The 20 Best Addiction & Recovery Memoirs

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Every recovering addict has a story that tells his or her own personal journey of addiction and recovery and in some cases, relapse. Although the physical symptoms of addiction may be similar, no two stories are identical. But each one aims for the same ending: sobriety.

Reading the challenges others have faced or even hearing it through songs about addiction, it can all serve as a reminder that you don’t have to feel alone with what you’re going through. By picking up one of these memoirs about addiction, you may realize how much you can relate and how inspired you may feel at the end to seek the treatment you need. If you are a loved one of someone who is suffering from addiction, it might give a better insight into their world and give you a better idea of how you can help. This only starts the list of addiction memoirs that have been published throughout the decades. Maybe one of the stories closely resembles yours.

#1: Dry by Augusten Burroughs

Augusten Burroughs, best known for his book-turned-movie Running with Scissors, wrote with the same dry insight and wit for his memoir, Dry. As an accomplished ad guy working in one of NYC’s top agencies, his fast-paced lifestyle catches up to him as his alcoholism takes over. In moments the book will have you laughing and crying at the same time, because of Burroughs’ raw storytelling and brutally honest, but tender-hearted cynicism.

#2: Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp

Almost a cheeky take on a title, Knapp writes about her addiction to alcohol in a purely honest manner without any sensationalism to tell the story of how she hit rock bottom. She had a desire to drink and wrote about it in a way that many can relate to because at one point, she questions if her alcoholism is something she can take control of on her own. This way of thinking is a slippery path for anyone dealing with addiction because it can often end up with the person relapsing.

#3: We All Fall Down: Living with Addiction by Nic Scheff

Scheff’s follows his journey through addiction by the way of his published works. In 2008, he wrote and released Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines and soon after, relapsed. His straightforward approach to writing about a world he knows all too well, he shares about struggles with addiction. It may seem like a familiar story; the desire to stop and going through the recovery process, only to relapse. Knowing how drugs can negatively affect your life isn’t always the surefire way to maintaining long-term sobriety, at least not for Scheff.

#4: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Strayed debuted her memoir in 2012 and made herself a household name when actress Reese Witherspoon turned her story into a movie by the same name in 2014. The story has meant a lot of things to many people and only briefly talks about her addiction in the beginning of her book. But for many, the memoir may resonate due to everything else that was going on in her life at the time. The death of her mother, her divorce, and sense of loss would’ve been triggers to cause her spiraling down the addiction path rather than walking a sober one along the PCT.

#5: The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll

Who knew that the mid-90’s movie starring a young Leonardo DiCaprio, at the beginning of his career, was actually based on the teenage diaries of memoirist Jim Carroll? In the book, Carroll recalls his middle school years and the effects of his life as a pre-teen, during his basketball career, and early addiction to heroin. Although the book was first published in 1978 and the decline of heroin addiction for children ages 12 – 18 have declined in more recent years, his frank look back on his life during that time depicts addiction from a different, younger perspective.

#6: A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

The 2003 book quickly rose to fame after hitting Oprah’s Book Club but soon after, Frey was deemed a “fraud” for his memoir. The book was later marketed as a semi-fictional novel after he was accused of making up several important details. The story here is of a 23 year-old James who is suffering from alcoholism and crack addiction and how he spends his time in rehab. Regardless of the affiliated genre, readers of Frey’s work either love him or hate him due to his unique style of narrative, which is jarring to some.

#7: The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star by Nikki Sixx

Motley Crue bass guitarist known for the wild antics of your average rock ‘n’ roller and he depicts his struggle with addiction and how it affected his life and career in his memoir. Less about shock value and more about telling it as it happened, reading Sixx’s novel makes it hard to tell the difference between the two.

#8: A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown

This tormented addiction memoir is nothing of what the title suggests. Brown takes on the story of her recovery from drug addiction, alcoholism, dealing with the death of her mother, escaping gang life, and many other hardships and devastations all experienced by the age of 20. But before you think the story continues spiraling down the darkest path, Brown also shares the story of her rise to success as a lawyer. For fans of Cupcake Brown, according to her website, there is a sequel to this 2007 memoir coming soon.

#9: Smashed: Stories of a Drunken Girlhood by Koren Zailckas

To some, 24 may seem too young to write a memoir but age doesn’t matter when the story has already happened. Zailckas chronicles her life from the age of 14, when she first experienced problems with alcohol. She explores her experience with binge drinking as a teenage girl and how it’s often used as a coping mechanism against social anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem. Her story shows that alcoholism doesn’t always look the way you think it might, but actually may be more relatable than you’d ever imagine.

