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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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Sign of Pennsylvania

St. Joseph Institute for Addiction’s rehab programs can provide you with medically supervised detox and counseling to build the skills necessary for sobriety. However, since addiction is a chronic illness, you may find it helpful to take advantage of some of these community-based resources for ongoing support.

Penn State Collegiate Recovery Center

Penn State’s Collegiate Recovery Community helps students recovering from substance abuse successfully reach their academic goals by connecting them with a variety of campus-based resources.

For example, students in need of campus housing can choose to live in the ROAR (Residence of Addiction Recovery) House. Located in the White Course Apartments, this drug and alcohol free community connects students with their peers in recovery to provide a safe and supportive living arrangement.

Support for students doesn’t end after they graduate. In addition to the student-run Lions for Recovery, there is also an alumni support group that helps graduates with substance abuse issues stay sober and take advantage of professional networking opportunities.

United Against Heroin Addiction

Formed to address the heroin epidemic in Centre County, United Against Heroin Addiction offers direct assistance to people with addiction problems, emotional support to those affected by addiction, and a number of community education and awareness programs. A key component of this process is the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP), a self-designed prevention and wellness process that can be used by people of all ages to address substance abuse as well as other mental health challenges.

In addition to working directly with those affected by addiction, United Against Heroin Addiction also advocates for effective legislation to address the state’s growing opioid epidemic and additional funding for research into new addiction treatment options. All of this work is made possible by a group of dedicated volunteers.

Just for Today

Founded in 2006, Just for Today provides addiction education and advocacy for the recovery community in central Pennsylvania. They are a licensed provider of Vivitrol, a non-narcotic, monthly intramuscular injection that blocks receptors in the brain associated with the “high” from opioids such as heroin or Oxycontin.

In addition to providing general recovery services, Just for Today offers special recovery houses for veterans, as well as recovery groups and meetings focusing on the unique challenges former service members face in maintaining their sobriety.

Women for Sobriety

Founded in 1975, Women for Sobriety is self-help recovery group for women offering face-to-face meetings as well as online chats and a 24/7 forum. They are not affiliated with any other recovery organization and operate by the philosophy ” “Release the past – plan for tomorrow – live for today.”

Although Women for Sobriety is based in Pennsylvania, they have members from throughout the U.S. and Canada. In June, the organization hosts an annual three-day conference to help members take the next step in their recovery.

Hearts for Homeless

If substance abuse issues are related to a lack of stable housing, Hearts for Homeless can help by provide temporary shelter, access to case managers, and 24/7 support. The organization serves those who are currently homeless as well as those who are in danger of becoming homeless.

In addition to offering connections to substance abuse treatment resources, Hearts for Homeless can provide job search assistance and help navigating problems with the criminal justice system. They are one of the few community shelters open during the day and encourage residents in need to drop in whenever they have questions or need a place to get away from the elements.

Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs

This state-run website helps you learn more about your insurance coverage for substance abuse treatment and provides a searchable directory of care providers within the state.

You can also use the site to search for your local county drug and alcohol office. Staff members at these offices are able to provide personalized assistance finding addiction treatment options, with a focus on free or low-cost choices for individuals who do not have adequate insurance coverage.

Centre Helps

Centre Helps offers a 24-hour hotline at 800-494-2500 or 814-237-5855 to help residents in crisis. In addition to answering questions about addiction treatment and recovery resources in Pennsylvania, they can provide answers about financial assistance for low-income people, help for victims of domestic abuse, and resources for the disabled.

If you’d rather talk to someone in person, you can visit the drop-in center that is open weekdays from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm at 410 South Fraser Street in State College. At the drop-in center, you can request a case manager who will be able to provide personalized assistance tailored to the specific challenges you are facing.

By Dana Hinders

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

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TeensThe term high functioning addict refers to someone who is outwardly successful while inwardly struggling with addiction. In contrast to the stereotypical vision of an addict as someone who is disheveled in appearance, struggling financially, and frequently in trouble with the law, a high functioning addict appears to have it all together.

People of all ages can be high functioning addicts, but this problem is most often seen with teens abusing drugs or alcohol. Teens can be high functioning simply because they have fewer responsibilities to juggle. However, once a teen heads off to college or the workforce, it will likely become more apparent that a problem exists.

Signs of a High Functioning Teen Addict

Learning to identify the signs of a high functioning addict can help you get treatment for your teen before drug or alcohol abuse takes over his or her life. Here’s what to watch for:

Seeming ill or irritable in the morning. Many teens dislike waking up early for school, but a teen with a drug or alcohol problem may complain of constant headaches, irritability, and fatigue during the morning hours. This could be the signs of withdrawal, which occurs when an addictive substance leaves the body.

A new group of friends with drinking or drug issues. Hanging out with a crowd that likes to “party” indicates that your teen is likely engaged in risky behaviors. Peer pressure can be a powerful motivator for young people.

Avoiding time with parents or concerned adults. A teen who is hiding an addiction may make excuses to avoiding spending time with people who have expressed worry about his or her drug or alcohol use. Your teen may wish to avoid a confrontation or be trying to protect others from knowing the truth.

Unexplained finances. A teen who has no job, but suddenly seems flush with cash may be dealing to support a drug habit. Items that go missing in your home or cash that disappears from your wallet may also indicate your teen is abusing drugs or alcohol.

Losing interest in sober hobbies. If your teen suddenly stops wanting to participate in extracurricular activities at school or past hobbies at home, this may suggest a preoccupation with drugs or alcohol.

An extreme desire for privacy. Although teens are entitled to some privacy, a teen who won’t answer basic questions about his or her whereabouts may have something serious to hide. Monitoring phone and computer usage may be necessary for your teen’s safety.

Convincing an Addicted Teen to Seek Help

A young high functioning addict is likely to be in deep denial. He or she may think that everything is under control, especially when school work and relationships with friends seem to be fine. However, the following signs indicate a problem regardless of how things appear to the casual observer:

  • Your teen believes drugs or alcohol are necessary to relax.
  • Your teen forgets what happened while he or she was under the influence.
  • Your teen makes poor decisions while under the influence, such as drinking and driving.
  • Your teen drinks or uses drugs when he or she didn’t intend to.
  • Your teen develops a tolerance or needs more of the abused substance to experience the same effects.
  • Your teen feels ill or experiences other designs of withdrawal when unable to use.

Planning an intervention is an excellent way to encourage a teen to seek treatment. An intervention is a structured meeting where parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers, coaches, friends, and other concerned parties come together to express their concerns and present a plan for treatment. This is done without judgement or accusation, but consequences are given for refusal. Review our post on How to Plan an Intervention to learn more.

How Treatment Promotes a Lasting Recovery

Addiction treatment depends on specific substance being abused and if a teen has any special considerations such as a co-occurring mental health disorder. However, the process typically begins with medical detox to clear the body of the addictive substance. During detox, a team of medical professionals provide 24/7 supervision and emotional support.

After detox, a teen will enter residential treatment. Individual and group therapy helps a teen learn the coping skills necessary to lead a fulfilling sober life. Holistic treatments such as music or art therapy help reinforce key lessons. Family therapy can help promote positive communication and break patterns of enabling or codependency.

Residential treatment is followed by a detailed aftercare plan that involves outpatient therapy, 12-step groups, and various community-based recovery resources. This helps create the support system necessary for a lasting recovery.

If you’re concerned about your teen’s drug or alcohol use, St. Joseph Institute for Addiction can help. Contact us today to learn more.

By Dana Hinders

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