15 essential books to build a holistic recovery from addiction
Hi all, this is not the weekend newsletter, but the preamble to my first book review post (sending tomorrow as the weekend newsletter) about what I read in February. This is an archive post I’m making available to everyone regardless of subscription, and tomorrow’s book review will be as well. Going forward, monthly book reviews as well as resource posts will be accessible only to those with paid subscriptions. Keep reading for a note on paid subscriptions and how to get a full sub if you can’t afford it.
This is an older post (dated January 25, 2017) and will be updated in late Spring of 2022; some of these titles will be replaced. I’ve read hundreds of books since I posted this and there has been a lot of important and exciting work done in this field since. That being said, I’m sharing this and leaving it fully in tact because the person I was in 2016 when I first wrote a post on the 13 “essential” books for holistic recovery is different than the person who updated it in 2017 is different from the person I am today; and I think the things written closer to early recovery are sometimes better resources for folks in early recovery.
Third note! This newsletter is not just for folks recovering from a substance or behavioral addiction. It may at times sound like I am talking about a shared experience I assume all of us have had, and that’s because to have struggled with chemical and behavioral addictions is unique and that’s a baseline I navigate and speak from, but I believe that if all of us, regardless of how we come to it, were to engage in recovery as a primary operative default, the world would be a better place.
To our collective healing, H.
I originally posted this list in February 2016, as a list of 13 Books Essential for Holistic Recovery. I've since updated it, switching out my recommendation for trauma, as well as adding two new books to the mix.
Below you will find books that will help you reframe your attitude about alcohol and addiction, build a holistic recovery map, understand the importance of purpose and creativity in recovery, build a yoga and meditation practice, get a grip on the addiction scene as a whole (personally, societally), get familiar with the physiological effects of addiction, tap into a sustaining spiritual practice, work with your fears, tackle your shadow side, rebuild your brain, rebuild your body, support your recovery through basic nutritional practices, handle difficult relationships, find JOY, understand the war on drugs and the evolution of addiction treatment, get clarity around that whole "is it a disease or not" debate, and hundreds of other things that have served me and countless others on this path.
Recovery from addiction is not just a one and done; it is a life practice, a way of being, and because of that it requires us to explore the whole of our lives and existence. Recovery means we reframe our relationship with the whole of us— our bodies, our minds, our emotions, our spirit, our relationships, our communities, our environment, our purpose, ourselves. And so it is we must draw on a number of resources and teachings that span the spectrum of these things as well as which reflect back to us our lived experiences and identities. While this is not every book I believe should be read, I have spent a lot of time refining the list in order to give you the best of what I've read in terms of foundation for a recovery library.
15 ESSENTIAL BOOKS TO BUILD A HOLISTIC RECOVERY
Originally published January 2017
1. This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol | year. 2015 | pages. 271 | author. Annie Grace
I've written extensively about how much the book The Easy Way To Control Alcohol by Allen Carr impacted my recovery (or rather, gave me my recovery). I don't believe I would have had the success I did if I had started anywhere else, and also, I don't think I could have started anywhere else: I wanted to control alcohol, not eliminate it. The book completely flipped the idea of sobriety for me from something that seemed like a consequence and the worst possible scenario to something I 100% wanted (and continue to want). In the same vein as Carr’s work, Annie Grace's Control Alcohol achieves this same end. She carefully takes the reader through the reasons we as a society drink and our social conditioning around alcohol, and makes the same arguments as Carr: that drinking is a monumental waste of time, and recovery from it is akin to freedom, not loss. However, Annie's book has something that Carr's book doesn't: research. It's a fantastically documented book, drawing on the latest findings in the addiction field, that delivers you to the same conclusion Carr's book does. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is still in the place where sobriety feels like a total loss, but further encourage ANYONE regardless of where they are on the path to pick it up. I encourage you to also read Carr's Easy Way and take the time with the final steps he suggests. When I first attempted sobriety I wrote Carr’s steps out in my own language and words that made sense to me, and pasted them on the wall above my kitchen sink, and recited them daily.
The Bottom Line: These two books change sobriety from a feared sentence to a proud choice, and exposes the insanity of our veneration of alcohol. Read them both. And then read them again. And again. (And again!). Also huge note: some folks have said “I read (Annie’s book or Allen’s book) and it didn’t work for me and I feel like there’s something wrong with me for not getting it.” Promise you, there’s not, and not everything has the same effect on every person.
2. Integral Recovery | year. 2013 | pages. 312 | author. John Dupuy
If you want to understand exactly how to build a holistic approach to recovery, this is the book you must read. It is by far the most comprehensive modality that is available to us at this time, and is the framework from which my own recovery stands. John Dupuy not only takes the reader through an understanding of how addiction takes root, and why traditional modalities either fail to meet the mark or take us all the way, but provides a complete guide to how to structure an effective and evolutionary approach to recover from addiction and most importantly, thrive in life (for the rest of it). Until I found it in spring 2014, I hadn't a clue why my own recovery had worked so well, except to say that I knew yoga, psychoanalysis, meditation, amino acid therapy, spirituality, purpose, creativity, and a few hundred other things seemed to work for me. This book changed all that. This book codified what I had learned from my own experience and recovery into an actual model that can be replicated. While John may use some different techniques than I recommend here on this site (Brain Entrainment Meditation for him, Kundalini Meditation for me; weightlifting for him, running and yoga for me), the philosophy is the same. And until I write my own book on recovery (okay one update, I did that! I wrote my own book! It’s here!)—this is the one I recommend. Note, this is a DENSE book. John is a smart man, and some of the material is heavy to get through. Treat this as a bible or a resource book; go through it slowly, and come back to parts that are sticky until you get them. I also recommend An Integral Guide To Recovery by Guy du Plessis, a colleague of Dupuy’s. His is a more consumable, lighter version, and a little more in line with AA/12-Step work (he used 12 Steps himself and recommends the reader to as well), but the same principals are at work. They are both amazing resources to choose from, and neither require or detract from the 12 Steps or AA, I find them compatible to any path. I will say however, they are both a bit masculine centered.
The Bottom Line: Get this book to help you map out a holistic recovery.
3. Awakening The Brain | year. 2012 | pages. 288 | author. Charlotte A. Tomaino.
This book by Charlotte A. Tomaino—who is both a nun and one of the earliest Neuropsychologists—highlights two of the most important aspects of recovery: the power of our belief and thoughts, and the potential we each have to reshape and recover the function of the brain. Charlotte believes as I do that our potential is almost limitless, and brings both her years of study in spirituality and neuroscience into an elegant handbook that helps the user both understand brain function and learn basic techniques to empower ourselves in personal development. Not to be missed are the explanation of the brain-body compass, and the discussion of hyper- and hypo-arousal, both key learnings for someone who is attempting to manage recovery from addiction in our chaotic and demanding lives. I love it mostly for her ability to play on both the importance of hope and neurological processing—it's a perfect dance of science and spirituality, not making one or the other more important or at odds, but companions.
The Bottom Line: Understanding the brain, and the belief that we can change, are paramount to recovery. This book delivers on both.