This is the dresser next to my bed. All of these books have been recommended to me in the last year and a half by therapists, teachers, and friends in recovery. Most of them I haven’t read yet, but I’m happily working my way through the stacks. And I say happily because reading has been one of the most gratifying, inspiring and important parts of my recovery–right up there with getting treatment, continuing in therapy and going to AA meetings. Click the “Read More” link below for a list of top picks, descriptions, and links.
First, I’m excited that my attention span has recovered to the point where I can sit down and read a book, if only for 15 minutes! That had become impossible for my drug-addled brain during the last round of my drinking and using. Second, the new insights and knowledge I am gaining here keep me in a place of wonder. That kind of spiritual headspace where you’re starting to suspect there’s more going on here than meets the eye, and it’s really really good stuff… And third, I’m arming myself with tools on how to stay sober, how to live a happy and meaningful life, and how to help others. All of which makes me feel better and quiets the voices of the negative, critical committee in my head. I’m glad I’m having a spiritual awakening of the educational variety, like it talks about in the Big Book of AA, because it continues to unfold and get better and better.
And if you’re not a big reader, I know almost all of these books are available for download in audio book form (I recommend the Audible app which ties into Amazon, and delivers audiobooks to your phone at a discount). I’ve listened to a good number of books this way as well, while commuting or roadtripping, or just killing time at the DMV. Which is amazing in and of itself – to receive recovery and inspiration passively while driving or waiting. And I arrive with a vastly improved state of mind. Listening to a book on my iPhone distracts me from the predictable hassle of fighting traffic in LA. For once I don’t fight, I just let the traffic carry me along while I listen and think.
So here are my top recommendations, if you’d like some inspiration. These are the books that have helped me the most in my recovery, among the many I have read. I hope you get from any of them what I have. You won’t regret it.
“The Untethered Soul,” Michael Singer – We studied this book like a textbook in rehab, for good reason. Definitely my number one favorite for getting relief from the disease of addiction, which is centered in the mind. This book shows us how to understand the voices in our head, step back from our thoughts and our feelings, and find the “silent witness” or seat of consciousness behind it all. A place of infinite calm, peace of mind, and divine wisdom that we all have inside. In essence, how to accept reality and thrive, no matter what’s coming at you. If you’re a Big Book reader, this is my “new pair of glasses.”
“The Surrenter Experiment” Michael Singer – This author’s new book which is autobiographical, about explains how he came to learn the lessons he offers in Untethered Soul. A virtual “how to” if you love the Untethered Soul as much as I did. This man went from an engineering doctoral student, to a solitary yogi, a spiritual leader, and then founder of a Fortune 500 company. Lots of miracles in there.
“You Are Here,” Thich Nhat Hahn – A perfect primer on Buddhism which opened my mind in a kind and useful way. This was my substitute for Xanax in the first six months after rehab, when I was still prone to anxiety attacks. Immediately reminds you that you’re exactly where you were meant to be in any moment, and elevates your vibe into the vast consciousness.
“Loving What Is,” Byron Katie – This woman’s work is nothing short of revolutionary. I listened to this in my car on a road trip, and you can hear the peace, love and WISDOM in her voice. She teaches in a very concrete way how to create your reality (because EVERYTHING is perception) and how to take the bull by the horns and make your life awesome. This is only possible by accepting reality and loving it anyway.
“Rewired – A Bold New Approach to Addiction & Recovery,” Erica Spiegelman – I had the good fortune to get these teachings from Erica firsthand. Her simple belief that there are a million paths to recovery was revolutionary to me after 10 years in AA. It opened up new doors and gave me hope, then eventually belief, that a new life was possible for me. Further, she shows how we can put together a plan and a life that optimizes our unique gifts in this world. If you need to get sober, and neither AA nor treatment sounds appealing, this book would be an excellent place to get started.
“The Goldfinch,” Donna Tartt – I needed a break from the avalanche of spiritual and self-realization reading I had been doing. Ms. Tartt is one of my all-time favorite authors, so this was an absolute joyride, and an epic, Pulitzer Prize-winning work of art. Story starts with a terrorist bombing at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, leaving the teenage narrator motherless but in possession of a priceless piece of art…
“Getting Unstuck” Pema Chodron – This is actually a recording of a live talk with Ms. Chodron, an extremely articulate, warm and relatable Buddhist monk and teacher. I listen to her in my car on a weekly basis. Any of her many recordings will give you a vision and path toward being serene and happy under ALL circumstances. I can’t tell you how much having Pema whispering in my ear has helped me maintain my sobriety, and better, maintain the attitude that I will be OK no matter what happens, and learn to love the process. Also check out “Don’t Bite That Hook,” and “True Happiness.”
“The Gifts of Imperfection” – Brene Brown – This time around, it’s all about uncovering the “simple truths” I have lived by my whole life, which are actually simply untrue. For example, when I got into therapy, I had no idea I was a rabid perfectionist. It is my default perception that I take it TOO easy on myself–that I am in fact lazy. It turns out quite the opposite is true – I’m too much of a perfectionist to really TRY at anything, because I live in fear of my inner critic adding more false evidence to the pile. So when I give myself a break, it gets a lot easier to get some shit DONE without fretting over the results. One of my biggest breakthroughs in recovery–I drank over this stuff.
“Journey of Souls,” Michael Newton, PhD – I have a fascination for past lives and near-death experiences, which are actually evolving into a belief system I can use in my recovery (a higher power, if you will). This book is from a psychologist who examines past lives of thousands of clients under hypnosis and what they report happens BETWEEN lives. This was huge for me – made me unafraid to die, and more interested in how to learn the lessons I’m here to learn in THIS life.
“The War of Art,” Steven Pressfield – A concise and perceptive book about not resisting your true calling. A significant part of my addiction manifested as a result of spending my days working in a field I really despised. Would have been helpful to have this book 20 years ago…
“The Dream at the End of the World,” Michelle Green – An intellectual and romantic portrayal of the literary expat scene in Tangier in the 1950’s. Appearances by Paul Bowles, William Burroughs, Truman Capote, Jack Kerouac, Alan Ginsburg, plus assorted colorful local personalities you couldn’t make up. This book provided the perfect escapist summer read while I was in rehab. An extremely well-researched and artfully written view into a different time and reality.
“In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts” Gabor Mate – This book is currently revolutionizing how we as a culture approach addiction treatment. As a prominent doctor in Vancouver and long-term addiction specialist, Mate includes the latest research showing that addiction is a brain disease, and explains how addicts have lost the ABILITY to stop drinking or using. I gained valuable insights into my own disease, as well as a better understanding of addiction science and its implications for new methods of treatment.
“Dying to Be Me,” Anita Moorjani – An amazing story of a woman dying from cancer who has a near-death experience, gains an incredible insight into the spiritual realm, followed by a complete return to health unaided by medicine. I just dig her worldview–a clear and simple voice illuminating extremely ethereal concepts through her own experience.
“Spiritual Astrology,” Jan Spiller & Karen McCoy – Specifics about your personality based on your birth chart and all the positions of the planets in the houses. Gave me a clear view of the assets I have in this life, and what I have to work on.