For Families of Addicts


Open bookThere are thousands of self-help books promising to teach readers the secret to leading a better life, including many dealing with addiction recovery. Although you can’t cure drug or alcohol addiction simply by reading a book, self-help books can increase your understanding of addiction and help you figure out ways to handle cravings, codependent family relationships, and the challenges of mental health disorders like anxiety and depression.

6 Addiction and Recovery Self-Help Books to Add to Your Reading List

If you’re in the early stages of recovery, the following titles can help you stay motivated and on the right path to building a successful sober lifestyle.

1. Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction by Maia Szalavitz

Published in 2017, Unbroken Brain is a New York Times bestseller by one of the premier American journalists covering addiction in America. Szalavitz has written for TIME.com, New York Magazine, VICE, Scientific American, Psychology Today, and The Guardian among others. She is also in recovery herself, giving her a personal perspective on this complex issue.

Unbroken Brain reviews recent scientific research to make the argument that addictive behaviors fall on a spectrum, much like autistic behaviors. The author states that instead of suffering from a “broken brain” or being afflicted with an addictive personality, someone abusing drugs or alcohol has a learning disorder that can be addressed with targeted treatment.

2. Sober For Good.: New Solutions for Drinking Problems — Advice from Those Who Have Succeeded by Anne M. Fletcher

Featuring advice from recovering alcoholics of many different backgrounds, Sober for Good shows that recovery is possible for everyone. Sober for Good is often recommended by people who don’t feel that the 12-step approach of AA is the right fit for their needs but aren’t sure what alternatives are available.

Fletcher has been featured on The View, Good Morning America, CNN, and other national media programs. She is an award-winning health and medical writer, speaker, and consultant on the topics of addiction and lifestyle change.

3. Living with Co-Occurring Addiction And Mental Health Disorders: A Handbook for Recovery by Mark McGovern

Co-occurring disorders such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety are common among people seeking treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. Although a dual diagnosis can present challenges for recovery, having a co-occurring disorder doesn’t mean that sobriety isn’t a realistic goal.

McGovern explains how co-occurring disorders can affect the recovery process while stressing the importance of working with your treatment team to set achievable goals, create a support network, and make positive changes that support your recovery. A Professor of Psychiatry and of Community and Family Medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, his professional career is devoted to research into the needs of persons with co-occurring disorders.

4. Willpower’s Not Enough: Understanding and Overcoming Addiction and Compulsion by Arnold M. Washton

Washton seeks to dispel the oldest and most persistent myth in addiction recovery: No matter how badly someone wants to change, willpower along can’t cure a drug or alcohol addiction. Addiction represents a desire for a change in mood, which means recovery must involve addressing the underlying issues that contributed to unhappiness with one’s current lifestyle.

Willpower Is Not Enough was first published in 1990, but each printing has involved updating the information to reflect contemporary views. The title is regularly recommended by members of 12-step groups as well as people who struggle with process addictions such as gambling addiction and sex addiction.

5. Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change by Jeffrey Foote, Carrie Wilkens, Nicole Kosanke, and Stephanie Higgs

Attempting to shame or punish people with a substance use disorder is a popular approach, but it’s one that never works. Beyond Addiction explains why positive reinforcement and kindness are more effective than “tough love” in promoting a lasting recovery. The book draws on the authors’ 40 collective years of research and clinical experience to promote progressive treatment approaches that make lasting change possible regardless of past struggles.

In addition to offering valuable insight for individuals in recovery by stressing the value of positive affirmations, Beyond Addiction provides a guide for friends and family of recovering substance abusers who wish to learn more about how they can best support their loved one’s sobriety.

6. Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions by Russell Brand

If traditional self-help books are too dry for your tastes, Russell Brand’s humorous and entertaining approach may be just what you need. Part memoir and part self-help guide, Recovery advocates the 12-step approach to sobriety by explaining in great detail how the steps can apply to your life.

An English comedian, actor, and radio host, Brand has been an outspoken recovery advocate due to his own struggles with heroin, alcohol, sex, and food addictions. As part of his activism in the recovery community, he opened a nonprofit coffee house in London operated by people in abstinence-based drug abuse recovery programs.

