by Daniel D. MAurer
I received two books as gifts while I was in treatment for addiction from alcohol and drugs.
One was the graphic novel Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth whose topic (believe it or not) is Bertrand Russell’s attempt to prove the foundation of mathematics. It’s not as boring or esoteric as it sounds; the book actually deals with a great deal of topics ranging from ol’ Bertie’s odd love affairs to whether or not England should go to war against Nazi Germany, which for Russell was something he evidently agonized a great deal over being the pacifist he was. (He eventually decided that Hitler had to go down.)
Logicomix eventually led me to produce the book Sobriety: A Graphic Novel, published by Hazelden late in 2014. And it led me to my eventual career as a freelance writer in recovery!
The other book I got was Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl. Where Logicomix was fun and stimulating, Frankl’s little treatise on finding purpose and meaning within life really challenged me in my struggle to find recovery. I began to see new connections between that book’s claim and what the basic text of AA was claiming:
“[We should] think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life-daily and hourly. Our answer must consist not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”
— V. Frankl
Treatment/rehab is a place where the minutes sometime seem like hours. Anyone who’s been there can relate. It seems like as you enter through a center’s doors, they seem to live in another dimension—one where the clock runs one quarter the speed of everywhere else. I filled those free hours with reading. I’m glad I did. The time was well spent. More importantly, the time I took to read was meditation for me that I later processed with my peers.
This led me to ask what other people were doing to bolster their own recoveries.
On Twitter recently I sent out a plea for a few of the other recovery-types I know to share what books or resources they use. The result was the floodgates had opened and the waters of opinions and ideas inundated my feed! Lots of people have lots of ideas for recovery what worked for them or where they find inspiration.
The list of the different categories of resources I found:
1. Daily Reading for Inspiration or Meditation
The Big Book of AA or the Basic Text of NA were the first on most people’s lists who follow a Twelve Step program for continued recovery from addiction to alcohol and drugs. Followed closely behind were the Twelve by Twelve (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions) and Hazelden’s Twenty Four Hours a Day. A few of my friends choose to participate in Rational Recovery. For them, Rational Recovery: A New Cure for Substance Addiction was a book they didn’t necessarily read religiously (because, let’s face it, they really don’t like anything smacking of religiosity!), but was foundational in their understanding of the “whats” and “hows” of their condition.
Others cited the basic religious texts foundational to their spiritual heritage like the Bible or the Quran.
To be honest, I’m not disciplined enough to read something at one time everyday. Some people dig that, and if it works I say do it! Probably my time I spend at meetings partially makes up for the lack of the dedicated reading I should do for my chosen Twelve Step group, but maybe I’m just making excuses!
2. Occasional Inspirational Reading
For me, this is where the NA and AA texts fit in and Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning does too. These are books that founded a bedrock of new understanding that we have about life, addiction, and how we live life without alcohol or drugs. We read them once or twice—maybe three times later on—and we move on, endeavoring to change our lives in the way the books changed us.
In my little non-scientific Twitter survey, a slew of books fall into this category. I’ll name just a few: Unwasted, Smashed, Broken: My Story of Addiction and Redemption (great read, by the way), The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle; Mommy Doesn’t Drink Here Anymore, The Long Run, Drinking: A Love Story and, Dry, A Memoir.
There are a gazillion others too, as anyone who’s a reader in recovery knows.
The point is that these types of books are categorized as an occasional piece that affected you positively. Each one often meets what your interests are and whether or not you’ll take the time to read them.
3. Reading Meant for People Early in Sobriety
I’ll be the first to toot my horn that Sobriety: A Graphic Novel falls into this category. I wrote it because of one main thing—the Big Book turns people off. Twelve Step recovery works for me, but I’m a pretty intellectual guy who has had loads of reading to do when I was in graduate school (I used to be a pastor and believe me, you don’t want to read some of the dry theology books that I have!)
The point is the Big Book was written and edited by white, upper-middle class, educated, protestant, male and evangelical folks in the late 1930s. Because of its status as near holy writ, it cannot be changed. Nor should it. The fact of the matter is that the language it uses is . . . well . . . weird. The concepts are solid (if you adhere to Twelve Step principles), but the language makes it less than palatable (ironic, that I’d use this word!) for people of new generations to digest.
Studies have shown that the use of pictures and words at the same time, like a comic book presents a story, proves to be more a teachable resource than just words by themselves.
In fact (!) I made a little comic to actually show you this. Click and enjoy!
There are many other books that fall into this category like: Ninety Days, Hi I’m Bill and I’m Old: Reinventing my Sobriety for the Long Haul, Throw it Down: Leaving Behind Behaviors and Dependencies and, Hooked: Zoe’s Battle for Sobriety.
Getting sober is no easy task. There are resources to help guide the way as you find your own way.
4. I Don’t Read. What About Me?
Last, I’d like to stress that you don’t have to be a reader to get sober. That might seem like a contradiction for a writer to publish, but the fact of the matter is that nearly a quarter of Americans didn’t read a book last year.
But guess what? It doesn’t matter. At least as far as your sobriety is concerned.
If you’d like to find inspiration and recovery resources without books, there’s good news for you, especially in the age of the Internet.
I love to watch TED Talks and YouTube and probably spend more time than is healthy for me (or a relationship with my wife!) on social media. Still, there are great resources online and in the rooms to keep anyone busy for the rest of their sober lives.
And that’s a great thing about recovery, because you need to do what works for you.