I’ve always been drawn to stories of resiliency. And dealing with addiction is one of the hardest things you can do on this earth.
When I first started questioning my relationship with alcohol in 2020, I had already read a handful of “alcohol memoirs” but wanted to learn more about how exactly alcohol affects us. That’s why this list is a blend of both educational books and memoirs.
So if you’re looking for books that offer first-hand experience as well as education around alcohol, what it is exactly, and how it affects our bodies, this is the book list for you. Enjoy!
This is the very first book I read about alcoholism and it completely changed the way I thought about alcohol.
“A memoir of unblinking honesty and poignant, laugh-out-loud humor, Blackout is the story of a woman stumbling into a new kind of adventure — the sober life she never wanted. For Sarah Hepola, alcohol was “the gasoline of all adventure.” She spent her evenings at cocktail parties and dark bars where she proudly stayed till last call. Drinking felt like freedom, part of her birthright as a strong, enlightened twenty-first-century woman. But there was a price. She often blacked out, waking up with a blank space where four hours should be. Mornings became detective work on her own life. What did I say last night? How did I meet that guy? She apologized for things she couldn’t remember doing, as though she were cleaning up after an evil twin. Publicly, she covered her shame with self-deprecating jokes, and her career flourished, but as the blackouts accumulated, she could no longer avoid a sinking truth. The fuel she thought she needed was draining her spirit instead. A memoir of unblinking honesty and poignant, laugh-out-loud humor, Blackout is the story of a woman stumbling into a new kind of adventure — the sober life she never wanted.”
Drinking: A Love Story
This is the second memoir I read about drinking and it’s one of the most impactful. It’s a classic alcohol memoir and a must-read in the genre.
“It happened this way: I fell in love and then, because the love was ruining everything I cared about, I had to fall out.” “The hard things in life, the things you really learn from, happen with a clear mind.” “A love story. Yes: this is a love story. It’s about passion, sensual pleasure, deep pulls, lust, fears, yearning hungers. It’s about needs so strong they’re crippling. It about saying goodbye to something you can’t fathom living without.”
We Are The Luckiest
I find it so encouraging to hear how people survive the darkest moments and struggles of their life. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
“You are human. Not an addict, or an alcoholic, or any of the worst things you’ve ever done. Addiction is just an experience, one of many that can shape a life. It’s not unique. It’s not a flaw. It’s not even that interesting. It’s a natural human instinct – to soothe, to connect, to experience ourselves differently – gone awry.” “For so long, I thought alcohol had helped me relieve anxiety – that’s what it promises, right? but somewhere along the line, I realize the equation was actually reversed: drinking alcohol was like pouring gasoline on my anxiety. Each morning after was worse than the last.” “Nothing in the future exists yet. But anything is possible right now. Including the thing you think you cannot do.” “As I learned in the year of trying and failing, there would be no day in the future when I’d be more willing, stronger, and more capable of pushing off from the past.” “It changed, but only because I let myself be messy until I wasn’t so messy anymore.” ”It allowed me to see myself as someone who was hurting, instead of someone who was weak.” “Our bodies are always our bridge back home.” “My drinking – and whatever it is you do to feel better – was born of a natural impulse to soothe, to connect, to feel love.” “Honesty will always move you closer to love, not further away.” “We think it is the alone as we fear, but I believe what we actually fear is not having a home within ourselves.” “Out of necessity, I had to pull back from a lot of people in my life and most of the things I used to do, just so I could give myself a shot.” “I started to look at my emotions as messengers, energies that existed to inform me of something or get me to pay attention.”
Girl Walks Out Of A Bar
This memoir brings you into the life of a successful and rich practicing lawyer in New York City who is also an alcohol and coke addict. Addiction is one of the hardest things about the human condition and I’ve always been moved by the stories of people’s darkest struggles. This one is incredibly vulnerable and raw.
“I learned to master the art of keeping things separate. There was my real life with all its alcohol soaked secrets in there was the role I portrayed in the stage play of my life….The crazy thing is I had never been the person I pretended to be, in the cracks in the façade were spreading. And into the cracks begin to flow more and more booze.”
The Unexpected Joy Of Being Sober
What happens after you get sober? This book explores the science behind why we drink and how alcohol affects our minds and bodies.
Catherine Gray was stuck in a hellish whirligig of Drink, Make horrible decisions, Hangover, Repeat. She had her fair share of ‘drunk tank’ jail cells and topless-in-a-hot-tub misadventures. But this book goes beyond the binges and blackouts to deep-dive into uncharted territory: What happens after you quit drinking? This gripping, heart-breaking and witty book takes us down the rabbit-hole of an alternative reality. A life with zero hangovers, through sober weddings, sex, Christmases and breakups.
The Sober Diaries: How one woman stopped drinking and started living
This memoir takes us through Clare’s first year of not drinking. She’s a mum of three living in England with her Scottish husband, and she’s realized that “mummy juice” aka, wine, has been hindering her more than helping like she originally thought. Throughout this book are Clare’s incredible insights into her relationship with alcohol. She shares her thought patterns and habits that contributed to her addiction, and the thought patterns and changes she made to come out of it and thrive. She also goes into a bit of the science behind what alcohol actually does to the body and what addiction really is. I loved reading this book and am thankful to have found it. It’s fascinating.
