Can personal narratives about drug addiction help others? BOOK REVIEW

Personal narratives are the backbone of 12 step programs. But can a book about addiction stories actually help other addicts and those they love? Yes. More on Mary Addenbrooke’s book of addiction case studies (and their helpfulness) here.

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Storytelling narratives: the formula inherent to 12 step meetings

Twelve step meetings are based on the formula of finding common ground in addictive lives. The rooms of AA, NA, Al-Anon, OA, CA, MA, and others are chock full of people from all walks of life with similar reactions to reality: the use of chemical or behavioral addictions to cope with frustration or disappointment. We addicts and alcoholics “relate” to each other through telling our personal histories of past drug or alcohol use, stopping and describing how life is different after we have stopped. The emphasis is on helping others, and through this, helping ourselves.

Although it is true that hearing stories about addiction help us (we know that we’re not alone, we feel less stigma, we understand one another’s thinking and motivations) … not all addiction stories answer the question, “So what?” (see Addict at 10 Book Review).

However, Mary Addenbrooke’s new book “Survivors of Addiction: Narratives of Recovery” does that and so much more. Written from the longitudinal experience of working as a psychoanalyst with former heroin addicts and alcoholics, Addenbrooke compiles stories of addiction within the clinical context of her work and explains IN COMMON TERMS the mental process of the addicts in the before, during, and after phases of active addiction. Here are the major reasons how her book works to help you understand addiction better.

Optimizing the power of the addiction story

What Addenbrooke does so adeptly (and uniquely) in her book is to juxtapose psychological theory next to narrative stories and clinical case studies so to give the reader a FULLER picture of the motivations for drug or alcohol use. By providing us with the theoretical background on the needs of the psyche, we can start to understand addictive behaviors in more tolerant, empathetic ways.

What I like about Survivors of Addiction

Clearly authoritative: Written by an expert with years of experience in addiction treatment.

Depth of knowledge:  Provides profound insight to the needs and motivations of an addict’s mind.

Empathetic point of view:  Written with an attitude of acceptance, tolerance and empathy for addicts.

Worthy intent – Purpose is to help readers find their own way to relate to people who are or have been addicted.

Thoroughness – Covers the four stages of addiction recovery (active addiction, stopping, early recovery, long term recovery).

In my understanding, the mental health of an addict is a lifetime exploration into self-awareness. Why and how people can recover from addiction and thrive has always fascinated me. If you are interested in getting into the minds of addicts, this book is for you. Easy to follow, Mary Addenbrooke’s thoughtful and profound explorations into the voices of addiction recovery is essential reading for anyone who works with, or cares about an addict.

More info: Survivors of Addiction: Narratives of Recovery
By Mary Addenbrooke, March 2011: 210pp.
Hb: 978-1-58391-724-4: £60.00
Pb: 978-1-58391-725-1: £21.99
Published by Routledge
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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