Book suggestion for girlfriend of longtime alcoholic?
August 2, 2009 7:46 PM   Subscribe

Can you suggest a great book to help the girlfriend of an alcoholic who recently relapsed after 2.5 years sober?

My boyfriend had been through the mill with alcoholism--years of denial, then his wife leaving him over the drinking, him drinking himself into homeless-style dysfunction with many ins and outs of rehab and detox and AA for three straight years, and then finally picking himself up, going to rehab and committing to AA. He was sober for 2.5 years, and recently relapsed. (He's been drinking on and off for the past three months, currently clean, but obviously i'm nervous enough to be posting.)

I'm really looking for a book that can tell me how I can help him, and also really address later-stage alcoholism. I've found "Marriage on the Rocks", "Codependent No More" and the Al-Non book, but both seem to lean toward helping women get out of denial and living in their husband's shadow, dealing with earlier stage alcoholics (he's very, very clear that's he's an alcoholic and that this could kill him--denial is not the problem on either of our parts), and relationships that are heavily codependent. Not to say that we're perfect, but given the circumstances, we treat each other pretty damn well (no violence, little resentment, i'm relatively good at detaching when he's drunk, etc etc).

So I'm looking for a book that's less self-help for me, and more information-oriented and just plain helpful. Suggestions?
posted by Household Tipster to Human Relations (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You can't help him. You should attend some Al-Anon meetings to learn how to help yourself.
posted by decathecting at 7:49 PM on August 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

I think you can learn a lot about alcoholism, particularly late-stage, from the AA text Alcoholics Anonymous. In the back of the book there are many personal stories from recovering alcoholics that describe what came before, what happened, and what it's like now. The text also helps convince alcoholics that they are not unique. As a result, there are a number of anecdotes about the fall to the eventual bottom that many alcoholics endure. This common bond helps with recovery.

If your boyfriend doesn't already have a copy that you can borrow, you can buy one at any AA meeting, and even at some Al-Anon meetings. My best wishes to you. I am a recovering alcoholic myself. If you ever have any questions, please feel free to ask. My email is in my profile.
posted by netbros at 8:12 PM on August 2, 2009

I have just started Roy Eskapa's book The Cure for Alcoholism and am finding it incredibly thought-provoking. Please at least check it out. Some studies suggest that it is not as incompatible with faith-based support groups like AA, as the title might suggest. Would be happy to discuss this further via MeFi mail.
posted by Weng at 8:42 PM on August 2, 2009

Discussions here about alcoholism usually devolve into a debate about the religious/non-religious helpful/non-helpful aspects of AA. Regardless of how you personally feel about the AA program, Al-Anon has a pretty powerful and useful mantra: You didn't cause it, you can't cure it, and you can't control it.

I'm not sure you can help him. But, you can understand him. I found this article, "Addiction, Lies, and Relationships" (and other articles at the same site -- see the "Original Papers" links in the orange box on the right side, especially also "The Female Partner of the Recovering Male Alcoholic") to be very enlightening and honest, and it rang true for me.

It may also be helpful for you to know the recidivism rates, so you can keep in perspective how great it was that he was sober for over 2 years, but also how difficult it is for people to remain sober. AA contends that this will be a difficult struggle every single day of his life. From AA about their membership, "Length of Sobriety":
Sober more than 10 years = 36%
Sober between 5-10 years = 14%
Sober between 1–5 years = 24%
Sober less than 1 year = 26%
Average sobriety of members is more than eight years.
posted by Houstonian at 9:39 PM on August 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

The book that netbros refers to, sometimes called "The Big Book," is available for free online. Click here to read it. The personal stories he mentions is right before the appendices.
posted by Houstonian at 9:47 PM on August 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think the Al-Anon suggestion is right on the money. This might not be exactly what you're looking for, but Caroline Knapp's Drinking: A Love Story is an excellent read and has some valuable insight about alcoholism.
posted by katemcd at 8:57 AM on August 3, 2009

YMMV on the Knapp book. I didn't get anything out of it except annoyance at the self-absorpsion of the author.

You might want to check out a couple open AA meetings, if you're curious.

In my experience, "helping" your bf with his program is likely to make things worse, not better.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:54 AM on August 3, 2009

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