One of the best ways to understand addiction is to read about it. In psychology this is called bibliotherapy. It is a therapeutic technique whereby you read books about the disorder you are dealing with, in this case addiction. Bibliotherapy is helpful for people who are hoping to recovery from addiction as well as people who have an addicted family member.
You might be interested in reading non-fiction stories about people who have been through the recovery process. Or you might be looking for a more instructional book about how to make that change happen. Whatever you are hoping to find we have put together a wonderful list of books about drug abuse.
True Stories About Addiction
1. Dharma Punx – Noah Levine
Dharma Punx is an incredible true story about one man’s journey with addiction and Buddhism. In his memoir Noah Levine talks about his experience growing up in the punk scene and then getting sober. From an early age he was using inhalants and quickly moved on to hallucinogens, alcohol, and speed. He paints a vivid picture of what his addiction was like and where it took him.
The second half of the book describes his process of getting sober and using Buddhism to do so. His father is Stephen Levine the best selling author who has written about meditation and Buddhism. For many years Noah rejected his father’s interests. Until he started to embrace the principles of compassion and insight in order to recover. Rather than rejecting his roots in the punk scene he decided to make it a continued part of his journey. He founded the meditation center Against the Stream where those with tattoos and sordid pasts can investigate the Dharma.
Augusten Burroughs is the author of the best selling book Running With Scissors. In this memoir he talks about his intense relationship with alcohol. He talks about his life as a high-paid advertising executive. The whole time he was working he was also drinking. From showing up to meetings intoxicated to having his house covered in empty alcohol bottles, he talks about it all.
Burroughs also describes what is was like getting sober. He talks about his experience taking time off of work to go to a recovery program and what it was like to come home to the place he was so used to drinking. If you are looking for an inspiring book on sobriety this is a wonderful place to start.
3. Basketball Diaries – Jim Carroll
Jim Carroll tells his heart wrenching story about growing up in New York City. He tells the story of his young teen years playing basketball, getting addicted, and stealing and hustling to support his habit. His story is a powerful portrayal of what can happen when addiction gets about as it can get. This book is beautifully written and sure to captivate your heart and mind.
Novels About Drug Abuse
4. Requiem for a Dream – Hubert Selby
This book at times is difficult to read both because of the way it is written and the subject matter it deals with. It talks about three people’s struggle with addiction and dealing drugs in New York City. The writing and story convey how bad the descent into drug abuse can be. If you are looking for a captivating story about addiction and the depths it can bring people to this is a scary and thrilling book.
A Scanner Darkly is a dystopian view of addiction and society. It is written entirely from the perspective of someone with addiction. This often means that the book is confusing and dark. However, it does provide an unrivalled experience of being in the mind of someone who is struggling with addiction. It is important to note that this book takes place in a seemingly futuristic society and the substance the main character is addicted exists only in the context of this book. If you are looking for a really wonderful story and interesting read this is a great book.
Instructional Books on Sobriety
6. Refuge Recovery – Noah Levine
The most recent book from Noah Levine outlines a new type of recovery program. Rather than adapting the twelve steps Levine outlines a program for recovery that is completely founded on Buddhist principles. The book outlines a program for recovery including the 8 fold path of recovery, forgiveness practice, and a thorough inventory of suffering and craving.
Especially for those who are looking for an alternative to the twelve steps, this book is a must read. The first section of the book describes the inventories and principles of the program. It goes on to provide meditation practices and personal stories. The stories in the back provide a inspiring examples of how you can get sober with or without twelve step programs. Although the book is available for sale if you do not have money for a copy most groups will provide one for you for free.
7. Alcoholics Anonymous – Alcoholics Anonymous
This one might seem like the most obvious. It has sold millions of copies and helped innumerable people recover from addiction. It is often just called “The Big Book”. This text outlines the iconic 12-step recovery process. The back of the book also provides a number of stories about people who got sober using this recovery program. If you are thinking about investigating 12-step recovery this is a great place to start. This book is available for purchase. However, if you do not have money for it many AA groups will provide low-cost or free books for new members.
8. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions – Alcoholic Anonymous
For those who are looking to dive into the twelve steps this book provides an in-depth explanation of the steps and traditions in AA. It lays out in very clear terms how to go about taking these steps and working with the traditions. It also provides some insight and interpretation of parts of The Big Book that might be unclear.
In his book Griffin talks about something that is often missed. What life is like after addiction. So much energy is focused around helping someone get sober and what addiction is like. However, there is so much that happens once addiction ends. This book gives practical ways to continue with aftercare for addiction. It describes how we can change our minds through mindfulness, insight, and self-reflection.
10. One Breath at a Time: Buddhism and the Twelve Steps – Kevin Griffin
Kevin Griffin has long-term sober time as well as long-term experience with Buddhist practices. In this book he integrates personal stories about addiction and recovery with instructions about how to practically recover from addiction. He talks about issues like a higher power and how to make the twelve steps accessible through a Buddhist lens. Griffin goes through each of the twelve steps to help you find the Dharma in each one. If you are looking for a fresh perspective on twelve step recovery this is a fantastic option.
Books for Parents of Addicts
11. Codependent No more – Melody Beattie
One of the best things you can do if you are dealing with a loved one who is struggling with addiction is to heal codependent tendencies. In this iconic book Beattie talks about how to take care of your loved-one without sacrificing your needs or enabling them. If you relate to the statement “I don’t know where you end and I begin” you might want to take a look at this book.
Motivational interviewing is generally considered a textbook that is used by helping professions and students to deepen their understanding of how to work with people recovering from addiction. However, this text can be hugely helpful for family members as well. It offers practical tools for how to talk to and motivate addicted individuals while setting clear boundaries.
13. The Addict in the Family – Beverly Conyers
This book provides personal stories as well as instruction for how to cope with a loved-one who is suffering from addiction. It demonstrates that more than anything else hope can prevail. With a little work families can be resilient and loving. It offers stories from parents and children about how they were able to provide self-care and intervention.
14. Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change – Jeffry Foote, Carrie Wilkens and Nicole Kosanke
This book draws on forty years of collective research and many years of clinical experience to demonstrate how kindness and positive reinforcement can create lasting change. The authors provide evidence for their strategies of how family members can change their behavior in order to help and support the person who is struggling.
15. Children of Alcoholic “It Will Never Happen to Me” – Claudia Black
Although this book is not necessarily for parents we thought we would include it here. Especially if you are dealing with an addicted parent in the family system this book is helpful. It talks about all of the ways that as much as we might not want to, we learn from the people we are around. For people who grew up with a parent who was addicted this often means a higher risk of becoming addicted as well. The book details personal stories as well as providing practical advice.