Addiction Memoirs: Seven Selected Titles

Below are seven different addiction memoirs that have been inspirational to readers.

I. Guts: The Endless Follies and Tiny Triumphs of a Giant Disaster by Kristen Johnston

Well known actor Johnston has written “a surprisingly raw and triumphant memoir that is outrageous, moving, sweet, tragic, and heartbreakingly honest. GUTS is a true triumph—a memoir that manages to be as frank and revealing as Augusten Burroughs, yet as hilarious and witty as David Sedaris” (publisher blurb).

II. Ninety Days: A Memoir of Recovery by Bill Clegg

This is a follow-up to his memoir about the pull of crack addiction, Portrait of An Addict As a Young Man: A Memoir.

Give us 90 days and if your life doesn´t get better, we will gladly refund your misery, goes a 12-step recovery saying. NInety Days is about that period for Clegg.

Publishers Weekly: “Clegg discovers that reaching that signpost is going to take him a lot longer than three months…”

III. With or Without You: A Memoir by Domenica Ruta

Ruta grew up with a drug addicted mom; in a turn of events that probably won’t be surprising, she eventually developed her own addiction issues. Her highly acclaimed book chronicles the struggles that eventually led to both her sobriety and her estrangement from her mother.

Amy Bloom: “In the world of memoir, Mary Karr’s and Geoffrey Wolff’s exceptional books burn and brighten, like actual stars among strings of tinsel. With or Without You is like that. I will read whatever Domenica Ruta writes.”

IV. Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol by Anne Dowsett Johnston

From the publisher: “…(A)ward-winning journalist Anne Dowsett Johnston combines in-depth research with her own personal story of recovery, and delivers a groundbreaking examination of a shocking yet little recognized epidemic threatening society today: the precipitous rise in risky drinking among women and girls.”

V. Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp (1959-2002)

Ann Dowsett Johnston, in an excerpt from her book Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol:

It is no coincidence that my favorite drinking memoir is the late Caroline Knapp’s Drinking: A Love Story — a book I read and re-read as my own drinking escalated…Wrote Knapp: ‘For a long time, when it’s working, the drink feels like a path to a kind of self-enlightenment, something that turns us into the person we wish to be, or the person we think we are. In some ways the dynamic is this simple: alcohol makes everything better until it makes everything worse.’

Sarah Hepola, author of Blackout, one of the addiction memoirs that has its own post on this blog, similarly views Knapp’s contribution as seminal.

VI. Parched: A Memoir by Heather King

A sample quote:

I once heard a sober alcoholic say that drinking never made him happy, but it made him feel like he was going to be happy in about fifteen minutes. That was exactly it, and I couldn’t understand why the happiness never came, couldn’t see the flaw in my thinking, couldn’t see that alcohol kept me trapped in a world of illusion, procrastination, paralysis. I lived always in the future, never in the present. Next time, next time! Next time I drank it would be different, next time it would make me feel good again. And all my efforts were doomed, because already drinking hadn’t made me feel good in years.

VII. The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath by Leslie Jamison

In the category of addiction memoirs, this book is not typical. Although it addresses Jamison’s own addiction struggles, it’s largely also about “literary and artistic geniuses whose lives and works were shaped by alcoholism and substance dependence.” And it pointedly doesn’t ignore the nature of our culture’s racism and classism when it comes to understanding addiction.

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