Books about breaking free from the suffocating grip of addiction are important – especially the ones that are brutally honest and challenge the status quo. Some have happy endings; some conclude with a palpable sense of heartache. Hundreds of addiction-related memoirs are published each year and, no matter the specific affliction, readers gravitate toward authors who are fearless and authentic.
According to the World Drugs report of 2012, an estimated 230 million people worldwide struggle with some form of addiction. Though the road to recovery isn’t easy, in the end, it’s always worth the struggle. With that in mind, here’s a look at seven must-read books that speak to the heart of addiction.
- Broken: My Story of Addiction and Redemption: Broken is a gritty and true-to-life tale of recovery as told by William Cope Moyers. As a young man, Moyers was locked in an unrelenting love affair with crack cocaine. The addiction eventually led him to the brink of death, with no obvious light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks to a loving support system, Moyers eventually embraced equal amounts of spirituality and recovery. In the end, Moyers conquered his shame, transformed his life, and dedicated himself to changing the politics of addiction in the United States. Learn more.
- Up from Down: A True Story of Recovery from Addiction: Strung out on heroin, Ted Adamson did what he had to do to survive. His days and nights were spent trying to satisfy an addiction that could never truly be quenched. From county jail to state prison, Up from Down gives readers a real life glimpse into the life of a junkie. Nothing is sugarcoated; Adamson describes his world and all its ugliness with crisp, disturbing clarity. From the Church of Synanon’s bizarre addiction therapies to our modern 12-step programs, readers will be taken aback by Adamson’s journey and inspired by his ultimate redemption. Learn more.
- Tweak: Growing Up On Methamphetamines: Nic Sheff grew up way too fast. By his early teenage years, Sheff regularly abused pot, cocaine, and MDMA. He’d also developed addictions to crystal meth and heroin. Despite all the obvious signs of addiction, Sheff thought he’d be able to quit whenever he wanted to. It took one nearly fatal relapse in California to convince him otherwise. In a voice that is raw and honest, Sheff paints himself as a young man at odds with his past, his family, and himself. It’s a ghastly tale that, despite the trials and obstacles, concludes with a welcome sense of hope. Learn more.
- In My Skin: A Memoir of Addiction : Kate Holden, for all intents and purposes, seemed to have it all. She was a college graduate from a solid middle-class home. Despite outward appearances, Holden was painfully shy and chronically depressed. When she tried her first hit of heroin, she had no idea that the drug would take over. She eventually lost her job, apartment, and friends. She stole money from her family and, when push came to shove, sold her body to support her heroin habit. Thanks to the unyielding love of family, Holden ultimately conquered her addiction and never looked back. Learn more.
- Scar Tissue: Think rock stars are immune to the pitfalls of addiction? Well, Red Hot Chili Peppers front man Anthony Kiedis begs to differ. Scar Tissue is a detailed account of Kiedis’ addictions to drugs and sex. Readers learn about his first drug experience, which took place under the tutelage of his father. By the time his band gained popularity in the 1980s, Kiedis and bandmate Hillel Slovak had severe drug addictions. Slovak died from an overdose in 1988, prompting Kiedis to skip town and miss the funeral. Haunted by his friend’s death, Kiedis plunged even deeper into his addictions. After a few failed attempts at sobriety, the Chili Peppers’ singer finally got clean and has remained sober since December 2000. Learn more.
- Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain: On the outside, Portia de Rossi appeared thin, beautiful, and successful. On the inside, however, the actress was quickly marching toward death’s door. In her first leading movie role, de Rossi was struggling with an eating disorder and weighed a mere 82 pounds. She eventually collapsed on the set of that film. Unbearable Lightness is the story of de Rossi’s life, first as a child model and then as an extremely successful television actress. In this unflinchingly honest book, she captures the complex emotional truth of what it is like when food, weight, and body image take priority over everything else in life. She also describes the Hollywood push to be “perfect” and how that pressure often leads to an eating disorder. Learn more.
- Born to Lose: Memoirs of a Compulsive Gambler: Set in San Francisco’s Chinatown, Bill Lee’s Born to Lose blows the lid off of gambling addiction and its terrible grip on Chinatown culture. From gambling away a treasured baseball card collection at the age of nine to betting everything he owned at blackjack tables in Las Vegas, each and every loss Lee encountered only made him feel worse. Lee details what gambling addicts are feeling, illustrating the pain and hopelessness that brought him to ruin. He also shares the beauty of recovery and explains how the 12-step program single-handedly saved his life. Learn more.