Up until about 2012, reading a book was not necessarily something I did for pleasure. It wasn't that I didn't want to read books - I bought plenty of them and I fantasized myself a lady who read. It's was more that I couldn't really stand to be alone with myself unless I was stoned or drinking, and that wasn't really conducive to reading. I'd grab the book, settle in with best intentions, and like clock work about five minutes later I'd be firing up the X-Box for a 5-hour Plants vs. Zombies marathon.
That changed in October 2012, the first month I gave up drinking. Since then, I have read well over three or four hundred books, at a rate of about one or two a week - sometimes more, rarely less. I can't read fast enough, there are never enough books, and if you tell me about a good one, I will have bought in on Amazon before you even finish explaining why.
To say books are important is trite and an understatement of epic proportions. Because books aren't just important to me. Books are everything to me. If I hadn't read Wild, I would have never started to believe that I could save my piece of shit life. If I hadn't read The Easy Way To Control Alcohol, I am certain that I would have struggled terribly trying to quit alcohol and that my path would have taken a much different turn. If I hadn't read Carry On, Warrior, I would have never thought to start an anonymous blog about addiction. And those are just three - JUST THREE - of the hundreds I have read. Which means there are hundreds more stories just like that.
This is compelling in it's own right. Books will change you. But that is not why I am so desperate to read books, or why I'm sitting here trying to make you desperate to read books.
When it comes to addiction, absolutely NO ONE has it 100% right. Not AA, not the doctors, not the Betty or Hazeldon, not Shatterproof, not Gabor Mate or David Sheff or Tommy Rosen or Johann Hari or Norah Valkow or Noah Levine. Not your therapist Brenda or your SMART recovery home group, not your mom or your yoga teacher Bobby, and for certain not me.
In the last twenty or so years, there has been an explosion of research on the brain (and still debate whether it is brain disease or even a disease!), we've begun to understand things like what effect trauma has on our lives and what role it plays in addiction, how willpower actually works, the power of mindfulness, the dangers of stress, and on. We've just recently begun to question the war on drugs and the criminalization of drug users. The extent of most of our doctors' "addiction training" is still participation in a 12-step meeting (yes).
The entire scene is so mired in shame and stigma and fear that there are no viable statistics on what actually works or what patient outcomes truly are (AA success rates are quoted as being anywhere from 3% to the upwards of 40% based on where you look), and for the most part, experts spend time discrediting one another's findings rather than working together to bridge them. In other words, we are not just working within a broken system. That's like, the nice thing to say and indicates a "system" actually exists. We are in the middle of an unregulated, free-falling shit show.
Reading is our defense against this.
It is the MOTHER of all defense against this. At the end of the day, it is not what any one person will say that decides what works and doesn't work for you. It will be you who has to decide what your path looks like, what tools you will use, what program you will work, and on. No one else can do that. Only you. And reading will inform you better than any one other thing out there.
This post marks a feature I've been overwhelmed to start - The Hip Sobriety Booklist. I'll be posting regularly, shooting for one or two posts a month. Sometimes, a post will feature just one or two books - perhaps something I am reading currently. Sometimes, I'll be curating lists of specific genres or themes. Not all the books I recommend will be explicitly about addiction, and so with each book I will explain the connection I have made between it and recovery.
Starting tomorrow, I will be posting The Hip Sobriety Booklist #1 which is a compilation of the 13 essential books for understanding addiction and managing a holistic and effective recovery from my perspective/in my experience/from what I've used with clients and my school.
Okay. (Holds breath). Let's do this.