a brutal series of terrible events. The treatment center focuses on the 12-step process, which is also used by Alcoholics Anonymous.
A wanted criminal, crack-cocaine addict, and alcohol of close to a decade, Frey’s story is incredibly painful, and full of the fury of an individual suffering with addiction. Topping the New York Times best-seller list at one point for several weeks, some literary critics considered Frey’s writing style to be laconic and refreshing, especially given the genre and the realism meant to be portrayed.
For those individuals suffering with addiction who are considering rehabilitation, have been to a rehab center, or are currently enrolled, “A Million Little Pieces” is a story that speaks to the challenges and suffering that addicts ultimately undergo in their journey towards sobriety.
Some critics have called out James Frey for fabricating some of the narrative of “A Million Little Pieces” to have it read more like a novel. While Frey denies this, and the publishers have released mixed responses, the story is still a deep dive into the mind of an addict and the experience that one might have in rehabilitation.
8). High on Arrival
Written by Mackenzie Phillips, former star of the 70s sitcom One Day at a Time, “High on Arrival” is a 304 page autobiography published in 2009. Phillips’ life started off very unique, with parents who were fully engaged in the counterculture hippie movement of the 1960s, which guided Phillips into a life of drug use, and then abuse, very quickly.
Phillips’ father, core member of a popular rock n’ roll band, led what many would consider to be a very hedonistic lifestyle, exposing his daughter to drug fueled party culture very early on. For that reason, Phillips herself became an addict, and “High on Arrival” intertwines her personal battle with addiction with her perception of her father.
For people who have family members who are engaged in addiction and alcoholism, “High on Arrival” is a candid retelling of a person’s life completely submerged in drug use. Phillips was such a popular actress, with so much going for her, and yet she was consumed by addiction. This is an unfortunate reality for so many people battling with addiction, which is why her story has the potential to be very enlightening for others. Phillips rises above tremendous obstacles on her path towards clarity and sobriety, and her memoir services as proof that recovery is possible. Phillips now works as a substance abuse counselor in California, which should give some insight into just how much her life has changed after the events of “High on Arrival.”
9). My Fair Junkie
Recently published in 2017, “My Fair Junkie” is a personal memoir written by standup comedian Amy Dresner. The book is 256 pages long, and tells the story of Dresner’s twenty year war against addiction. Full of all the dark humor one might expect from a professional comedian, Dresner’s memoir falls in line with some of the other memoirs written by women outlined above.
Dresner was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon after threatening her husband at the time with a knife while high on drugs. Dresner was in and out of halfway houses and spent time in prison before finally finding a way to regain her freedom from the horrors of addiction. She went from enjoying a privileged youth to tumbling into a terrible drug addiction, but her story finishes with her ability to overcome her destructive habits to make a better, healthier future for herself.
“My Fair Junkie” is meant to be read as a warning about how addiction and drugs can destroy anyone’s life, even those born in the lap of luxury, but Dresner was able to overcome her demons. She now writes for a recovery magazine called TheFix.com, and regularly contributes to other addiction help related media. The fact Dresner was able to learn from her struggles and now actively seeks to help others with their own challenges is an indication recovery is possible, and that someone suffering with addiction does have the power to use their life experiences in a positive way for themselves and others to stay clean and enjoy life without the chains of addiction.
10. How to Murder Your Life
A best-selling memoir released in 2017, “How to Murder Your Life”, written by Cat Marnell, tells the story of Marnell’s affluent youth and transition into drug addiction after continued use of Adderall. The memoir is 384 pages long, and details how Marnell attempted to balance a career in journalism in New York City with her alcohol and drug addiction. Marnell contends with an ability to do her job properly and even consider suicide. Her style of writing is cutting and savagely honest, which helps to make her story incredibly relatable.
The memoir is effective because Marnell does not hide the warning inherent in her story. Alcohol and drugs are incredibly addictive, and Marnell is incapable of managing her abuse of both substances. For those who are struggling in a similar way, Marnell’s story serves as a warning, as well as a reminder, that although it may seem impossible, escaping from the control alcohol and drugs has over an individual is possible.
11. Alcohol Explained
A nonfiction book published in 2015 and written by William Porter, “Alcohol Explained” unites cutting edge scientific research regarding alcohol and alcoholism with Porter’s personal experiences with addiction and alcohol dependency. Not just an explanation of how modern science perceives addiction, “Alcohol Explained” also provides insight into how to defeat the addiction.
At 256 pages, it is a decently long read, chock full of information and methods that can be actively applied by addicts to combat alcohol addiction. “Alcohol Explained” can be a very effective tool for those people who want to stop drinking, as the clear, informative, nonfiction style is not distracting and can serve as a guide for those who are consciously battling their destructive habits. It has been recommended by doctors who are seeking to help their patients break their addictive drinking habit, and for that reason, should be seen less as a memoir and more like a self-help book.
12. We Are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life
Just published in 2022, “We Are the Luckiest” is currently being celebrated as an incredibly honest masterpiece about how alcoholics can find value and beauty in their lives, true positivity, once they step out from under the yoke of their addiction. Author Laura McKowen wrote the 248 page self-help book as a combination of personal stories and methods of recovery through emphasizing mindfulness and all the blessings that come with living a healthy, constructive life.
