Best Self-Help Books for Alcoholics

Realizing you have a problem is painful and difficult, but with these self-help books for alcoholics, you can take back control of your life.


According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 8.4% of adult men and 4.2% of adult women in the United States suffer from an alcohol abuse disorder—over 9 million men and over 5 million women. Many people with alcohol dependencies and addictions don't even realize it, while others are aware of the signs that they're drinking too much alcohol, but do not change it, whether out of a belief that they can't, or a lack of commitment to the kinds of steps one needs to take to recover.

Quitting alcohol is difficult—it's everywhere in our culture, and perfectly normal in moderation. When it becomes a problem though, it takes a lot of guts to take the first steps: first, admitting there's a problem, and second, doing something about it. While it's never easy, there are many excellent self-help books for alcoholics can help turn your life around.

Alcoholics Anonymous by AA World Services Inc.

Alcoholics Anonymous is the gold standard when it comes to self-help books for alcoholics. Their "Big Book," as it's generally referred to, has developed since its first release in 1939. This first publication consisted of the basic, most important information for alcoholics, especially as it pertains to being part of AA. The 2nd through 4th editions, the 4th being the most recent, have maintained this base of knowledge, advice, and exposition, while progressively adding stories of real AA members' journeys and successes, including extra advice from a personal perspective for those just beginning the journey to recovery, or struggling to stay on that path. Many people have lauded this book as an honest, inspiring, and life-saving volume for anyone struggling with alcoholism.

This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Life by Annie Grace

Author and former alcoholic Annie Grace takes a new approach to overcoming alcoholism, offering a humorous, honest, and optimistic option for those in the market for self-help books for alcoholics. Rather than painting alcohol as the enemy to be hated, she takes a close look at the role of alcohol in society, the neurological effects of alcohol, and the many reasons people drink—and often, drink too much. Rather than fighting alcohol itself, this book will help you stop drinking by tackling the real psychological and neurological reasons for alcohol dependency. The goal is not to help you say "no" when you crave a drink—it's to eliminate those cravings altogether, allowing you to enjoy your life, alcohol-free, without constantly having to police yourself, avoid situations where alcohol may be served, or feel the constant misery of desiring something you can't have.

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions from Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous works in a number of ways. Part of the long-lived success of the group is the community itself, while the other parts include the highly effective 12-step program and the organization's own self-help books for alcoholics. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions is a collection of the most important writings from co-founder of AA, Bill W. In this book, he expounds on each of the suggested 12 steps that are so central to the AA way of life, offering clarification on both the path of action and the purpose. 

Somewhat less known that the 12 steps, however, are the 12 traditions. These traditions are essentially guidelines for how AA functions as a group—however, this advice does not merely apply to AA. The 12 traditions offer important insights into community, support, acceptance, and many other things that are necessary for a recovering alcoholic.

Drop the Rock: Removing Character Defects by Bill P., Todd W., and Sara S.

If you're aware of the 12 steps to recovery advocated by AA, then you may understand the title of this book already. Steps 6 and 7 in the 12-step program refer to tackling our own character defects and shortcomings—particularly, the things that fuel addiction and impede recovery. Drop the Rock focuses entirely on these steps, offering pragmatic solutions and actionable advice for improving yourself in these areas.

Alcoholism and the blame cycle go hand-in-hand, and the main culprits that this book discusses are resentment, fear, self-pity, intolerance, and anger. It outlines the ways these feelings and traits appear in our lives, and exactly how they can harm your addiction and alcoholism recovery. Through a combination of practical advice and personal anecdote, this book offers solutions to even the most deeply ingrained flaws that keep you from living the life you want.

A Happier Hour by Rebecca Weller

Young alcoholism is increasingly prevalent in today's society, and nothing encapsulates what this means the way A Happier Hour does. Rebecca Weller's memoir is particularly poignant for those who began drinking socially, and slowly came to find they couldn't enjoy themselves without alcohol, or that the only fun things they ever did involved drinking. The author came to sobriety from this background of social drinking, a setting in which many people do not even realize that they have a problem.

Weller's story is not one of darkness and demons, but one of uplifting changes. This book shows you what life can be like when you take back control, and overcome alcoholism. It provides the struggling alcoholic with a look at the other side—not just to manage your life again, but to love it.

Seven Weeks to Sobriety by Joan Mathews Larson

There are many sides to alcoholism—many causes, factors, effects, hindrances. Because of this, there are many different kinds of changes that can help you quit drinking. Not all self-help books for alcoholics should cover the same material.

Dr. Joan Mathews Larson, author of this book and creator of the seven-week program it advocates, developed this step-by-step guide to take on alcoholism from a unique angle. Through her research at the Health Recovery Center in Minneapolis, she learned a lot about how addiction functions biologically. As a result, she developed a program that will help you to change your body's addictive chemistry through nutritional changes, thus easing your craving for alcohol and helping you on your path to recovery.

Refuge Recovery by Noah Levine

Noah Levine found a unique path to recovery. Familiar with the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, but not convinced by it, Levine set out to provide an alternative option for those who did not feel connected to the workings and tenets of AA. 

Drawing on Buddhist beliefs and practices, this alternative method for addiction recovery most significantly advocates the practice of meditation. The book discusses alcoholism largely in terms of craving, as a craving in the mind and the body. Levine offers practical techniques for meditation that directly attack those kinds of thoughts and cravings, focusing on caring for the mind and body in order to defend it against addiction.

Dry: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs

One thing that helps many people in overcoming alcoholism is hearing the stories and sharing the struggles of others. Though Augusten Burroughs' memoir is not one of the standard self-help books for alcoholics, it is a heart-wrenching and honest look at alcoholism and addiction, the ways it effects your life, and the long road to recovery.

Watching a man's life unfold, unravel, and get rebuilt is a difficult thing to do—but for the struggling alcoholic, a frank and relatable portrayal of the difficulties and pain brought about by alcoholism can provide great inspiration and help.

Under the Influence: A Guide to the Myths and Realities of Alcoholism by James R. Milam and Katherine Ketcham

If you're trying to recover from alcoholism, you need to know the facts. You need to know what you're recovering from, why you're doing it that way, and how you got to this point in the first place. Under the Influence sets out to break down the myths and stigmas surrounding alcoholism, and instead offer a fact-based, unbiased view of the scientific nature of addiction, and what that means for recovery.

By focusing on the physical aspect of alcohol addiction, this book throws out any moral stigmas or notions about willpower. Instead, it offers scientific research and solutions for tackling the biological factors involved.

Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola

Sarah Hepola shares her story for all those who struggle with alcohol addiction, and especially those who rely on alcohol as a personality crutch.

She describes, with both self-awareness and humor, the days in which she frequently blacked out drinking, but believed that part of her to be an integral and necessary part of her personality, her popularity, her vivacity.

In getting sober, she realized instead that her alcoholism had been a mask for her real self, a person who deserved to see the light of day again. Hepola is an inspiring example of an alcoholic who found, in sobriety, a life of much more meaning and spirit.

Living Sober by AA World Services Incorporated

Living Sober, another production of Alcoholics Anonymous, offers a selection of anecdotes, examples, and bits of advice for navigating the real world as a sober person. It covers topics like handling events where drinking is common or expected, and offers advice like the oft-heard, "Take it one day at a time." One of the most practical self-help books for alcoholics, this volume isn't just about avoiding alcohol, it's about how to enjoy your life and love the world again, without addiction. This short book is a must-read for anyone looking down the road to recovery and feeling disheartened, because it is full of the stories of people who learned to fill their lives with meaning and joy, instead of alcohol.

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