Alcoholism, or the inability to control drinking due to a physiological and cognitive/emotional dependence on the substance, affects many adults today. According to a survey done in 2018, 14.4 million adults ages 18 and older had alcohol use disorder (AUD). AUD can lead to serious health issues for the individual and alcoholism’s impact on family and relationships can be devastating.
If you are struggling with your drinking, a trained therapist can help you find treatment. If you’re living with an alcoholic, you may also benefit from the support of a therapist or couples counselor.
If you’re looking for guidance, a place to start, or just want to know you’re not alone in your journey, these books on alcoholism and sobriety may help.
1. This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Life, by Annie Grace
Annie Grace writes with clarity, insight, and kindness in this science-backed book on alcoholism that’s part memoir, part practice. Some drinkers may be hesitant to let go of drinking because they perceive a sober life as one equated with boredom and misery. Here, Grace encourages readers to consider a life beyond drinking, where they live presently and without strong cravings or compulsions.
Grace would know – she was a high-functioning alcoholic who drank heavily every night while working as the president of a multinational company. Now, she uses her experience to help others gain back control of their lives.
2. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
You can’t talk about alcoholism without mentioning Alcoholics Anonymous, or their famous Big Book. Whether you’re looking for a copy to take to your AA meetings or want to give it a read before considering if it’s for you, this is a good place to start.
3. Understanding Alcoholism as a Brain Disease: Book 2 of the ‘A Prescription for Alcoholics – Medications for Alcoholism’ Book Series, by Linda Burlison
Alcoholism, like addiction, is about brain science, not personal character. This book explores the scientific backgrounds of potential medications for alcoholism and the gap in alcoholism treatment between complete abstinence and careful moderation.
When considering any medication or medical advice, please consult with your doctor.
4. We Are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life, by Laura McKowen
Author Laura McKowen thought those who could drink casually were “lucky.” Her experience with alcohol, and the reckoning that forced her to come to terms with it, were anything but lucky.
Living through recovery, however, taught her something powerful; that being able to live honestly, to feel the full weight of her emotions, was the luckiest thing in the world.
5. Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol, by Ann Dowsett Johnston
The CDC has seen a sharp rise in binge drinking among women – a startling epidemic born of a combination of societal, economic, and psychological factors. Journalist Anne Dowsett Johnston dives deep into the research behind this trend alongside her own story of recovery, shedding light on industry and society that has taken advantage of women’s drinking.
6. The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober: Discovering a happy, healthy, wealthy alcohol-free life, by Catherine Gray
Our society puts a lot of pressure on drinking to celebrate; weddings, holidays, birthdays. It can be hard to separate the idea of celebration with sobriety, but that’s what Catherine Gray explores once a drinker makes the decision to drink no more.
This thoughtful book explores the science behind why we drink, how it’s so ingrained into our society, and what new possibilities we uncover when we dare to find joy in the unexpected.
7. Take Control of Your Drinking: A Practical Guide to Alcohol Moderation, Sobriety, and When to Get Professional Help, by Michael S. Levy
For as prevalent as drinking is, there is really only one acceptable way to get help – admit you’re an alcoholic and abstain forever. While addiction specialist Michael S. Levy agrees that is very successful for most, in his 35-year career, he’s found that many can successfully moderate with professional help.
Determining whether you need moderation or abstinence can be difficult, so this book is to help you find whatever path may work for you.
8. The Sober Lush: A Hedonist’s Guide to Living a Decadent, Adventurous, Soulful Life–Alcohol Free, by Jardine Libaire & Amanda Eyre Ward
This one likely feels very different from the rest of the books on this list – but hear us out. Often, alcoholics struggle with letting go of their drinking habits because of the fear of missing out on “all life has to offer.” Simply put, many feel like it’s impossible to have fun without booze. That’s certainly how authors Jardine Libaire and Amanda Eyre Ward felt. But rather than heightening their senses and allowing them to enjoy a “technicolor life,” they found alcohol just made them numb.
After becoming sober, they wanted to see how much vibrancy they could put back into their daily living. The Sober Lush is for those looking to find joy again in a decadent life after sobriety or for hope of a fulfilling life after recovery.
9. Why You Drink and How to Stop: A Journey to Freedom, by Veronica Valli
Critics speak highly of this one, with one critic calling it a “ brilliantly researched, refreshingly straightforward & delightfully compelling book.” It dives into the reasons why alcoholics act as they do, and how their brains are wired.
Author Veronica Valli is an addiction therapist and recovered alcoholic herself, offering a deep and sincere understanding of an alcoholic’s journey.
10. Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol, by Holly Whitaker
If the religion-focused themes of Alcoholics Anonymous don’t resonate with you, you’ll likely appreciate Holly Whitaker’s refreshingly female-focused take on sobriety as well as the “insidious” nature of the alcohol industry. Her program focuses on root causes of overindulgence and how to break the cycle.
11. The Cure for Alcoholism: The Medically Proven Way to Eliminate Alcohol Addiction, by Roy Eskapa, PhD
Recovery looks different for everyone. For some, this means medication prescribed by a trained medical professional. If you’re looking into other options for your alcoholism, the Sinclair Method, the process of retraining your brain to not crave alcohol, may be a solution for you.
This book leans on dozens of medical studies and is written by Roy Eskapa, PhD, a clinical psychologist, and David Sinclair, PhD, an American alcohol researcher.
12. Alcohol Explained, by William Porter
Lawyer and veteran William Porter struggled with alcoholism at various points in his life. His sobriety inspired him to heavily research alcohol and its effects on the body, mind, and we continue to drink even when we know it harms us. The result is a thorough, in-depth scientific look that is still easy to digest.
