Can reading a book help you moderate or quit drinking?
It was World Book Day yesterday. And our private Facebook group has gone all a flutter over This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol book by Annie Grace. This is no surprise. Good reviews from people we like and trust, in this case other members of Club Soda, go a long way towards helping us decide what may be good for us too. Books are self-help, but being guided to choices by your peers (guided self-help) is even more effective. Today we talk about reading for sobriety.
As in most things, the answer to this is not straightforward. It depends on what type of drinker you are (or were), where in the process of deciding to change you are, what type of learning style suits you, and there may even be a genre that impacts you more.
Reading books has long been recognised as a form of therapy for mental wellbeing, going all the way to ancient Greece in fact. There is strong evidence that self-help reading can help you, and if you are immersing yourself in solving the problem of your drinking habits, then books of all kinds can be a key part of your survival kit.
“Reading can offer richer, broader, and more complex models of experience, which enable people to view their own lives from a refreshed perspective and with renewed understanding,” says Dr Josie Billington, Deputy Director of Centre for Research Into Reading at University of Liverpool.
“Some books leave us free and some books make us free” said Ralph Waldo Emerson.
And if the recent buzz around Sarah Hepola’s book Blackout is anything to go by, more people are connecting with themselves and others by talking about their relationship with alcohol.
Books can act as a distraction, and occupy you during the time you normally might have opened a bottle of wine – keeping you busy for twenty minutes or so.
But delving deep into a story can also be a reward – and it can be any good book, it does not have to relate to drinking. Member Matt Chittock lists curling up with a book as one of his rewards:
“You can do lots of things while drunk: but reading ain’t one of them. For me, having time to curl up with a fantastic book is its own reward – and it’s hangover-free to boot.”
A personal story and a science-based book can hit home in different ways, so it’s worth reading both. Approaching the problem from different angles will allow you to see the different perspectives of how to make change happen. They all reflect different methods of learning, through comparison, shaping your knowledge, and giving you useful tools. The books don’t even have to be directly about drinking. Understanding about behaviour change and how the mind works are just as important as knowing that change is possible and has happened for others. Here is our run down of the different types of books you could read.
“I can always remember the first book I ever read that made me question my drinking. At 17, I don’t know how Koren Zailckas’s book Smashed: Growing up a drunk girl ended up in my hands, but I do remember how I read that book with a sick, dull sense of recognition. And when I finished the book, I stopped reading for a while.” Claire
The first are personal stories. There is a good choice of books about people’s relationship with alcohol. Many writers have quit completely, while others have successfully cut down on their drinking. One example is Julian Kirkman-Page, a regular guest blogger on Club Soda, whose “I Don’t Drink!” has many little stories from his life, and tips on helping you quit once and for all.
Many personal stories offer advice as well as the stories. There are also books written specifically for advice, often from a more professional perspective. Self-help books are a well-established genre, with a wide variety of books about quitting and cutting down on drinking too. One that we at Club Soda particularly like is Stuart Linke’s Thinking About Drinking. It is a not-too-long, very-common-sense book, written by a psychologist with years of experience helping people with alcohol problems. There is lots of interesting information, and many simple and practical exercises to do.
And of course there is fiction. Writers have long had a reputation for drinking, and alcohol is also a popular topic in books. One recent favourite of mine is Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. She famously takes her time with her writing: in nearly 30 years she’s only published three novels, but all of them are amazing reads and well worth the wait. They are also on the long side: The Goldfinch is nearly 900 pages long. But it is a tale that grabs you from the very start and keeps you hooked until the end, with love and friendship, art and antiques, and a lot of drinking. The book does have some very violent scenes though, so be prepared for big shocks in between the plot twists…
Biblio is a new service that connects you with someone who will curate personal book choices to help you. It is free. So if you want to get some help in choosing some books for you, then we recommend giving them a whirl. The image below explains how it works.
Meanwhile, at Club Soda we are constantly adding new books to our own bookshop. If you have a recommendation that you think other members would benefit from reading, then let us know.