Understanding the Limits of Self-Help Books for Addiction Treatment

Although self-help books do offer some important benefits in recovery, they should not be used as a replacement for traditional forms of addiction treatment. Detox, counseling, and holistic treatments provide the best foundation for sobriety.

Self-help is only effective when a person can:

  • Clearly identify the problem
  • Approach treatment logically
  • Dedicate the necessary time and energy to achieving the desired results

Someone who is actively abusing drugs or alcohol is suffering from impaired impulse control, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. He or she is likely in deep denial about the extent of the addiction and will continue patterns of substance abuse despite any negative consequences that occur.

If you wish to use self-help books as part of your addiction recovery, they are best incorporated into your aftercare plan for maintaining sobriety following residential treatment.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

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Forgiving addicted parentsParents are supposed to provide their children with a source of support, strength, and unconditional love. Unfortunately, the parent-child relationship can be severely strained by the burden of addiction.

Find a Way to Confront Your Feelings

Parental addiction is more common than one might expect. Studies estimate that more than 28 million people in the United States have a parent who is addicted to alcohol or drugs.

Children with parents who suffer from substance abuse face a number of struggles in their early years. For example:

  • Looking after parents when they are drunk or intoxicated
  • Caring for younger siblings in a parent-like role
  • Cooking, cleaning, and performing other tasks associated with running a household
  • Having a lack of support to succeed in school
  • Enduring emotional neglect
  • Suffering physical abuse
  • Worrying about family finances, including the risk of hunger and homelessness
  • Being fearful that someone will find out about a parent’s addiction and separate the family
  • Feeling socially isolated from peers due to problems at home

Growing up with an addicted parent leaves a child with unresolved emotional issues, including feelings of resentment, fear, anxiety, bitterness, mistrust, and depression. To heal, you need to find a way to confront the trauma you’ve suffered and acknowledge how it has affected you.

Speaking to a counselor can help you process childhood trauma, as can attending a support group such as Al-Anon. Writing in a journal or expressing yourself through art and music can also help you explore your feelings about your childhood in a safe environment..

Separate Your Parent from the Addiction

To let go of past hurts, you must be able to separate your parent from his or her addiction. Substance abuse is a chronic illness with a biological basis. Once addiction takes hold, it’s very difficult to get your life back on track without professional intervention.

Recognizing that your parent wasn’t fully in control of his or her actions due to the influence of alcohol or drugs might mean brainstorming a list of happy memories to focus on. Remembering times when your parent wasn’t actively using can help remind you of your mother or father’s love.

Acknowledge that Parenting Is Difficult

Unfortunately, there is no rule book for parenting. Even the most well-intentioned parents with access to a strong support system can make terrible mistakes. If you’re harboring resentment towards your addicted parent, it might be helpful to acknowledge that no parent is perfect. All anyone can do is try to make the best of the given circumstances.

Acknowledging that no parent is perfect may include exploring the factors in your parent’s past that contributed to his or her addiction. Since substance abuse often runs in families, he or she may have grown up with an addicted parent. Depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues may also have played a role. While this doesn’t excuse bad behavior, it does help provide you with a better understanding of the challenges your parent was facing during your childhood.

Realize Forgiveness Is for Your Own Benefit

You might feel as though your addicted parent doesn’t deserve your forgiveness if he or she hasn’t specifically expressed remorse for past actions. While this is understandable, it’s important to realize that forgiveness is primarily for your benefit.

Holding on to resentment from the past affects your current relationships with friends, family, and coworkers. It makes you angry, scared, and afraid to move forward. Letting go makes it possible for you to move forward.

Imagine you have $86,400 in your bank account. If you discovered that someone stole $10 from you, would you spend the remaining $86,390 in hopes of seeking revenge? Would you risk being left with nothing instead of accepting the loss and moving on?

There are 86,400 seconds in every day. Letting go of the negative aspects of your past gives you time to focus on the blessings you do have.

