My Top 10 Recovery Books with Liz W

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Liz W

Today I’m talking about the top 10 books that have helped me during my recovery and I’m going to share with you what they are and why I love them and why I continue to read them now.

I would love, love, love to know what books you’ve read that have helped you on your journey in sobriety.

Many of mine are actually AA books but there are also lots of non-AA books that have really helped me.  

Please tell me of any book that has helped you in your recovery. Let me know what it is by DM’ing me over on Instagram @todayiamsober or email me directly liz[at]todayiamsober[dot]co[dot]uk.

The book links below are to Amazon, and if you choose to buy using these links we do receive a small affiliate commission, this doesn’t affect the price you pay. For books 1, 2 & 10 on the list, you’ll be able to buy them for cash cheaper at an anonymous fellowship meeting. 

  1. Living Sober

Now this book was written in 1975 and it’s by Alcoholics Anonymous Worldwide Service and it’s the first book from AA that I ever got, and it was actually gifted to me.

I rocked into a meeting in, back in 2010 because my GP had said, Liz, you’re an alcoholic. Of course I decided to go to the meeting to prove her wrong and did so quite successfully. But as I walked out, a woman gave me a copy of Living Sober into my hand and I was like thanks, but I’m not really one of you. I’m thinking in my head. And when I opened it, I actually realized I might have a little problem because it talks about how you can basically live sober. And I’m like, well why would I want to do that?

It’s got a really great index that explains some of the tips that you can use in your day to day life when you’re just struggling. You know, maybe the thought of drink is all over you, maybe someone’s annoyed you. You’re caught in traffic and you’ve just had a hell of a day. For example there’s a section on fending off loneliness. Now, I don’t know about you, but being lonely has almost become quite normal. And even though you can be surrounded by people and you’re not physically alone, you can still feel lonely. Well, that’s my experience. So there’s a really nice little section now of how you can fend off loneliness.

  1. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

The second book, which hopefully you’ve got, and if you haven’t, I would strongly recommend you buy it because it’s a really great book is affectionately called the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s actually just entitled Alcoholics Anonymous. And in the first 164 pages it explains what the problem is and then what the solution is. If you’re not sure if you’re an alcoholic, it’s a great book to read because it will, you’ll either identify or you won’t now caveat it was written in the 1930s.

It was written by Bill Wilson one of the founders of AA. Bits of it shall we say are dated. And the feminist in me is kind of shrieking and one of the chapters called To Wives is honestly a tad patronizing and it doesn’t work in the 21st century. But if you can get over the fact that it’s quite dated, quite frankly misogynistic, it is a phenomenal book. And reading that book and sitting down with a sponsor and going through that book is what I attribute to saving my life because it enabled me to change.  I would strongly recommend if you haven’t got it, to buy that book.

  1. A Program For You: A Design For Living

This Hazelden book is a guide to the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. What I really like about this book is it tells you how to actually use the Big Book of AA. Now I would strongly recommend, and this is from personal experience only, that if you want to work through the Big Book of AA, get yourself a sponsor someone who’s marching this road with you, shoulder to shoulder, who is comfortable with the Big Book, who understands it and it will help guide you through it. But sometimes I don’t know about you. I like to learn things by myself. It also talks about some of the challenges with the Big Book being written so long ago.

  1. Depressive Illness: The Curse of the Strong by Dr Tim Cantopher

Tim Cantopher was the psychiatrist I met in 2002, 2007 and finally in 2013. I originally met him because I thought I was depressed. Turns out I’m a raving alcoholic. But thank God for that man. He told me what the problem was. My drinking. He gave me a solution which for me was going into rehab and working a 12-step program. Mental health problems are part of my story. Particularly depression and anxiety.

If like me you’re struggling with depression, it’s a really great little read and it’s also really good to give to your family members.  I actually asked my husband to read it and it’s really helpful cause it’s got some great tips in there about how you can be supported by yourself but also how your family can support you.

  1. Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton

I absolutely adore this book and the reason is it helps you understand what you’re great at.  I don’t know about you, but when I got sober, I started to question myself and question my abilities and I started to feel like I wasn’t very good at anything anymore. I felt like my alcoholism defined me. And what this book has allowed me to do is to really see what I’m great at.

So if you’re struggling to see what really brilliant at and identifying your core strengths, get this book. It also comes with a Gallup survey that allows you to find out what your strengths are. And I love it because I now have a vocabulary for saying what I’m good at and it’s served me so well in many areas of my life.

When I’ve been talking with managers about my professional development at work you, it’s given me a language to talk about what I’m really good at. So I highly recommend that book.

  1. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

I love Brene Brown on so many level. I’d love it if she was my best friend! I think she’s phenomenal. In this book she talks about vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame and how you can live a whole hearted life.

