As I mentioned in my last post, I did a lot of reading whilst sprawled on a sun lounger last week. But the books I took with me weren’t exactly your typical holiday page turners … they were almost all memoirs about sobriety and recovery. I really enjoyed them and felt I learnt a bit from each one. I’m looking for more to read so please let me know what you’ve read and enjoyed…
Parched – Heather King
From her very first drink, King seems destined to be an alcoholic. Hers is a story of instant, extreme addiction; by the end of her teenage years her drinking is already causing serious problems. It escalates to the point where she’s living in a cockroach ridden bedsit, drinking all day and all night. In the middle of all this she somehow manages to study for a law degree. Interestingly, at the height of her drinking, King was still able to find other drinkers who she perceived to be ‘worse’ than her and she convinced herself she wasn’t ‘that bad’ – something I think most of us can relate to.
My Lush Sobriety – Sacha Z. Scoblic
I knew I would love this book after I read Scoblic’s description of having to turn down a drink early on in her sobriety, and her concern that people would find her boring. She writes, “What I was really thinking was: Don’t even for a minute think I’m vanilla because the truth is I am so hard-core I had to quit. I drank so much it was a matter of life and death. I’m like a rock star compared with you … you should look at me with a touch of fear and awe because I am such a badass you would quiver just to think about the amount of rot gut I’ve ingested over the years. So step off with your preconceived notions, okay?”
Unlike other memoirs, which tend to focus on the drinking days, Scoblic’s book is about life after she put down the bottle. It was just the book I needed to read at this stage in my sobriety and I’m sure I’ll re-read it. There’s also a great message in there about choosing to be sober. It’s not something you just suffer through, it’s something you choose to do to improve your life.
Drinking Diaries – Edited by Leah Odze Epstein and Caren Osten Gerzberg
This is a selection of short essays, written by women who’ve been touched by alcohol in some way. The editors put the book together in an attempt to “take women’s stories out of the closet”. To be honest, after I’d read the introduction, I didn’t know whether or not to read the book. Some of the essays are about women’s positive experiences with alcohol and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to read that. But as it turns out, 90% of the essays are pretty negative and there are some desperately sad stories in there. The few ‘positive’ essays focused on alcohol as a social lubricant and the advantages it can bring, when used in moderation. My overwhelming feeling after reading them was that yes, drinking probably does have some benefits for some people, when they drink in moderation. But if you can’t moderate …. well, we know what happens.
Drinking, A Love Story – Caroline Knapp
I first read this book last year, whilst I was still drinking. In fact I think I actually read it with a beer in one hand and the book in the other. At the time, I was looking for the differences between myself and Knapp. Re-reading it a year later, sober, I was struck by the similarities: the feeling that right from the start, you drink in a different way to everyone else. The drinking alone. The feeling that everyone else is moving on with their lives.
All in all, it’s a great book, very well written and insightful. In the last chapter I underlined these sentences: “When you question your alcoholism, you say to yourself, ‘if I am an alcoholic, I shouldn’t drink. And if I’m not an alcoholic, I don’t need to’ . And: people who are not alcoholics do not lie in bed at 2.30 in the morning wondering if they’re alcoholics.”
Rachel’s Holiday – Marian Keyes
When it comes to chick lit, Marian Keyes is one of the best. Rachel’s holiday is about a cocaine and Valium addict who is sent to rehab against her will. Although it’s total fiction, Keyes is a recovered alcoholic and it’s obvious the book is written by someone who has first hand experience of addiction. I particularly related to Rachel’s relief when she was able to get hold of cocaine – just holding it in her hand makes her feel better and less anxious. I haven’t finished it yet but I’m really hoping it has a happy ending.