Focus on Controlling Your Future

The past has already happened. For better or worse, previous events are out of your control. However, you have the power to decide how your future will unfold. You can either hold on to wounds from the past or decide to make a fresh start. The choice is yours alone.

If you’re struggling with substance abuse issues yourself, you can break the cycle of addiction by asking for help. Addiction may have a biological basis, but genetics aren’t destiny. Substance abuse can be treated with a medically assisted detox followed by a combination of individual and group therapy. Seeking treatment can help you build a better life for yourself and your loved ones.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

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family

A lasting recovery requires you to replace harmful habits with healthy alternatives. Family-friendly recreation lets you stay on track with your sobriety while making special memories with the people you care about the most.

Although it’s always a good idea to chat with your family to see what activities are of interest, here are some suggestions to help you start planning your next adventure.


Plant a Garden
Planting a garden is a wonderful family project if you enjoy being outside and working with your hands. Watering, weeding, and harvesting teaches responsibility to kids of all ages. There is also evidence that growing your own food promotes healthier eating habits for the whole family.

If you don’t have the luxury of a big backyard, don’t automatically write off the idea of planting a garden. A small container garden can be placed on your porch or sidewalk. You might not be able to grow all the food your family needs, but you can grow fresh herbs, carrots, onions, and tomatoes with relatively little space.

Take Up Geocaching
Geocaching is the modern-day version of a treasure hunt. Participants use a GPS receiver and other navigational techniques to search for containers known as geocaches that are hidden all over the world. The geocaches contain logs that document the activities of past participants and tiny trinkets for trading.  

In addition to finding geocaches, your family can also try creating and hiding your own geocaches. Picking out trinkets to fill the box and choosing a special hiding place is a great activity for children who are too young to actively participate in the act of finding a geocache. Visit the Geocaching 101 website to learn more.

Be a Tourist in Your Hometown
Traveling to far away locations is certainly exciting, but planning a trip can be time consuming and expensive. As an alternative, why not explore some of the destinations in your community that you’ve previously overlooked?

Zoos, aquariums, museums, art galleries, historical sites, and local landmarks are excellent places to visit for the entire family. If you’re on a tight budget, look for attractions that offer free or reduced-price admission on select days.

Go Camping
Spending time in nature and getting away from electronic distractions offers the chance to reconnect with the people you care about in a more meaningful way. You don’t even have to travel far, since you’ll experience many of the benefits of camping even if you’re simply pitching a tent in the backyard.

Younger children will love to make s’mores, collect fireflies in a jar, or skip rocks along the river. Older children can tell ghost stories, plan a scavenger hunt, or see how many constellations they can find. Photographing the beautiful scenery or playing outdoor games such as cornhole and horseshoes are also great options.

Plan a Game Night
A weekly family game night is sure to provide plenty of special memories. Scrabble, Monopoly, and Yahtzee are classic games that can be enjoyed by players of all ages, but there are plenty of newer board games to consider as well. If you’re not sure what types of games your family might enjoy, see if your local public library has titles to borrow. Many libraries now offer board games, puzzles, and movies to check out in addition to books and magazines.

Add a little extra element of fun to your family game night by purchasing a thrift store trophy that you can award to the winner. Kids love having tangible evidence of their victory, especially when it’s the first time they’ve managed to win against a parent or older sibling.

Have a Movie Marathon
A movie marathon is the perfect chance to share your favorite classic films with your children or to enjoy a series such as Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter together. With today’s plethora of streaming services, almost any movie you want is available with just a few clicks.

Create a cozy atmosphere by encouraging everyone to change into their pajamas and covering the living room floor with pillows and blankets. Break out the popcorn, soda, and candy, then get ready to enjoy some quality family bonding time.

Volunteer
There’s no greater joy in life than helping others. Volunteering lets you give back to your community, make new friends, and build new skills.

Here are some volunteer ideas that are appropriate for the whole family:

  • Help build a home through Habitat for Humanity.
  • Care for pets at a local animal shelter.
  • Prepare and distribute care packages for the homeless.
  • Organize a canned food drive.
  • Clean up a local park.
  • Help elderly neighbors with yard work.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

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