The best memoirs of drug and alcohol addiction

Do not fear, next week we’ll be back with real human beings (unless readers feel the AI did a better job, in which case we’re happy to step aside). 2009’s Lit is the volume that deals with Karr’s alcoholism and desperate search for recovery. It can be read alone, but why would you want to miss out on reading all three in order? Although the first two volumes aren’t overtly about Karr’s addiction, they show its makings in her traumatic home life and a lost adolescence.

alcoholic memoirs

And then ended up dancing naked on the conference table, only to pass out face-first in your boss’s wife’s lap? And remember later that year, when your co-workers brought it up in front of the new hires, and you blushed red, even though deep down you were secretly proud? These are wickedly delicious best alcohol recovery books stories told by regular people who lost their inhibitions and found their secret selves. „All the best stories are true” runs the tagline of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction, the UK’s pre-eminent nonfiction book award. Well, of course I tried my best to steal from them whatever I could.

Getting Clean

There are countless memoirs about addiction and recovery, but not quite so many about stopping drinking and its aftermath. When author Kristi Coulter stopped drinking, she began to notice the way that women around her were always tanked, and how alcohol affected those around her. Based on Fisher’s hugely successful one-woman show, Wishful Drinking is the story of growing up in Hollywood royalty, battling addiction, and dealing with manic depression. Her first memoir is an inside look at her famous parents’ marriage and her own tumultuous love affairs (including her on-again, off-again relationship with Paul Simon). Most notably, it’s a brutally honest—and hilarious—reflection on the late writer’s path to sobriety. Having said that, I did—while reading Ditlevsen’s Dependency—occasionally need to put the book down and take a few deep breaths.

alcoholic memoirs

The emotional burden of her past eventually led her to attempt to take her own life. Recovering from a lifetime of dieting and health issues, Kelsey Miller writes with impressive honesty about her journey of self-loathing, disordered eating, and how she found help thanks to an intuitive-eating coach and fitness professionals. In his first novel, