Did you know reading can help improve cognition and further your sense of empathy? Reading can play a critical role in your recovery if you allow it to. In fact, studies show reading helps develop working memory- a key aspect of successful recovery from addiction. The study surrounds itself on reading literary fiction to improve working memory; even if you’re not ready to tackle enormous tombs of text, you can always start small and work your way up. Anything you do to fill your time productively is a wonderful step towards living a life of temperance.
But seriously, maybe fiction is not your thing.
The best thing about reading is that you can literally teach yourself any skill you’ve ever wanted to learn through self study. I’m a big advocate of being your own teacher and taking control of your erudication outside of the classroom. You can never know too much! (I’m sure some would disagree- knowledge hurts!)
Sometimes the cost of books avert would-be bookworms. Shelling out $20-$30 dollars on a book may seem frivolous, but you’re truly making an investment in yourself and your recovery.
(Trust me, even a few months ago I thought twice about buying books priced higher than $20, but now that I’ve written my own book, and have lived the blood, sweat, and tears I devoted to my book baby, I don’t question it.)
Investing in books that will help you doesn’t have to break the bank. There are plenty of free eBooks offered on Amazon’s Kindle (and don’t forget about the gems freely available because their copyright has expired), and discounted versions of your favorite books on the Kindle. Even if you don’t have a kindle, you can download the kindle app on virtually any electronic device to get the goods.
Don’t count out used bookstores or libraries! You may be able to visit a local university or college’s library. (I’m not sure if you’ll be able to check the books out, but you can certainly sit and read them.) Amazon’s marketplace usually has great deals on books too- you can also search websites like ABE Books, Half, Dover Thrift, and Thrift Books.
One of the best things you can do for your recovery is read about it. Strengthening what you’ve learned in therapy and rehabilitation will only help you achieve your goals. Remember what I said about ensuring your own self study? This is it! Although your therapists and support group will always have your back, you could stand to learn a few things on your own too. Here are our top five books on addiction recovery and what people are saying about them:
1.Toward a Psychology of Being by Abraham H. Maslow
Kicking off our list with a Maslow classic may seem a bit odd, as this text has nothing to do with directly remedying addiction- but what it does do is teach its readers how to “self actualize” or achieve one’s highest potentials. After recovery many feel lost about what comes next. Living a life of sobriety is about pursuing all the things thought lost in
David Taylor has this to say about Toward a Psychology of Being,
The best way I can think of to describe this book is that it is life-affirming. By that, i mean that Maslow recognizes that we have legitimate needs that must be met in order to be a healthy, growing person – he affirms the legitimacy of these needs, that repressing them can lead to becoming neurotic but meeting them in a healthy manner can enable one to self-actualize.
I’ve underlined something on just about every page. He affirms “that our deepest needs are not, in themselves, dangerous or evil or bad,” (p. 122) which he compares with “a special tendency in Western culture…to assume that these instinctoid needs of the human being, his so-called animal nature, are bad or evil. As a consequence, many cultural institutions are set up for the express purpose of controlling, inhibiting, suppressing, and repressing this original nature of man,” (p. 126).
The book gives a good understanding of what it means “to become more fully human,” (127). I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and felt like it was very therapeutic to do so.
2. 12 Stupid Things That Mess Up Recovery by Allen Berger Ph.D
Need something to keep your butt on the straight and narrow? This book will do it. In practical, easy to understand language Berger breaks down the most common sources of failure for people in recovery. Some topics include:
Believing Addiction to One Substance Is the Only Problem
- Believing Sobriety Will Fix Everything
- Pursing Recovery with Less Energy Than Pursuing Addiction
- Being Selectively Honest
- Feeling Special & Unique
- Not Getting Help for Relationship Troubles
Barbara S. Reeves writes this review:
In research supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, tests using PET scans of addict’s brains demonstrate that once addiction has been established, the addict’s brain physically changes, possibly forever.
These changes make it difficult for an addict to learn from their experiences. Psychological processes, such as denial, and neuro-psychological processes, such as state-dependent learning, interfere with the addict’s ability to retain the needed information necessary to break the bonds of addiction.