#10: The Night of the Gun by David Carr

If you are looking for a story filled with facts mixed with the feeling of real-life reporting, you turn to a journalist. If you want all of this plus you want the subject to be about addiction, you turn to David Carr. As a longtime writer for The New York Times, Carr published his memoir six years after starting working there. His story interweaves interviews of people from his past as he tells the tale of his cocaine addiction. Recently, the memoir was optioned for a TV miniseries on AMC starring Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk as Carr, according to Variety.

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#11: I Swear I’ll Make It Up to You by Mishka Shubaly

One of the more recently released books on this list, Shubaly faces a lot of common problems many of us face – with or without also struggling from addiction – and depicts what it takes to rise from the bottom when all seems hopeless. Giving life advice from one addict to another possibly reading the story. Shubaly shares insight into how a life of addiction affects not only one person, but everyone in that person’s wake.

#12: Sober Stick Figure by Amber Tozer

Most addiction-to-sobriety memoirs are fairly grim and for good reason. Going through addiction is likely the darkest time of a person’s life for anyone who has dealt with it. But Tozer takes a different approach to her narrative by injecting humor (and even stick figure drawings) into the story. It’s no less compelling, just a different point of view of how someone made it through her addiction and still ended up with her sense of humor intact.

#13: More, Now, Again: A Memoir of Addiction by Elizabeth Wurtzel

Wurtzel depicted her battle with depression in her successful memoir, Prozac Nation, but shows that even such a high level of achievement doesn’t provide a buffer to addiction. In her case, it seemed to serve as a catalyst to it due to the attention and pressure. Her title “More, Now, Again” are three words that come up often in battles with addiction. There never seems to be enough to satisfy; the urgency is palpable; and addiction equals again, because there is no stop. Wurtzel crafts her way around the story of these all-too-relatable feelings with honesty and candor.

#14: Heroin, Hurricane Katrina, and the Howling Within: An Addiction Memoir by Eliza Player

Judging by the title, you can most likely tell this tale packs quite the punch. In a unique story of addiction, Player relieves details of living within the early moments of Hurricane Katrina but more concerned with how much heroin she had left to “survive.” In an honest depiction of what it’s like to have addiction take over your body and mind, Player shares how she managed to survive catastrophes at once.

#15: Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

The late, legendary actress Carrie Fisher depicted her rise to Hollywood stardom at a young age and what growing up in the spotlight meant for her. She takes the reader through the ups and downs of her struggles with addiction, manic depression, and times of loss in a story riddled with sarcasm and wit. It’s another interesting insight showing how addiction can happen to anyone from any walk of life.

#16: Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drink to Forget by Sarah Hepola

Much of what is learned in addiction treatment as part of relapse prevention is understanding where addiction stems from. Is it to forget painful memories like Hepola writes about in her memoir? Her story may not read too differently than what a lot of young women experience today. Cocktail parties and happy hours with friends seems benign except for the fact Hepola can’t remember blocks of time. It makes her wonder what she’s said, what she’s done, and how these lost time began to make her feel less than and weigh heavy on her heart.

#17: The Los Angeles Diaries: A Memoir by James Brown

Brown bravely depicts his life of addiction from an early age, having grown up in a household where both his parents struggled as addicts. In addition, he suffers through the suicides of both his siblings. With so much darkness paving his path into adulthood, he talks about not how he’ll succeed, but how he’ll survive. When it comes to addiction, the steps back may feel like a whole lot bigger than any movement forward and few characterize that better than Brown in his memoir.

#18: unSweetined by Jodie Sweetin, Jon Warech

Who would ever guess that Full House, child star Jodie Sweetin would struggle with addiction? All anyone can remember is her spunky personality as the middle child on the popular sitcom. But the reality is she struggled with the cycle of addiction to methamphetamines. She chronicles her story of struggles and relapse to give a personal look into the side of a celebrity that shocked many.

#19: Pill Head: The Secret Life of a Painkiller Addict by Joshua Lyon

In a sadly ironic twist, Lyon begins research into prescription medication addiction for Jane magazine, only to become addicted to Vicodin. As no stranger to drugs, Lyon shares a stark reality of the epidemic of pill abuse in America during what was dubbed as “Generation Rx.” He shares in detail his addiction and recovery, while shunning stereotypes of what addiction “looks like.”

#20: Guts: The Endless Follies and Tiny Triumphs of a Giant Disaster by Kristen Johnston

The 3rd Rock from the Sun actress lets it all hang out with her self-deprecating look at addiction. In her words, she fully understands how an actress with an alcohol and/or drug problem is not unheard of by Hollywood standards. But her refreshingly, self-aware take on her addiction battles is shared in a no-holds barred kind of way that makes her story and her extra relatable.

Are you currently struggling with drug or alcohol addiction? Or, are you a friend or family seeking treatment for a loved one? It’s important to know there is support on your side to help you find the help you need as so many have done before. We are here to guide you every step of the way.

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