Whether you’ve lived through your own recovery or watched as a loved one struggled and overcame addiction, one of the most helpful aids in moving toward and staying on a healthy path is in knowing that you are not alone. From wry anecdotes to harrowing accounts of abuse, and from helpless moments of darkness to brimming-with-hope episodes of light, we’ve pulled together six narratives of addiction and recovery to help us all remember that we are not alone on this path.
One part cultural history of writers and their addictions and one part memoir, author Leslie Jamison recounts her own descent into alcoholism and subsequent recovery process as she examines the toxic connections between writers, their art, and their addictions. Readers may come to this memoir as fans of Jamison’s other work, but they will stay for the author’s poignant and often astounding personal realizations as well as her dogged attention to journalistic detail.
After her mother dies when she is 11, Cupcake Brown’s life falls apart. Over the years, Brown uses drugs and alcohol to cope. Though the title would suggest that Brown’s survival and recovery were easy, they were hard-won after a lifetime of tragedy, abuse, and struggle. The sweetest thing about this memoir is that after all is said and done, Cupcake Brown not only survives, she eventually thrives, becoming an author and a lawyer.
Set in a more contemporary version of the hard-drinking advertising world of Mad Men, former ad-man Augusten Burroughs’ memoir of addiction and recovery is told with brutal honesty and wry humor. Though Running With Scissors was his breakout book, Dry was written by a newly sober Burroughs. The fresh skin of his sobriety is exposed throughout, and readers will laugh through their tears.
Whether you love rap or not, you will walk away from this book amazed by its author, trap music trailblazer Gucci Mane. Not only is this book a rags-to-riches tale and comeback story, it’s also about a lifetime spent around drugs, both selling and using them. When Mane left prison in 2016, he left sober and determined to examine his life—the highs and lows of it—and tell his story in his own words.
Sarah Hepola’s drinking life began with a sip of beer at age six. From there, her drinking grew and expanded until it ate up everything around her, including her memories. While movies like The Hangover might find humor in a group of men drinking so heavily that they collectively forget what happened the night before, what Hepola shows time and again is the horror of what happens to a person who drinks until she forgets. Told with unflinching and often humorous honesty, Hepola offers the reader her struggle, her sobriety, and, ultimately, the truth that while change can be scary, sometimes it is necessary to keep us alive.
Before the movie of the same name, there was David Sheff’s heartbreaking memoir of his son Nic’s addiction. Like many parents who want to help their children be well, Sheff drives himself to the point of obsession in trying to find a way to help his son overcome an addiction to meth. To go even deeper in this family’s narrative, we suggest Nic Sheff’s own memoir, Tweak: Growing up on Methamphetamines, which provides another perspective on this family’s journey.