5 books that can help you kick alcohol
Self-help guides, so-called "quit lit" memoirs and books, run the gamut from light to literary. Here are some to add to your list.
The mocktails helped. But during my last Dry January, it was words that sustained me.
I journaled, read and listened, devouring self-help guides, so-called "quit lit" memoirs and books that blended both. Some were light, some literary. But all offered new perspective on my drinking and our drinking culture.
Here are five of the best.
If you're looking for a fiery, feminist take on women and alcohol
The book that famously inspired Chrissy Teigen to quit drinking, Holly Whitaker's "Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice Not to Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol" is a funny, unflinching look at alcohol's ubiquity in our culture — as well as her own life.
Whitaker takes aim at both the alcohol industry and traditional recovery systems for making us believe that if we can't drink easily, moderately, normally, there's something wrong with us. No, she argues. It's the substance itself.
"Here is the time in history where The Future is Female, the wine is pink, the yoga classes serve beer, and the death toll rises. Here is the time in history where masses of us women fill the streets to protest against external oppression, then celebrate or cope or come down from it all with a glass of self-administered oppression."
If you're craving an ultra-readable memoir with an optimistic outlook
Laura McKowen starts her 2020 memoir, "We Are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life," with her brother's wedding in 2013, when she left her 4-year-old daughter alone in a hotel room overnight "because I was blackout drunk." A night that should have been her proverbial rock bottom — but wasn't, not yet.
Full of unflinching personal stories and spirituality-tinged ruminations, McKowen's book acts as an argument for the joy of a sober life.
"One of the most counterintuitive things about sobriety, for me, has been how much effort it takes and how it truly takes no effort at all. How easy it is to try harder and how truly impossible it feels to not try at all. And how, when all is said and done, the 'forever' we're so desperate to achieve is possible only through the quiet surrender of right now."
If you're searching for a memoir from a Black writer who's in recovery
Alcohol and drug addiction are just one layer of "Punch Me Up to the Gods," a vivid coming-of-age story by Brian Broome.
A Pittsburgh-based poet and screenwriter, Broome uses his life — growing up Black, gay and poor in the Rust Belt — to interrogate ideas around Black masculinity. The New York Times named it one of the 100 Notable Books of 2021.
"We did more cocaine. Lots more. I drank an ungodly amount and would eventually learn to live for both alcohol and cocaine and wouldn't go a day without one or the other or both. They were the two things that seemed to make me everything that I wasn't: bold and fearless."
If you'd like a self-help guide to remake your beliefs around alcohol
Annie Grace wants to forever change how you think about alcohol, turning it from a tasty source of liquid courage into a dangerous poison that's keeping you from being healthy, present and relaxed.
Along the way, her book "The Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness and Change Your Life" answers common concerns about quitting: How will my partner react? How can I keep my friends or make new ones? Her conversational style suits the audiobook format.
"Alcohol erases a bit of you every time you drink it. It can even erase entire nights when you are on a binge. Alcohol does not relieve stress; it erases your senses and ability to think. Alcohol ultimately erases your self."
If you're attracted to the myth of the alcoholic genius
A blend of memoir, cultural analysis and literary criticism, Leslie Jamison's "The Recovering: Intoxication and its Aftermath" looks at the stories we tell about addiction and recovery. Researching the works and lives of literary masters, including John Berryman and Raymond Carver, Jamison teases apart the myth that booze fueled their creativity.
" 'The Recovering' demonstrates what memoir has always assumed: that in the stories of others we find ourselves," critic Scott F. Parker wrote in a review for the Star Tribune. "It is a magnificent achievement."
"If addiction stories run on the fuel of darkness — the hypnotic spiral of an ongoing, deepening crisis — then recovery is often seen as the narrative slack, the dull terrain of wellness, a tedious addendum to the riveting blaze. I wasn't immune; I'd always been enthralled by stories of wreckage. But I wanted to know if stories about getting better could ever be as compelling as stories about falling apart."