You Are Not Alone: Memoirs of Substance Use Disorders
The struggles that come with a substance abuse disorder can feel very isolating. Maybe you feel like no one understands what you are going through. Or perhaps you feel like it is simply impossible for you to maintain your recovery. Or maybe you are struggling to understand experiences in your past—like living with an addicted parent—that seem to be undermining your life in the present. All of these are perfectly natural feelings.
Addiction & SUD Affect Many People
But the truth is that no one dealing with a substance use disorder is truly alone. These difficult experiences have been part of the lives of a great many people. Some of those people have put pen to paper to describe their experiences in memoirs—and to offer hope to others who might be struggling. Several excellent reading options are listed below.
A Word of Caution
Before we jump into the list, however, a word of caution is in order. While none of the following memoirs seek to glorify or excuse drug or alcohol abuse, it is certainly true that all or most of them delve pretty deeply into the darkness experienced by a person with a substance abuse disorder. If encountering that sort of material is likely to make it more difficult for you to stay the course in terms of your recovery, you may want to avoid these books and others like them.
That said, sometimes a reminder that you are not alone in your struggles is a huge help. If you think that sort of reminder would be good for you, these memoirs are a place to start. In each case, we have tried to identify specific audiences to whom the book might appeal.
Change Me Into Zeus’s Daughter by Barbara Robinette Moss
Eight kids, an alcoholic father, a loyal but desperate mother, and devastating poverty: Robinette Moss turns this dispiriting combination of ingredients into an inspiring memoir of perseverance. Change Me Into Zeus’s Daughter is a testament to the strength of family and the power of the arts to help with healing. The book may particularly resonate with the adult children of those with substance abuse disorders.
Dry by Augusten Burroughs
Burroughs, best known for his earlier memoir Running With Scissors, explores his journey from the depths of addiction toward healing. This book may be of particular interest for members of the LGBTQ+ community because Burroughs, a gay man, pursues recovery in a queer-focused facility. In doing so, he offers a look into a specialized approach to serving a specific community.
Lit by Mary Karr
Karr’s memoir is a story of faith as a foundation for overcoming substance use disorders. Karr—a popular and respected memoirist—saw her marriage crumble as she became more and more reliant on drugs and alcohol. Those with a strong—or even a flickering—faith may find Karr’s story of finding hope in her Catholicism inspiring and reassuring.
Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
The woman who brought Princess Leia to life in a galaxy far, far away faced many, many challenges in her life—including debilitating struggles with bipolar disorder and drug use. Wishful Drinking is a good reminder of the difficulties inherent with co-occurring conditions like depression and substance abuse disorder. Fisher’s struggles continued until her untimely death. Nevertheless, she was a force for good in the mental health community.
How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell
Sometimes even something that seems beneficial can set us on a negative path. Marnell recounts how she became addicted to her ADHD medication, which became a gateway drug to ever-more problematic substances. Her story begins when she is 15—placing the book alongside memoirs like Koren Zailckas’ Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood that delve into addiction among young people.
Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man by Bill Clegg
Clegg seemed to have everything going for him—a good career, a committed partner, friends who loved him—and yet he was unable to maintain his sobriety after rehab. He lost two months to the horrors of crack use, reminding readers that rehab is the beginning, not the end, of recovery. This memoir deals honestly with the likelihood and legacy of relapse—and points toward a potential way forward.
Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions by Russell Brand
Brand, a wildly successful comedian and actor, is not satisfied with simply sharing his experiences with drug abuse. In keeping with his commitment as an activist for mental health and drug rehabilitation, Brand offers something of a self-help approach in Recovery. Looking for honesty spiced with humor and flavored with some ideas for strengthening your commitment to sobriety? Brand’s book may be just what you’re looking for.
Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Subtitled How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt with Family Addiction, this book is a graphic memoir (meaning it is like a long comic book). While the other books on this list are written for an adult audience, Hey, Kiddo is a YA book from a prolific writer of books for kids. Krosoczka is among the many writers proving that comics can be about much more than superheroes.
We Want to be Part of Your Recovery Story
At Seabrook, we are sure of two things. First, we know every story of substance use disorder is different. And second, we know you are not alone in your struggles. In fact, we’re here to prove it. If you or a loved one needs treatment to get on the path to lasting sobriety, please reach out to us. We want to help make a happy ending possible in your personal story.