Sober Library

19 Jun

As a life-long dusty-book fan who has spent hours of her life holed up in century old libraries, I never expected to fall in love with my Kindle. Blasphemy! I cried when this electronic device boldly announced itself. We need real books! With paper! And smells! And mucky-fingered stains! But low and behold, just a few months after they launched, the thought of lugging another entire rucksack of books on holiday was enough to make me cave, so I bought one and have never looked back.

When I first got sober, I couldn’t read. I just couldn’t sit myself down with anything other than a short blog post or a Twitter update. My concentration was all over the shop. My kindle lay gathering dust in a corner of my room. When I turned it on the other day, it gave me a shock. The number of sober books/books about alcoholism I had worked my way through in the 18 months prior to stopping drinking was INSANE. Here’s a little catalogue of what I read, starting in October 2012, when I first thought about getting sober. If you’re thinking about getting sober or are not sure if you have a drink problem, choose some of these to read, I implore you. It helped me through the tricky ‘Am I really?!’ phase and over a ling period of time brought me to a position where I could finally stop. 

Alan Carr’s Easy Way to Control your Drinking– I read this, glass of wine (bottle) in hand at a beautiful bar on a chilly Autumn afternoon in 2012. I resolved to stop drinking. I didn’t. Alan Carr’s approach of drinking being a poison resonated, but it didn’t make enough of an impact for me to stop.

Jason Vale- Kick the Drink, Easily- again, I understood the point he was making intellectually (drinking has NO BENEFIT WHATSOEVER), I even endured the SHOUTY CAPS he peppers the text with. But put down a drink? No way. His approach really works for some people, and mirrors the mindset I’m in now (drinking is a waste of time/energy/I can’t think of anything WORSE to do with my time) and is definitely worth a read. 

I Need to Stop Drinking! Liz Hemingway- no idea when I read this, what it said or whether it had an impact on me. I was probably drunk when I read it. Hmm…

Cleaning Up: How I Gave up Drinking and Lived– Tania Glyde, again, I don’t remember much about this one, but I do remember vaguely recalling that this person wasn’t me. She drank LOADS more than I do, she hid bottles forgawdssake! 

Ice and a Slice– Della Galton- A novel based on one woman’s true experiences. It planted the seed that there was a life better than being caught in the cycle of drinking but at that stage, I still wasn’t ready to hear it.

Woman Walks into a Bar- Rowan Coleman, hilariously, I thought this would be about drinking. It’s a chick lit romp about dating. OBSESSED MUCH?!

Drinking: A Love Story- Caroline Knapp- one of the sober classics. I read this in a hungover daze, weeping, knowing I needed to stop, then drinking later that night. I’ve heard criticism that this book romanticises drinking but for me, reading about someone who hides vodka bottles in the cistern of their mum’s house lacked romance and was a wake up call.

Last Orders- A Drinkers Guide to Sobriety- A humorous account of a Proper Lad who makes a bet with his mates that he can give up booze for a year. He struggles, then falls in love with the Pink Cloud feeling of no more hangovers and finding exercise and WOOO!!!!! loves life sober. 

High Sobriety: My Year Without Booze- Jill Stark- Binge drinking health writer Jill has suffered one too many drunken nights out that have ended up with her collapsing on the dance floor in front of her colleagues or rendering her unable to move for the entire next day. As someone who writes frequently about Australia’s dangerous drink habits, she decides to commit to a year off the sauce, exploring Oz’s drink culture along the way. I loved this book, particularly when I was unable to label myself ‘alcoholic’- I liked the idea of taking a year off and seeing how I got on. She ultimately went back to drinking, but more moderately. Highly recommend this one. 

The Trip to Echo Spring: Why Writers drink– Olivia Laing,  LOVE this book. I luxuriated in it whilst on a beach somewhere, drinking cider in the morning to take the edge off last night’s hangover, sneaking a gin and tonic by the pool while my holiday companions weren’t looking. I’ve always been obsessed by tortured writers and this book was a beautiful yet tragic read. The whole reason I started writing this blog today was that I came across this article on the Guardian about women authors who drank: If you like your literature, I suggest you take your time over this glorious yet painful read, and then read Echo Spring. It is just wonderful, and sad and worth every moment you give to it. 

The Sober Revolution: Calling Time on Wine o Clock– Lucy Rocca & Sarah Turner- THIS BOOK WAS TRANSFORMATIVE. It spoke to me in a way no other sober book had. It draws a parallel between drinking and an abusive relationship, and the subtle, manipulative way ‘He’ keeps you coming back. Having just extricated myself from an emotionally abusive relationship, not only could I see the stark truth that alcohol was my new abuser, I could also see I had the strength to walk away again. 

