Self-help books for dealing with alcohol abuse
August 7, 2012 11:14 AM   Subscribe

I abuse alcohol. I'm looking for self-help books.

I see there are several questions addressing alcohol abuse already, and I have reviewed a few of them - but I haven't seen any book recommendations.

A little background: I'm currently in treatment. I've had a few meetings with a counselor through an out-patient alcohol management program offered by my health system. I'm also seeing a therapist so that I can better deal with my depression and anxiety, which no doubt contribute to my drinking.

The alcohol management program has assigned readings. In a recent assignment, I was presented with a list of strategies for reducing or eliminating drinking. I was asked to select which strategies I've tried, and which strategies I think might work for me. I plan to use several strategies, but one in particular I'd like to try is reading a self-help book.

I've found a few on Amazon, but most have only a few reviews, so I'm hoping that one or two of you have read a book you'd enthusiastically endorse.

I'd be happy to read a book that focuses on either moderation or abstention. My long-term goal is moderation to the extent that I am abstinent most days (and drink perhaps 1-2 glasses of wine, a few times a year). My primary care physician has advised that total abstention may be easier, however, so I am open to that idea as well.

If it matters, I am female, in my mid-thirties.

Please let me know if you'd like more information - I'll e-mail jessamyn or mathowie with my responses.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
This book is not for everyone but for cerebral types who are control freaks (and others, but I'm just speaking personally) the Rational Recovery books can be good. It's one tool among many but it's designed as an alternative to AA for people who find that doesn't work for them particularly well. As someone who was an anxious drinker, I really found that helping get my anxiety in check was a huge sea change in helping me get my drinking in check. I hope the same is true for you, best of luck.
posted by jessamyn at 11:19 AM on August 7, 2012

Moderation doesn't seem to work for alcoholics. Have you been assessed for alcohol dependence?

I do have a non-fiction book recommendation for you, if you are alcoholic. Try Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp.
posted by bearwife at 11:25 AM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are you most interested in research, in a "program" (like CBT) or in something like a memoir?

I'm a research-oriented person, and this is the sort of book that I prefer: The Addicted Brain: Why We Abuse Drugs, Alcohol, and Nicotine. I've only glanced at it in passing as I'm not actually addicted to any substances, but it's exactly the sort of book I'd prefer personally.

Oh, and if you don't consider this "self-help" enough, I still really suggest that you do spend some time on neuropsychiatric subjects at some point during your recovery. The "Brain 101" class in my IOP program has been very, very helpful for me in figuring out a lot of the "why" behind what happens to me, and my responses/choices.
posted by Fee Phi Faux Phumb I Smell t'Socks o' a Puppetman! at 11:25 AM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't see that you're opposed the the AA model. How about the AA Blue Book? Apparently it's available on line right now.

You can dip into it and see if it's helpful to you, and it won't cost you anything!

Good luck.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:30 AM on August 7, 2012

[Answers to the OPs question and not what you think the OP should be asking, please?]
posted by jessamyn at 11:38 AM on August 7, 2012

Anonymous Disciple
posted by Flood at 11:46 AM on August 7, 2012

Over the Influence, with the disclosure that the authors are friends of mine.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:51 AM on August 7, 2012

I haven't read it, but Allen Carr's book The Easy Way to Stop Drinking gets good reviews.
posted by seriousmoonlight at 11:55 AM on August 7, 2012

It's not exclusively about drinking, but Charles Duhigg's The Power of Habit turned out to be very helpful for one of my family members who wanted to address their alcohol use.
posted by scody at 12:21 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was just about to recommend The Power of Habit. I just read it and there's an interesting section on AA and why it works. You may find it helpful, good luck!
posted by BlueMartini7 at 12:40 PM on August 7, 2012

I haven't read it, but Allen Carr's book The Easy Way to Stop Drinking gets good reviews.

YMMV. My mileage sure as heck did – I wanted to stop drinking for a while because I was mildly concerned about my intake levels, but I found the Carr book to be so smug, self-satisfied and based entirely on the idea that the white, middle-class American white-picket-fence lifestyle is the apex of human achievement that I couldn't get through the first half.

I can send you my copy if you're comfortable MeMailing me your address (or sending it via a mod if you want to stay semi-anonymous), if you want to try it risk-free. It is in good condition but has been punched repeatedly.
posted by Shepherd at 12:59 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I recommend anything and everything. For myself, deciding what was going to be valid and what wasn’t beforehand was very limiting and not very logical. When I’m trying to find a different way to approach and think about things I can’t use my current knowledge and attitudes as a reliable guide. If I knew the answers already I wouldn’t need to read anything.

When I was a kid looking for something I would say "I’m sure it’s not in X" even though I hadn’t looked there. My dad would say "when you know where it is you can tell me where it isn’t, not before".

What’s going to click for you is impossible for anyone else to know. What clicks for you today may not have done so yesterday. It doesn’t hurt to read something you think you won’t like.
posted by bongo_x at 2:12 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Drinking: A Love Story - mentioned by bearwife above - is the most insightful book about addiction I've ever read. It too was written by a woman in her 30s. I think it may change your life.

Good luck.
posted by Egg Shen at 2:23 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

From the OP:
Thank you for all the recommendations so far, and also for the wishes of good luck!

A few additional thoughts:

- To answer Fee Phi Faux's question, I think I'd be most interested in either a book that details research in the area, or suggests a program or methods. (I can't imagine wanting to read a book that doesn't at least contain references to research - if a program is recommended, I'd prefer it to be backed up by research.)

- I think it's safe to say that I have a strong aversion to the AA model.
posted by mathowie at 2:48 PM on August 7, 2012

A Place Called Self by Stephanie Brown. It's a book for women by a tremendous clinician/researcher. Specialized for women. Stephanie does think highly of 12-step, but I'd encourage you to peruse it with an open mind.

The Wisdom to Know the Difference by Kelly Wilson. An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Workbook to Overcoming Substance Abuse. Very practical and with a very strong research background.

Both of these authors have personal histories of addiction.
posted by jasper411 at 4:52 PM on August 7, 2012

Want to third that Drinking: A Love Story is a great book. It really helped me (a woman in my 20s) see the reality of my drinking and strengthened my resolve to tackle the problem. Caroline Knapp wrote about the dark, sad realities of being a seemingly "successful" alcoholic, about things that I didn't think anybody else could possibly know about.
She ended up joining AA and using that to help her stay sober, but I didn't find her memoir really pushed that as the only solution.

Another excellent memoir about alcoholism and recovery is Lit by Mary Karr.
posted by bookish at 8:26 PM on August 10, 2012

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