13. The Alcoholic / Addict Within: Our Brain, Genetics, Psychology and the Twelve Steps as Psychotherapy, by Andrew P., MD
Twelve-step programs are popular for a reason – for many, they work. This book works as a great supplement to a twelve-step program and provides better understanding of the psychotherapy behind the steps.
Most importantly, it illustrates that alcoholism and addiction are not moral failings, but rather scientific differences in our brains.
14. Healing the Addicted Brain: The Revolutionary, Science-Based Alcoholism and Addiction Recovery Program, by Dr. Harold C. Urschel, III, MD
Understanding that addiction is a biological disease, rather than a moral one, is the first step into successfully treating it, Dr. Harold C. Urschel, III, MD argues. By allowing patients to be treated with behavioral programs alongside the latest science in brain functions, more doctors, and patients, may find success in helping alcoholics live healthier, addiction-free lives.
15. It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle, by Mark Wolynn
This book isn’t about alcoholism exactly, but it’s an in-depth dive into how our parents, grandparents, and other influential figures in our lives affect our trauma. Some things are inherited, including the baggage that may come from a parent or guardian. An alcoholic family member can have a significant and lasting impact on you. Traumatic stress, author Mark Wolynn argues, may actually be passed from generation to generation.
Wolynn is a trauma specialist and director of the The Family Constellation Institute in San Francisco. If you’re looking to uncover more of your trauma (that may be related to your alcoholism), then you may want to give this a read.
16. The Dry Challenge: How to Lose the Booze for Dry January, Sober October, and Any Other Alcohol-Free Month, by Hilary Sheinbaum
People Magazine calls The Dry Challenge a definitive guide to giving up booze. Even if you don’t think you have a full-blown problem, giving up alcohol for even a month at a time can have serious health benefits, from weight loss to better sleep to mental clarity. Daunting as it may seem, quitting drinking is possible, whether you consider it an unhealthy habit or you have a drinking problem. In this book, you will discover ideas for alcohol-free activities, mocktail recipes, tips for sharing your booze-free news, and what to do when someone tries to hinder your progress.
Author, journalist, on-air host, and lifestyle expert, Hilary Sheinbaum started her sober journey by making a bet with a friend about dry January. Eventually, her efforts became part of a ritual that she relished every year. She understands that choosing to give up alcohol is highly personal and everyone has different motivations, but she also knows that our society has normalized alcohol and drinking culture past the point of being healthy.
17. Quit Drinking Without Willpower, by Allen Carr
Allen Carr’s previous methods for quitting smoking have long been celebrated. Now, Quit Drinking Without Willpower applies the same thinking to a new problem – alcohol use, including problem drinking and alcoholism. Carr’s methods have been proven successful, and now he’s showing loyal readers how to “escape the alcohol trap,” too.
In an easy-to-read, step-by-step format, Carr describes his technique, which he says does not require willpower. It is an obviously appealing perspective on how to kick a drinking habit that touts the ability to remove the desire to drink, allowing you to stop painlessly, easily even, and find a new level of control in your life. One review says, “I read the book in one day and I never drank again.”
18. Push Off from Here: Nine Essential Truths to Get You Through Sobriety (and Everything Else), by Laura McKowen
In Push Off From Here, Laura McKowen explores nine specific ideas that she wants anyone struggling with alcohol problems to remember:
- It is not your fault
- It is your responsibility
- It is unfair that this is your thing
- This is your thing
- This will never stop being your thing until you face it
- You cannot do it alone
- Only you can do it
- You are loved
- We will never stop reminding you of these things
Through a collection of stories and advice, McKowen delves into the connection between trauma and alcoholism, and makes the case for “radical honesty” as a way to let go of any illusions of control. She reminds readers that healing is an ongoing process; however, she also believes that that process is a gift. “Change is messy,” she says, “and progress is rarely linear, but we can always push off from here.”
19. Drinking Games: A Memoir, by Sarah Levy
This book is referred to as being part memoir and part social critique. More specifically, it follows one woman’s journey with alcohol, and how that journey truly began at the last drink and not the first one. Author Sarah Levy said her life seemed to be on track. She was working at a reputable job and socializing regularly. But underneath the shiny exterior, she was keeping a secret – her problem drinking, which was quickly turning into a case of alcoholism.
Drinking Games is an examination of our short-term choices on our long-term selves. Extremely candid, Levy speaks about the ongoing, all-consuming cycles of “work hard, play hard.” Levy walks us through her personal struggles and what she’s learned on her way to freedom and self-discovery. It illustrates how life’s most messy moments can become the most impactful and profound.
20. Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget, by Sarah Hepola
For author Sarah Hepola alcohol was the “gasoline of all adventure,” but it came at a cost. In this deeply honest and at times laugh-out-loud funny memoir, Hepola describes how she “stumbled” into sobriety, shining a detailed spotlight on the danger of alcoholism, blackouts, and burying or numbing our emotions with alcohol. Her story will ring true to anyone who has ever been forced to reinvent themselves or struggled to make a meaningful, life-changing shift. Blackout is all about the power of confidence, vulnerability, creativity, and authenticity.
When to See a Therapist for Alcoholism
Alcohol has crippling effects on the body and the mind. Without treatment, it can impair your life and your ability to function. A trained therapist or psychologist can help find the right treatment plan for you or a loved one with consideration and compassion. Find a therapist in a directory is a good place to start when choosing a therapist.