6 Essential Books for Those with an Addicted Loved One

by Dean Dauphinais on 14 September 2015 in Life in Recovery | updated on 1 July 2016

Loving someone who suffers from addiction is one of the hardest things a human being can go through. The situations and emotions a person experiences while a loved one struggles with drugs or alcohol can be completely overwhelming. But things can always be better.

Here are six books that will educate you and help you find peace of mind.

Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change

By Jeffrey Foote, Carrie Wilkens and Nicole Kosanke, with Stephanie Higgs

Writing a checklistI’ve read dozens of books on addiction, treatment, and self-help. Believe me when I say that this book is unlike any of the others I’ve read. Written by experts at the Center for Motivation and Change, Beyond Addiction is a truly unique guide for people who are dealing with a loved one’s substance use disorder. This isn’t another tough love book that tells you to get your loved one into rehab and totally detach from them. Instead it teaches you how you can play an active, important role in affecting change in your loved one, by using—are you ready for this?–kindness and love. It also stresses the importance of self-care, which is so often overlooked by those who are trying to help a loved one in the throes of addiction. I wish this book had been around when my wife and I were trying to figure out how to handle our son’s addiction. It would’ve made things a lot easier.

Words of Wisdom: “Recognizing that for most people change is more like learning to read than getting hit on the head with an apple, you’ll be less likely to blame a loved one for being ‘bad at it’ in the beginning or despair when he has bad days later on…. Change isn’t magic. It does not take a miracle. Change takes thought, planning, and work, and reasons to do something different. You can help make it worth it for your loved one, by helping to create an environment in which positive behavior is rewarded by your affection, presence, collaboration, and other forms of reinforcement, while negative behavior is shut out in the cold.”

Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction

By David Sheff

I tell people this is the book that saved my life while my son was battling his addiction, and I mean that with every ounce of my being. It’s the best book I’ve ever read because it moved me like no other book has. David Sheff is a master storyteller whose writing is brutally honest and thought provoking. This isn’t just a book about a son’s addiction and how it affected all those around him, it’s a parental love story; one that will make you realize you’re not alone, while validating all of the thoughts and feelings you’ve ever had about your addicted loved one. Better than that, Beautiful Boy is also a story of hope.

Words of Wisdom: “Like many in my straits, I became addicted to my son’s addiction. When it preoccupied me, even at the expense of my responsibilities to my wife and other children, I justified it. I thought, “How can a parent not be consumed by his child’s life-or-death struggle? But I learned that my preoccupation with Nic didn’t help him and may have harmed him. Or maybe it was irrelevant to him. However, it surely harmed the rest of my family – and me. Along with this, I learned another lesson, a soul-shaking one: our children live or die with or without us. No matter what we do, no matter how we agonize or obsess, we cannot choose for our children whether they live or die. It is a devastating realization, but also liberating. I finally chose life for myself. I chose the perilous but essential path that allows me to accept that Nic will decide for himself how – and whether – he will live his life.”

Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself

By Melody Beattie

…to say that codependency is prevalent among people whose loved ones are fighting addiction would be an understatement.TIME magazine has called Melody Beattie “an American phenomenon,” and this book—which has sold more than 5 million copies—is big reason why. When someone else’s problem becomes your problem, chances are very good that you’re codependent. And to say that codependency is prevalent among people whose loved ones are fighting addiction would be an understatement. When people we love are struggling and hurting, it’s so easy to throw ourselves right into the middle of their situation. Alas, that doesn’t do anyone any good. We can’t control or “fix” anybody but ourselves, and Beattie does a masterful job of explaining how to reign in our codependent tendencies. If you feel like you’ve lost sight of your own life while dealing with the drama of a loved one’s life, this book is for you.

Words of Wisdom: “If I make one point in this book, I hope it is that the surest way to make ourselves crazy is to get involved in other people’s business, and the quickest way to become sane and happy is to tend to our own affairs.”

Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy

By David Sheff

Clean is a landmark book on addiction that tackles a myriad of issues head-on: prevention, diagnosis, genetics, treatment, relapse, stigma, and using medications for treatment are just some of the topics David Sheff discusses. The most important theme that runs throughout this book, though, is that of hope. Addiction can be prevented, but even if someone does succumb to the disease, there are ways to treat it…there are ways for people to get and stay clean. If you have been affected by addiction, you must read this book. If you have kids entering their formative years, you must read this book. If there is a history of addiction in your family, you must read this book. Even if you don’t fit any of those categories, I’d still recommend you read Clean to get a remarkable insight into one of the biggest issues facing our country today.

Words of Wisdom: “Most drug use isn’t about drugs; it’s about life. Our prevention and treatment efforts have failed mostly because they’ve focused on dealing with the drugs themselves, but drug abuse is almost always the result of kids starting to use early, genetics, and other problems – stress, trauma, mental illness, or some combination of these factors. The new paradigm is rooted in recognizing that drugs are a symptom, not a cause, and whatever problems underlie them must be (and can be) addressed. Until they are, our prevention and treatment systems will continue to fail most people.”

Don’t Let Your Kids Kill You: A Guide for Parents of Drug and Alcohol Addicted Children

By Charles Rubin

One of the most common mistakes mothers and fathers of children with substance abuse problems make is forgetting about their own well-being and recovery. The roller coaster ride of addiction doesn’t only affect the drug user; it affects the entire family – especially the parents. In Don’t Let Your Kids Kill You, Charles Rubin lets parents know that their lives are just as important as their child’s, and that self-care isn’t selfish, but absolutely necessary. This book is a guide to healing and living a better life for those who so desperately need it. Rubin also comforts parents by dispelling the notion that they are to blame for their kids’ problems, a feeling so many parents struggle with.

Words of Wisdom: “A major change occurs when the parent of an addict switches off the victim role and takes on an entirely new identity, that of the strong, highly-resolved individual who knows there’s life after drugged kids. For one thing, the parent feels a surge of freedom that is exhilarating. It’s like emerging into bright sunshine after many years in a dark cell. For another, the parent will now be able to pick up the pieces of his or her broken life, start new projects, meet new people, do all those things that have been delayed.”

Addict in the Family: Stories of Loss, Hope, and Recovery

By Beverly Conyers

Personal stories are one of the best ways to learn about any subject, and addiction is no exception. In Addict in the Family, Beverly Conyers educates us through heart-wrenching stories that validate all of the feelings families of addicts feel. Some of this book can be painful to read, but it’s so cathartic to learn that others feel the same intense pain that we’ve felt. There are many important lessons to be learned in this book.

Words of Wisdom: “Todd was voicing important questions that haunt anyone who has ever loved an addict: ‘What did I do that caused this problem?’ and ‘What can I do to fix it?’ He had not yet discovered the simple truth about addiction that is so hard for families to accept: You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, and you can’t cure it.”

Learn more about alcohol abuse, drug addiction and the recovery process.

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