Drink: The Intimate Relationship between Women & Alcohol: Ann Dowsett Jones- This was the big one for me. I read it on the way back from an all inclusive holiday where I’d sneakily drunk all day long, taking drinks from the mini-bar into the shower so my room-mate didn’t see them, desperately sucking down iced cocktails that didn’t have enough booze for my liking and going back for more… I lay there, jet lagged, reading this and having the most overwhelming feeling yet that not only was I a problem drinker, I was an ALCOHOLIC. I needed more help than the sober blogging world was offering me. I started my final solo sobriety run of 40 days, drank again, re-read this book and took myself off to AA.

So there we are, my drinking library. On a day when I’m not feeling alcoholic at all, it’s been great to look back at how much work I needed to do to convince myself I was one, how much time went into reading this stuff.

I was all worth it. ALL of it.

Happy Thursday to you! And Happy reading 🙂


15 Responses to “Sober Library”

  1. carrythemessage June 19, 2014 at 10:50 am #

    I always find it interesting that the majority of sober books are written by women (and blogs too). Perhaps us men think and act like lone wolves in our sobriety as well, but that’s painting with a pretty large brush stroke. Methinks it’s women who are buying the books, primarily, so they are attracted to those written by the same. I haven’t read Drink, but the author is from my city, and she has won all sorts of awards here.

    I too broke the same vow you had about real books, yada yada yada and I bought an ebook and haven’t looked back either. I still get the real deal, but I do enjoy that I can buy / download a book and have it right away on my reader. Also saves slugging it all around.

    • FitFatFood June 19, 2014 at 10:55 am #

      I hadn’t noticed that about the women, but it’s bleeding obvious. And (in my experience) meetings tend to be male heavy. Weird eh?

      • carrythemessage June 19, 2014 at 11:49 am #

        There are some meetings for sure where they are male heavy. Interesting, indeed…. 🙂

      • afteralcohol June 19, 2014 at 11:13 pm #

        Meetings are definitely male heavy. There are stats on this, I can try and dig them up if anyone cares, but AA attendance is something like 75% male (and the average age is around 45-50, and predominantly white)

  2. momma bee June 19, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    Wow what a list & many I never heard of! Thanks for sharing!!!

  3. soberlearning June 19, 2014 at 1:28 pm #

    I can totally relate to this! I NEVER thought I would want a Kindle, but I bought a Google Nexus and downloaded the Kindle app and have not looked back. I love books, bookstores and libraries, but the instant gratification of finishing a book at 11 pm and being able to search Amazon and buy a new one to start right then is the best!
    I have read many alcohol centered books also. I used to use them as the bar for my drinking, I don’t have a problem, look at what he or she does. I am sure that is not how the author wanted the book used 🙂
    The one that really resonated with me was Dry by Augesten Burroughs. Incredible.
    I need to reread Caroline Knapps book, I read it years ago, knowing I had a problem, but I didn’t stop because I wasn’t as bad as she was. 🙂

  4. moretomethanthis June 19, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

    Can I just chime in with a “me too” on the kindle / proper book thing? I swore off the e-books, said I would never do it, I love my books too much, but then I got a kindle for my birthday a few weeks ago, and I have fallen in love with it 🙂 Love the list, FFF, I’ve only read a couple off it, plenty to chew on there! xx

  5. lucy2610 June 19, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

    Yep another luddite converted here. I loved Last Orders which was written by a bloke – there you go Paul 😉 Have a huge wish list on Amazon and Ann Dowsett Jones is next on my hit list as is Gabor Mate’s In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts xx

    • FitFatFood June 19, 2014 at 8:50 pm #

      You’ll love Ann DJ and the other one I’ll have to add in!

      • lucy2610 June 19, 2014 at 8:56 pm #

        Just back from first AA meeting. Mixed feelings and would like to email you about it xx

  6. afteralcohol June 19, 2014 at 11:35 pm #

    So many things here! Agreed on the Kindle. In fact I have a massively snobbish position about the ‘oh, only real books for me’ crowd, which boils down to ‘if you’re a real reader, the medium doesn’t matter, stop fetishing dead paper’. And Sober Revolution was also my turning-point book.

  7. clearlee June 20, 2014 at 1:41 am #

    Thanks for this post, FFF! I still haven’t been able to buy a kindle… although I think about it all the time. It feels unfaithful somehow! But I really need to. In the very least to save the trees 🙂
    Thanks for some great book suggestions, too. I’ve read quote a few of the same ones. I need to read Sober Revolution. I hear it is very good.

  8. primrosep June 20, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

    would second that ‘The Sober Revolution’ was gamechanging for me, too. I read it at maybe a couple of months sober and it really, really helped me feel less crazy and alone.

    and loved Ann D-J, too. you have a great sober library! xx

  9. Rebecca A. Watson June 25, 2014 at 11:17 am #

    How cool! I’m really interested in The Sober Revolution…it gave me chills when I read your description. I also think I need to get a Kindle. Having English books shipped overseas is just a little ridiculous. Thanks for the list.

    • FitFatFood June 25, 2014 at 2:36 pm #

      Sober revolution is great, and the kindle amazing! Enjoy!

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