This is one key trait that all addicts share – they don’t “learn their lesson.” This is why it’s also said in twelve step groups that there is no mental defense against addiction; a fit spiritual condition is our only hope. Allen Berger has written “12 Stupid Things That Mess Up Recovery” to help us stay in fit spiritual condition.
3. Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down: 50 Things Every Alcoholic and Addict in Early Recovery Should Know by Georgia W.
Initially discouraged from the cover (don’t judge a book. . . blah blah), I couldn’t pass up Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down because of its impeccable reviews. Another book on relapse prevention, the text helps identify 50 potentially life ruining habits and environments to avoid at all costs. The book offers real-life experience on how to get through the early hurdles of recovery.
I started reading this during my 2nd week in recovery, and the author is absolutely right when she says it’s hard to pay attention to anything or find anything funny when in early recovery. However, this book is the exception! Most of the chapters are 1 1/2 – 2 pages long and they have serious content mixed with humor. She touches on all the important things a recovering alcoholic/addict should know, but doesn’t dive into details.
It’s a perfect read before you’re ready to go to meetings/groups or before you are ready to understand them. Actually, it’s a perfect read anytime!! Thank you so much for writing a book that has all the info we need to know right now without all the background and medical stuff that I can’t seem to focus on right now!!!
4. Healing the Addicted Brain: The Revolutionary, Science-Based Alcoholism and Addiction Recovery Program by Harold Urschel
I’ve been waiting to dive into this book for myself for my own studies in addiction recovery (when you don’t have first hand experience you have to immerse yourself in the subject! Much like people in recovery). Urschel’s approach is a welcomed one, as addressing the quantifiable way our bodies recover from addiction is beginning healing on a cellular level from the inside out. Some
- Changing Your Thoughts from Pro-Addiction to Pro-Recovery
- Combating Triggers and Cravings
- Dealing with Difficult Emotions
- The Recovering Family
- Health and Nutrition in Recovery
- Regaining Enjoyment and Pleasure
- Maintaining Your Goals for Life
T.M. Clements reviews:
This book is a must read for the whole family of anyone who is struggling with an addiction. Dr. Urschel writes as a great teacher who has the gift of describing in layman’s terms the science of how addictions hijack the brain. He shows that addictions don’t just continue because people are weak willed.
Dr. Urschel explains how the mainstay of addiction treatment–talk therapy–has not been shown to be very effective, but there are new scientific treatment methods available to doctors today that can help treat addictions much more successfully.
Healing the Addicted Brain gives hope. There are so many people today facing addictions who are convinced after failed attempts to come clean that they are destined to live a life enslaved to addiction. Dr. Urschel shows us how this is not true anymore in today’s world–we have the knowledge to conquer addictions and their stronghold on our lives. This book does a wonderful job of spreading that word.
5. The Mindful Path to Addiction Recovery: A Practical Guide to Regaining Control Over Your Life by Lawrence Peltz
Mindfulness has blossomed into a full realized treatment method for people in recovery. Becoming aware of what you’re thinking and why you’re thinking it is key to change compulsive behaviors and negative thoughts. This text teaches readers how to think mindfully and develop “self-compassion.”
This book has been essential to my ongoing recovery. It is approachable in a way that will welcome in someone new to mindfulness practices and goes into enough depth to capture the attention of the veteran meditator. Connecting the “how” of mindfulness/meditation practice with the “why” of staying in the moment and objectively noticing feelings/thoughts/beliefs as they arise is a revolutionary concept in the world of addiction and recovery. As a result, it is possible to take skillful action rather than reacting in habitual ways.
In early recovery I sought the same certainty in other activities as I had previously sought in the bottle; but by doing these exercises and deepening my meditation practice, somehow I have become more comfortable leaning into the uncertainty of life and I feel that my experience has become fuller, more open and brilliant.
Whether mindfulness/meditation becomes the focus of your path to recovery or is in addition to AA or other approaches, you will learn volumes about yourself by reading this one.
What books did I miss? Which are your favorite titles for recovery?
Support, Not Enabling: How to Support a Loved One Through Recovery
What You Need to Know About Heroin Rehab