The Best Books to Accompany Your Sober-Curious Journey

There are few things that I love more at this time of year than a great book list and curling up under a blanket with a cup of tea and an inspiring read. Some of these I found long before I considered taking a break from alcohol. I was curious and it was easier to look at someone else’s story rather than my own. Some are memoirs, while others are more factual and science-based.

They are all important because they help to change the narrative around drinking. I know there are many more great books out there in this genre, but here I share ten of my favorites. They are in no particular order.

We Are the Luckiest by Laura McKowen

This is Laura’s debut memoir where she affirms that those who have moved from addiction to sobriety really are the luckiest of all. Laura narrates her journey to sobriety in a brave, raw, deep, and hopeful voice. Her “thing” was alcohol, but this story will resonate for those suffering from any type of unwanted destructive behavior. The writing encourages you to take a deep and honest look inside yourself with self-compassion rather than shame. Laura is a very talented writer and a unique, unfiltered voice in this genre.

The typical question is, Is this bad enough for me to have to change? The question we should be asking is, Is this good enough for me to stay the same? And the real question underneath it all is, Am I free?

This Naked Mind by Annie Grace

This is the book that gave me a huge mindset shift around alcohol and led me on the path to become a life and health coach with a focus on alcohol. I’ve always believed in the incredible power of the unconscious mind and its influence on our behavior. After the birth of my daughter, I suffered from chronic lower back pain and was treated by Dr. John Sarno in New York City. He is the author of Healing Back Pain and The Mind Body Prescription. Dr. Sarno’s methodology gave me immediate and long-lasting relief. Annie uses the work of Dr. Sarno as inspiration and a foundation for dismantling our unconscious beliefs around alcohol. Her method ends the pain of cognitive dissonance between the conscious mind’s desire to drink less and the unconscious mind’s belief that alcohol is beneficial and necessary in our lives. Annie does an excellent job weaving the research and science with her own story of finding freedom from alcohol. The book offers a permanent solution to controlling your relationship with alcohol rather than a lifetime struggle using willpower as your primary tool.

Unconscious learning happens automatically and unintentionally through experiences, observations, conditioning, and practice. We’ve been conditioned to believe we enjoy drinking. We think it enhances our social life and relieves boredom and stress. We believe these things below our conscious awareness. This is why, even after we consciously acknowledge that alcohol takes more than it gives, we retain the desire to drink.

Alcohol Explained by William Porter

I read this book right after finishing This Naked Mind. William presents a very thoughtful, well-reasoned, and scientifically sound examination of how alcohol effects the body and mind and how we can use this knowledge to quit drinking without feeling deprived. He describes the reason why it is so difficult to have just one drink and explains the science behind alcohol’s ability to create a need for itself. I appreciate the practical explanations and the judgement of the drink rather than the drinker. William never tells you to stop drinking. The decision is in your hands. After reading this book you will understand why moderation can be so difficult.

A much fuller understanding comes when we factor in that the feeling of mental relaxation induced by alcohol doesn’t just dissipate leaving us feeling as we did before, it dissipates leaving a corresponding feeling of anxiety and distress. So when we start we want to just carry on, we want to relieve the anxious feeling, not suffer it, and if we cannot relieve it we would rather not suffer it at all.

Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp

This is a quietly moving and startling honest memoir of Caroline’s destructive relationship with alcohol. At times it seemed as though she was telling my story in a very elegant way. I read her book long before I considered giving up alcohol and I’ve since reread it two times. Opening the book reminds me of being granted access to a best friend’s journal as she shares her story in the most poignant way. Caroline very clearly and insightfully describes the insidious nature of alcohol and her descent along the spectrum of addiction. This is a one day read that you may struggle to put down.

For a long time, when it’s working, the drink feels like a path to a kind of self-enlightenment, something that turns us into the person we wish to be, or the person we think we are. In some ways the dynamic is this simple: alcohol makes everything better until it makes everything worse.

The Alcohol Experiment by Annie Grace

I read this book for the first time to accompany my participation in This Naked Mind’s Live Alcohol Experiment. The material itself is not significantly different from This Naked Mind, but I included it here because it is the perfect thirty-day guide to taking a break from alcohol. The updated version includes prompts and space for journaling. I recommend reading with curiosity and an open mind as you explore the most common beliefs about alcohol. This is a wonderful read for anyone wondering what a life without alcohol is like. Try it for thirty days and see how you feel.

And so the language that’s developed around alcohol, and the attitude of blaming the person instead of the substance, has created this huge taboo against talking about it at all. We treat every other substance that’s bad for us differently than we treat alcohol.

The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray

Reading this book gave me hope and quite a few laughs as I dove into it during a dry January. Catherine’s story is highly relatable as she writes with wit, wisdom, and self-deprecation. She realistically describes the hellish cycle of drinking, horrible decisions and hangovers, swearing alcohol off only to repeat the same cycle the next weekend. The thing I liked most about this book is Catherine’s focus on navigating her life after she had quit drinking and the joy she discovered along the way. She clearly demonstrates that life is far from boring without alcohol.

Our natural, intended state is drug-free. We’re only losing something we never actually needed in the first place, but were told we did, and grew to rely on. Turns out we’re much more aerodynamic, efficient and graceful without the extra appendage. Run! Twirl! Enjoy how much better you feel without it.

Quit Like A Woman by Holly Whitaker

This is a brave and beautiful memoir that examines the drinking culture and the failure of traditional treatment modalities to address the unique needs of women. Holly questions why as a society we are obsessed with health and wellness, yet we continue to uphold alcohol as some sort of magical elixir. In fact, the only thing ever questioned is why someone doesn’t drink. The writing is vulnerable, raw, and unapologetic. This is a must read for any woman questioning her relationship with alcohol.

There is the life that most of us live, and then there is the life we have buried deep inside us, the life we know we’re supposed to be living.

Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola

Sarah writes like your smart, witty friend as she describes what many drinkers have experienced, that loss of memory that leaves you trying to piece together the night before. She clearly explains what is actually happening to the brain during a blackout and why it is not as benign as we might think. This is a memoir written with a certain energy and intensity that makes it hard to put down.

Three hours gone from my brain. During uncomfortable conversations with my friends, I would listen in disbelief as they told stories about me that were like the work of an evil twin. I said what? I did what? But I didn’t want to portray how little I knew.

Nothing Good Can Come from This by Kristi Coulter

This is Kristi’s first book and I enjoyed it immensely. It’s a wonderful collection of essays that address not drinking from many different angles. The essays are short, heartrending, and at times laugh out loud funny. Overall, this is a compelling narrative that beautifully articulates what many women are afraid to talk about.

First I had to pass through the just-got-sober part, where I was safest holed up at home with a cozy mystery and vats of ice cream. Then there was the wonderment phase, where I realized that the vaguely tired feeling I’d had for years had actually been a constant low-grade hangover and that I never had to have one again.

Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol by Ann Dowsett Johnston

Drink is a comprehensive and well researched book that interweaves Ann’s story with in depth studies on the increase in risky drinking among women. The book examines the rise in the marketing of alcohol to women and how persuasive and pervasive alcohol has become. Ann’s book is an insightful, thought provoking hybrid of memoir and research. She clearly addresses the reasons why women and alcohol have become a risky mix. 

Whenever I had too much to drink, this was my mantra: “I’m fine.” Teetering across pink granite in lake county, late at night: “I’m fine.” Tossing off my high heels, after a gala awards night: “I’m fine.” It was easy to say without slurring, and it was defiant. It never changed. Except I wasn’t fine. Not even close. 

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The Best Books to Accompany Your Sober-Curious Journey

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