Top Ten Recovery Memoirs

One of the most powerful principles of recovery is sharing our experience, strength and hope with each other. I am always inspired when I hear another person’s story – while their may be cosmetic differences, I always identify with the feelings, struggles and triumphs of others.

I’ve always been an avid reader, and I fell in love with recovery memoirs shortly after I got sober. Recovery memoirs are a great way to share in someone’s story that you might not get a chance to encounter in person. They are full of hope, of tragedy, of failures, of triumphs…. But most of all, they are full of honesty and inspiration. Here are my top 10 recovery memoirs:

“Dry” by Augusten Burroughs

Augusten Burroughs, first shot to fame with “Running With Scissors”, a memoir detailing his teenage life after his mother gave away her parental rights to her psychiatrist and his wacky family. His follow up, “Dry”, picks up a few years later in New York City, as Augusten battles his alcoholism against the backdrop of New York City in the late 80’s. This novel is at times laugh-out-loud funny and at times break-your-heart devastating, but we will all relate to Augusten’s struggle to put down the bottle for good.


“Tweak” by Nic Sheff

“Tweak” is Nic Sheff’s account of struggling with his addiction to heroin and crystal meth. This memoir doesn’t shy away from the ugly reality of what active addiction is really like, and also honestly depicts the cycle of recovery and relapse that so many addicts go through before gaining long term sobriety.


“Beautiful Boy” by David Sheff

The companion book to “Tweak”, “Beautiful Boy” is an incredible account of what it is like to be a parent with an addicted child. Sheff combines his personal accounts, interviews with addiction experts and scientific research to paint a picture of the helplessness that so many parents and their children feel when dealing with addiction.

“Lit” by Mary Carr

“Lit” is a beautifully written memoir. While her story is familiar, the way that Carr writes is different than most memoirs I have come across: her literary prose and her focus on the spiritual journey that was born from her alcoholism makes this a very interesting read.

“Drinking: A Love Story” by Caroline Knapp

Of all the drinking memoirs I have read, Knapp does the best job in articulating the insidious ways that alcoholism permeates your life. A functioning alcoholic, she perfectly details the small ways that her life began to unravel, even if it wasn’t immediately noticeable to those around her.

“Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety” by Sacha Z. Scoblic

While most of these memoirs focus on stories of addiction, “Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety” focusing solely on Scoblic’s recovery and the sometimes painful, sometimes beautiful experiences she has once she stops drinking.

“Smashed: Stories of a Drunked Girlhood” by Koren Zailckas

Zailckas’ portrait of her drinking, beginning at the age of 14 and ending after waking up in a strange apartment at the age of 22 with no idea how she got there, is a reminder that alcoholism doesn’t discriminate based on age.


“Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man” by Bill Clegg

Clegg, an up and coming literary agent in New York City, loses it all to his crack addiction. His account of his desperation, his loss of control, his descent into paranoia and eventually, his recovery, is both harrowing and inspiring.


“Permanent Midnight” by Jerry Stahl

An almost unbelievable account of heroin use and the dark underbelly of Hollywood, Stahl’s memoir is definitely worth a read.


“A Piece of Cake” by Cupcake Brown

Cupcake Brown’s story is the most amazing I’ve ever read. Cupcake’s journey from a foster child to a prostitute to a gang member to a crack addict and, eventually, to a law school graduate, is a triumph of the human spirit.


  • Cathy Taughinbaugh
    Posted at 21:41h, 06 October Reply

    This is a great list, Deanna! I’ve read some of the books, but not all, so will save this list for future reference. It’s always better or me if I have a recommendation before I read a book. Take care.

    • Deanna
      Posted at 13:10h, 07 October Reply

      Thanks Cathy! I’m the same way – enjoy, and if you have any recommendations for me I’m always on the lookout for my next read!

  • Steve Poynter
    Posted at 20:04h, 13 March Reply

    Thanks for the list, Deanna. I overcame alcohol addiction of thirty-eight years as a result of a life-changing trip to China and Tibet back in 2006. I’m in the process of writing a memoir now to inspire others. You did it. I did it. Others need to know our stories. They must know it is possible. I know you’ll agree.

  • Gabriela
    Posted at 12:09h, 18 February Reply

    My problem is.i cant stop heiorn or any opiate coz i’ve craving and it hard more than physical addicted.i had done quit cool turkey or using Methadone/suboxone in juz stand 1-2weak my memory brought back pleasure high on heiorn,dopamine rush and euphoric kick ass!! i can stand long time clean just about 2-3 month i been using back heiorn.and it make me so prasure i want be normal..i quit smoking about a 1 +year in end of 2009 but i cant stop opiate..PLZ anybody give me advice or give a tips..

    • Howard Barker
      Posted at 12:20h, 18 February Reply

      Gabriela I am sorry to hear that you are struggling. If you are ready to quit, the first thing I would do is investigate what treatment options are available to you. If you have insurance, find out whether or not they will be accepted. After primary treatment it may be a good idea to get into aftercare since you have a history of relapse after putting together some time clean. Good luck! In the meantime, I would look for local 12 step meetings and get involved.

  • Timothy Gurciullo
    Posted at 02:54h, 15 May Reply

    Gabriela; If you can honestly look deep down inside and have an urgent need to stop, There are people who will love you, watch out for you, and guide you, and you will never have to use again. .One day at a time. check yourself into an inpatient 12 step drug treatment program and surrender. The miracle is around the corner and so is your higher power. I have struggled with opiate addiction for over 55 years.

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