McKowen discusses her own drinking addiction and that of other people, as she eventually chose her daughter, and her family, over her own selfish habits. McKowen is the CEO and founder of an organization called The Luckiest Club, which is an online sobriety community supporting addicts in their recovery all around the world. Those endeavors work hand in hand with the positive intentions that McKowen had in publishing “We Are the Luckiest”, and it is very effective as a combination of autobiography and self-help, nonfiction literature. McKowen was ultimately able to lead an alcohol-free life, which is a beautiful outcome after the difficult life she describes having in the pages of “We Are the Luckiest”.
13. The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober
Highly rated by critics, “The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober” is an unpretentious self-help/autobiography by Catherine Gray, a Sunday Times best-selling author, who has succeeded in selling over a quarter million books in English. “The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober” is full of Gray’s knowledge about how to lead a healthy, wealthy, and happy life free of the pitfalls that come with an alcohol addiction.
Gray has been sober since 2013, and she’s developed so many other habits to find happiness, which are all described in “The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober”. For some people struggling with alcoholism, there might feel like happiness without drinking is unattainable, but Gray succeeded in finding that exact happiness, which is why “The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober” is an optimistic must-read. This book should absolutely be read by people who are wondering what happens after quitting drinking. Gray examines this, and raises the realization that once an addict ends the destructive cycle of drinking, that’s when the blessings of life truly begin.
14. The Sober Lush
For those people seeking a fun-filled pleasurable life without using alcohol, “The Sober Lush” is a 352 page substance abuse self-help book published in 2020 and written by two authors: Amanda Eyre Ward and Jardine Libaire. Both are esteemed writers and journalists who discovered a new way to find happiness and enjoy fulfilling socialization without the use of alcohol.
Libaire and Ward both found alcohol to be numbing, rather than enriching, and although so many people around them found drinking to be a vital part of their relaxation, Libaire and Ward wanted to seek out an alternate way to enjoy life. “The Sober Lush” is meant to be a road-map that outlines how to have a pleasant life without drinking.
For those people who have found alcohol to be incredibly addictive, and thus destructive, or even for people who just do not enjoy drinking, but find it to be a constant aspect of their social lives, “The Sober Lush” highlights tried and true methods to conduct a life of sobriety. The book is about having a decadent, adventurous, soulful life, without interacting with the mind altering effects of drugs and alcohol. It is a must read for people searching for an alternative lifestyle.
15. Why You Drink and How to Stop
Veronica Valli, an addiction therapist and recovered alcoholic, wrote “Why You Drink and How to Stop” as a clear, insightful, and informational self-help book that is meant to do exactly what the title outlines. At a concise 162 pages, and published in 2013, the book is considered short, but informative, and incredibly useful.
“Why You Drink and How to Stop” seeks to help individuals decipher how drinking became a toxic habit and then, swiftly, what methods can be employed to take control over the drinking habit and be rid of it. Getting off the rollercoaster of alcoholism can seem like a lonely battle, but with a book like “Why You Drink and How to Stop,” Valli’s knowledge as a counselor is right at one’s fingertips, which is incredibly valuable. Valli’s experience working with so many former and current addicts makes her the perfect person to speak about what can cause addiction, and as far self-help books go, hers is well known to be part of the solution for people who struggle with, or know a loved one struggling with alcoholism.
What are the Benefits of Books to Understand and Treat Alcoholism?
Depending on the genre, books can be extremely informational, as well as very relatable. They should never be used alone, though, because alcoholism treatment from a professional is essential for recovery. A Memoir can be a tool by which an author can relate to a reader, and in turn a reader can understand another person’s experience in relation to their own. On the other hand, self-help nonfiction books that address the subject of alcohol through either a spiritual or scientific lens can help to quantify addiction and make the examination of the problem far easier for an individual trying to stop drinking.
Are Books Really Helpful to Stop Drinking?
Books are very helpful to stop one from drinking, but not everyone will connect with every book. If a title speaks to you, it would be wise to explore the book and see what stuck out to you. Reading a book may not be the complete solution, but it can send one down the path to rehabilitation.
Do Books about Alcoholism Help You to Understand Alcoholism?
Books about alcoholism can absolutely help someone understand alcoholism either through the vehicle of fiction, memoir, or nonfiction. Whether or not it is strictly quantitative information, or the inner workings of one person’s life experience, understanding how other people perceive alcoholism is the first step towards addressing one’s own addiction to alcohol.
Who should Read Books about Alcoholism?
Anyone can read books about alcoholism. If you or a loved one struggles with addiction, then books about alcoholism can shine a light on what triggers drinking habits, what the ramifications of alcohol abuse are, and, most importantly, what solutions have worked for others and can work for you too.
Can You Read the Books about Alcoholism in PDF Format?
Reading books about alcoholism is possible, and is as simple as downloading the PDF to a digital device that is readily accessible. This can be a convenient alternative to a hard copy, although many people do find that reading a physical copy of a book creates a stronger connection than through a screen.
What are the Other Resources for Stop Drinking?
Online sobriety groups and local resources are both key resources to stop drinking. Searching for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, free to all, in one’s area is a good place to start. Speaking to loved ones, and explaining one’s problem, can also be a valuable means to find help and achieve recovery. There are also movies about alcoholism that you can watch if you’re not big on reading.
Sobriety is possible, resources are available, and one person’s battle against alcoholism does not have to happen alone.