“Alcohol is the only drug in the world where, when you stop taking it, you are presumed to have a problem, a disease, while those still indulging are viewed as “normal”.” “In most of the drinking memoirs I’ve read, the authors describe how drinking stop them growing. To move forward as human beings we have to probably experience life in the raw. We have to learn to meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two and imposters just the same. When we drink, we don’t do that; we just hide. Rather than our horizons expanding, our world shrinks. If we don’t stop, it gets smaller and smaller until we’ve lost everything except the bottle.” “Anxiety is a sign that you’re pushing boundaries, moving forward, grabbing the bull by the horns. IT IS GOOD.” “When life throws you lemons, the last thing you need is alcohol. You need to be strong, clearheaded and sober.”
Quit Like A Woman
This book is a revolution. It’s a fascinating look at Holly’s own journey to becoming sober while also examining the relationship between big alcohol and women. It’s a fascinating read and you’ll never look at alcohol in the same way.
When Holly Whitaker decided to seek help after one too many benders, she embarked on a journey that led not only to her own sobriety, but revealed the insidious role alcohol plays in our society and in the lives of women in particular. What’s more, she could not ignore the ways that alcohol companies were targeting women, just as the tobacco industry had successfully done generations before. Fueled by her own emerging feminism, she also realized that the predominant systems of recovery are archaic, patriarchal, and ineffective for the unique needs of women and other historically oppressed people—who don’t need to lose their egos and surrender to a male concept of God, as the tenets of Alcoholics Anonymous state, but who need to cultivate a deeper understanding of their own identities and take control of their lives.
Not Drinking Tonight
This is written by one of my favorite online therapists, Amanda E. White (or @therapyforwomen).
This is a great book if you’re looking to take a break or examine your relationship with alcohol. It helps you find out why you drink, heal your relationship with alcohol, and learn how to build a sober life you love. This book is practical and gives you step-by-step guidance on how to reinvent your relationship with alcohol.
With a title like this, I knew this was going to be an interesting and controversial memoir. Being drunk and a new mom at the same time is living at odds with oneself and constantly battling opposing desires. Jowita really laid it all out in one of the most honest and shocking memoirs I’ve ever read. Not many people would want to talk about a relapse into alcoholism after giving birth to your first child, much less write a book about it! So much shame, so much stigma, so much judgment. However, this book is a real gift. Because it honestly talks about common struggles. It gives you the opportunity to look inside an addict’s life and see her battle with addiction up close while becoming a mother. I highly recommend this memoir.
Three years after giving up drinking, Jowita Bydlowska found herself throwing back a glass of champagne like it was ginger ale. It was a special occasion: a party celebrating the birth of her first child. It also marked Bydlowska’s immediate, full-blown return to crippling alcoholism. In the gritty and sometimes grimly comic tradition of the best-selling memoirs Lit by Mary Karr and Smashed by Koren Zailckas, Drunk Mom is Bydlowska’s account of the ways substance abuse took control of her life – the binges and blackouts, the humiliations, the extraordinary risk-taking – as well as her fight toward recovery as a young mother. This courageous memoir brilliantly shines a light on the twisted logic of an addicted mind and the powerful, transformative love of one’s child. Ultimately, it gives hope, especially to those struggling in the same way.
I blew through this book. Inhaled it. Stories about the darkest moments have always drawn me in. There’s something just so human about it. Makes my heart ache.
“Before, I would have said I wanted a drink. I see now that what I crave is distraction.”
Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety
When Sacha Z. Scoblic was drinking, she was a rock star; the days were rough and the nights filled with laughter and blackouts. Then she gave it up. She had to. Here are her adventures in an utterly and maddeningly sober world. . .and how she discovered that nothing is as odd and fantastic as life without a drink in hand. . . “Wildly entertaining. . .An unabashed account of getting clean and getting a life.” –Steve Geng
This book is a look into the intimate relationship between women and alcohol. Throughout this book the author talks to doctors, addiction specialists, recovering addicted, and families of addicts. It’s a blend of memoir and science and the stories of so many women touched by this disease. I highly recommend this book. It’s the perfect balance between facts and research and real human stories.
“Ultimately, recovery is about transformation – and I don’t think it happens in isolation. I believe women recover in connection with other women. It’s primarily about this connection, and the connection with a higher power. Many people will ask: why isn’t it just about willpower? I believe there has to be an internal shift. It’s about growth and expansion.” – Stephanie Covington “The greatest loss is not that there was pain. The greatest loss is that we lost a connection to our essence. That’s our wound: the loss of connection to ourselves. When you recover, what do you recover? Yourself.” – Gabor Maté “Hope is what we gain when we give up drinking. Possibility. “ – Ann Dowsett Johnston.
The Easy Way To Control Alcohol
Many consider this book to be foundational to beginning recovery. The basic premise of this book is to change how you think about alcohol. I found it somewhat helpful but didn’t immediately stop drinking after reading it despite its claims to do so. However, I still recommend this book because it’s worked so well for thousands of people.
This Naked Mind + The Alcohol Experiment
If I could recommend which books to start with, it would be these two. Annie Grace somehow makes sense of how alcohol affects our brains, our bodies, and our relationships. She approaches this with humor and kindness and shares her own story along the way. The Alcohol Experiment is a great to try a self-guided yet assisted
Online Peer Support
If you’re looking for support in examining your relationship with alcohol, I highly recommend checking out Sonder Recovery, a queer peer-led recovery space.