Learning about addiction and sobriety is helpful for recovery. It’s empowering to understand your own and others’ experiences.
At five and a half years sober, I still read anything I can get my hands on about these topics. In that spirit, here are some books about addiction, recovery, and mental health to add to the ones we recommended here, here, and here.
Never Enough: The Neuroscience and Experience of Addiction by Judith Grisel
Judith Grisel is a behavioral neuroscientist who is in recovery. When she was at a low point in addiction, she came to the conclusion that no amount of drugs or alcohol would ever be enough. This theory ultimately led her to get sober—and to spend her life learning about addiction.
Grisel weaves her personal experience with science, focusing on the particular ways each drug affects the brain. The brain seeks balance, adjusting levels of dopamine and other neurotransmitters to account for that received from drugs.
This is why people with addictions can never have enough. While that can be distressing, the book is ultimately hopeful. It highlights the brain’s remarkable ability to learn, adapt, and change—in addiction, but also in recovery.
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction by Gabor Maté
Maté is a medical doctor who treats people severely addicted to drugs. His patients deal not only with the consequences of drug addiction, but also with immense stigma. Maté begins by telling some of their stories of addiction and trauma. He then uses those stories to explain why people engage in deeply self-destructive behaviors.
The book is empathetic, aiming to break the stigma surrounding addiction. Maté emphasizes the ways early trauma changes the brain. He also discusses behavioral addictions, including his own. He provides alternatives to the War on Drugs and methods for healthy coping. While our understanding and beliefs around addiction change quickly and the book is now 13 years old, it still feels very relevant.
Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker
This book centers on a family with 12 children born between 1945 and ‘65, six of whom were diagnosed with Schizophrenia. The family participated in numerous studies over the course of many years.
Researchers are still trying to understand Schizophrenia. The ways we as a society view this mental health disorder change frequently. Interspersed with stories about the family is information about the changing beliefs and research.
Kolker doesn’t focus solely on the kids who were diagnosed, but also the impact on those who weren’t sick. It’s an important reminder that mental health and addiction impact not only the person with the condition, but those in their life.
A warning that the book contains both physical and sexual violence. The only issue I have with this incredible book is that—as far as I remember—Kolker never mentions that most people with Schizophrenia are not violent. While many of these particular people with Schizophrenia were, this is a damaging stereotype about Schizophrenia in general. In fact, people with Schizophrenia are 14 times more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence.
Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy
This book is about the origins of the opioid crisis starting in the 90’s—though it goes further back to discuss humanity’s long relationship with opium and opioids. Macy explains how opioids began being prescribed regularly, including how pharmaceutical companies would persuade doctors to prescribe these drugs.
Macy interviews doctors who were sounding the alarm early about liberal prescribing of OxyContin, mothers whose children died of an overdose, people who have used and sold drugs, and many more. She paints a clear picture of how the opioid crisis spread from rural places like Central Appalachia to cities and suburbs—making it clear how it became a national epidemic.
These books all give insight into addiction and mental health. They can aid your understanding of these topics on the societal, individual, and neurological level. Happy reading!
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is hope. Amatus Recovery Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you build healthy coping skills for lasting sobriety. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.