Now the thing for me was that when I first got sober, I had an awful lot of shame about the fact that I am an alcoholic. And yes, through working a 12 step program, I lost a lot of that shame. But it still reared its head in really quite unusual ways. So this book has proved really helpful. Also, I’m a perfectionist and honestly I can beat myself up for not doing the simplest thing perfectly. So I’d highly recommend this book if you are a perfectionist too. Since I read Brene also has a Netflix talk, which is fab. And if you’re not familiar with her TED talks, go and check them out here. It’s well worth 40 minutes of life watching them.

  1. How To Be Human, The Manual by Ruby Wax

My mother-in-law bought me this book for Christmas a couple of years ago, and I’m like, are you trying to tell me something that I need to learn how to be human? Fortunately she wasn’t. She’s simply an incredibly kind woman and she knows that I struggle with my mental health. And of course, Ruby Wax also struggles with her mental health and she’s written about it in this book. And I really like the fact that she calls it a manual and it’s quite, how can I phrase it? It’s very robust in its scientific basis. There’s a really good section in there on addiction, page 143.

Ruby talks about how to go get over addictions and she asks what can you do about it? And she talks about AA and how all the A’s  are a brilliant answer to addictions and helped millions of people. She then goes on to then have a conversation with a neuroscientist.

One of the things I’ve learned in my sobriety is that I have to seek outside help. Just staying in AA meetings hasn’t enabled me to live a full and rich life. So I do look for alternative books to kind of challenge my beliefs.

  1. You Can’t Make Me Angry, Dr Paul O

I got this book when I was in rehab. I got really angry and it’s claims on the back of the book that by the time you put this book down, you will be convinced that people and circumstances don’t make us angry. We make ourselves angry. People can’t make us feel angry unless we let them. We alone are responsible for our feelings. And it goes on to talk about emotional serenity and it’s a really great book if you are working a 12-step program because it’s very much advocated the 12-steps. If you find you get really angry, it’s a brilliant read. I’ve learned that no one else can make me angry, only I can make me angry. I  have a choice in how I respond to situations.

  1. Chillpreneur by Denise Duffield-Thomas

This was released in 2019 it’s about creating success, freedom and abundance on your terms. The one  thing that I’ve taken away from this book is how you can have a ‘keyless’ life. And I don’t know if you’ve ever had a car where you don’t actually need to put the key in the lock to open the car. I had one of those..It was a really lovely car, and I could have my key in my handbag and I could walk up to the driver’s side and the door would open automatically. And then when I got in the car, I didn’t even have to take my key out for handbag and find it. I could just press a button on the dashboard and provided my handbag was in the front of the car. The car would start.  It was a truly keyless car.

Denise uses that analogy in the book to talk about how in our life there aree things that we can do to effectively make our life ‘keyless’. For example, one of the things I used to do when I used to travel for work is that I had a suitcase with a separate toiletry bag that had all of my toiletries in it just for traveling. A small deodorant, face wipes, toothbrush, toothpaste, all the accoutrements that you have in your toiletry bag. And I had a second makeup bag that had the core components for me to make my face look good for a couple of days. And that was always in my suitcase with my toiletry bag. And then I would always make sure that it had those blinking plugs that I always seemed to have to buy at airports. I had a spare hairdryer and I had a second set of hair straighteners.

So what that meant is every single time I travelled I would simply open up this little suitcase and I wouldn’t even have to think, have I got my toothbrush, have I got my toothpaste, I would simply have to put my clothes. And I even got to the point where I had a separate set of pyjamas simply for traveling. I even had a separate set of Birkenstock sandals so that I could wear those in the hotel room like slippers. Because it was about making my life easy.

One of the things I’ve learned is we have so many decisions to make on a daily basis. Where in our life can we make it keyless? Do you know what I mean? Really easy. And that’s what Denise wanted. The key takeaway I got from Denise’s book is in what ways can I make my life as simple as possible?

It’s also a great read about entrepreneurialism, but creating a ‘keyless’ life will stay with me.

  1. Daily Reflections

I got my copy on   13th October 2013 and it’s a really lovely little book that allows you to do a daily mini-meditation.

At the time of recording this, it’s 19th December.  So what does it say for today?

“Understanding the malady when dealing with an alcoholic, there may be a natural annoyance that a man could be so weak, stupid and irresponsible. Even when you understand the melody better, you may feel this feeling rising.” And that’s from Alcoholics Anonymous, page 139.

What I do is I actually read this book every single day, but I don’t read the physical book. I have an app on my phone that has the same exactly the same content. And I read it and I think about it and I have a little pray about it. And every it allows me to get re-centred and think about where I’m at. It’s a phenomenal book I have to use every single day to remain focused on what I’m trying to achieve: sobriety and being happy, joyous and free.

Those are 10 of my favourite books which have helped me enormously during my recovery. There’s a ton of others. Most of them are on my Kindle &I don’t actually have physical copies of them.

If you’ve been reading a book that has really helped you during your recovery I’d love to know what it is. I’m always on the lookout for new.

I hope my list has been helpful.

If like me you got some Amazon gift vouchers for Christmas go and treat yourself to a new book.

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