The best memoirs of drug and alcohol addiction

Who am I?

I used my first chemicals at age nine. Why? To change the way I felt about myself and my life. It was the beginning of using externals to fix an internal problem. A 74-year old Native American found me at ten months in recovery. He showed me a path to follow, including opening a house of healing for other women. His teachings, spiritual principles, and a lot of work helped me achieve 32 years in recovery.


I wrote...

Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate

By Marilyn Davis,

Book cover of Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate

What is my book about?

Today, Marilyn is a Certified Addiction Recovery Empowerment Specialist, recently celebrating thirty-two years of abstinence-based recovery. From 1990-2011, she opened and managed North House, an award-winning residential facility for women. Before reaching this milestone, she was a desperate woman on drugs, managing rock bands at night, pretending to be okay, but ultimately giving up on herself, losing her husband, children, and friends due to her addiction.

New in recovery, a chance encounter with Gray Hawk, a 74-year old Native American, showed her that healing herself would include looking within, taking Steps, and creating a house of healing for other women. This book is that journey.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget

Marilyn Davis Why did I love this book?

Unexplained men and bruises the next morning are only a few of the unremembered experiences Sarah Hepola recalls in this honest, raw, poignant memoir. Finding that her creativity didn’t come from a bottle, she gets sober and finds a life she didn’t know she wanted.

By Sarah Hepola,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Blackout as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

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…


Book cover of I Swear I'll Make It Up to You: A Life on the Low Road

Marilyn Davis Why did I love this book?

In 1992, Mishka Shubaly survived a mass shooting at his school, his parents divorced, his father abandoned him, and he swore he would right all the wrongs for his mother. Instead, he began a love affair with the bottle and barely crawled out, but he did, and we cheer him on at each twist and turn in his journey.

By Mishka Shubaly,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Swear I'll Make It Up to You as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An odyssey of family, heartbreak, violence, punk rock, brokenness, broke-ness, sex, love, loss, drinking, drinking, drinking, and an unlikely savior: distance running.A misfit kid at the best of times, Mishka Shubaly had his world shattered when, in a twenty-four-hour span in 1992, he survived a mass shooting on his school's campus, then learned that his parents were getting divorced. His father, a prominent rocket scientist, abandoned the family and their home was lost to foreclosure. Shubaly swore to avenge the wrongs against his mother, but instead plunged into a magnificently toxic love affair with alcohol.Almost two decades later, Shubaly's life…


Book cover of Drinking: A Love Story

Marilyn Davis Why did I love this book?

Knapp writes about her life and struggles with anorexia and alcoholism with the same attention to detail that she put into her career as a journalist. The writing is witty, heartfelt, and encouraging to any alcoholic and any woman struggling to find their true worth.

By Caroline Knapp,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Drinking as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Fifteen million Americans a year are plagued with alcoholism. Five million of them are women. Many of them, like Caroline Knapp, started in their early teens and began to use alcohol as "liquid armor," a way to protect themselves against the difficult realities of life. In this extraordinarily candid and revealing memoir, Knapp offers important insights not only about alcoholism, but about life itself and how we learn to cope with it.

It was love at first sight. The beads of moisture on a chilled bottle. The way the glasses clinked and the conversation flowed. Then it became obsession. The…


Book cover of Girl Walks Out of a Bar: A Memoir

Marilyn Davis Why did I love this book?

A New York lawyer, Lisa F. Smith, spirals downward while her friends reach new heights in their careers, life, and relationships. Cocaine, booze, lies, and depression fuel her descent. It’s raw; it’s honest, and it’s a beautiful story of redemption and recovery.

By Lisa F. Smith,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Girl Walks Out of a Bar as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Lisa Smith gives us a darkly comic, honest, and completely relatable inside look at high-functioning addiction in the world of corporate law-a sort of 'Sex and the Psych Ward.' It's inspiring, informative, and impossible to put down."  
 
--Jennifer Belle, best-selling author of High Maintenance and The Seven Year Bitch
 
"Whether she's telling the town car driver to turn around so she can ditch showing up for her niece's birth and meet her coke dealer, or staging her own semi-intervention, Smith takes us into the mind of someone who's completely in control while being radically out of control. This girl may…


Book cover of Woman of Substances: A Journey Into Drugs, Alcohol and Treatment

Marilyn Davis Why did I love this book?

Journalist Jenny Valentish knows treatment, AA, and the pathways to addiction and recovery. It’s brutally honest, and her story reads like so many others – some who didn’t make it to recovery. She further educates the reader with research and a better understanding of the psychology and physiology that drive female addiction with humor and exceptional insight.

By Jenny Valentish,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Woman of Substances as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Journalist Jenny Valentish takes a gendered look at drugs and alcohol, using her own story to light the way. Mining the expertise of 35 leading researchers, clinicians and psychiatrists, she explores the early predictors of addictive behaviour, such as trauma, temperament and impulsivity.

Drawing on neuroscience, she explains why other self-destructive behaviours - such as eating disorders, compulsive buying and high-risk sex - are interchangeable with problematic substance use. From her childhood in suburban Slough to her chaotic formative years in the London music scene, we follow her journey to Australia, where she experiences firsthand treatment facilities and AA groups,…


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A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

By Janet Hulstrand,

Book cover of A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

Janet Hulstrand Author Of A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Reader Editor Francophile Minnesotan Once and forever Brooklynite

Janet's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

This memoir chronicles the lives of three generations of women with a passion for reading, writing, and travel. The story begins in 1992 in an unfinished attic in Brooklyn as the author reads a notebook written by her grandmother nearly 100 years earlier. This sets her on a 30-year search to find her grandmother’s journals and uncover the hidden interior lives of her mother and grandmother.

Her adventures take her to a variety of locations, from a small town in Iowa to New York, Washington, London, and Paris—and finally to a little village in France, where she is finally able to write the book that will tell her own story, intertwined with the stories of her mother and grandmother.

A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

By Janet Hulstrand,

What is this book about?

This story, about three generations of women with a passion for reading, writing, and travel, begins in 1992, in an unfinished attic in Brooklyn, as a young writer reads journals written by her grandmother as a schoolgirl nearly 100 years earlier. This sets her on a 30-year quest to uncover the hidden lives and unfulfilled dreams of her mother and grandmother. In this coming-of-middle-age memoir, the author comes to realize that the passion for travel and for literature that has fueled her life's journey is a gift that was passed down to her by the very role models she was…


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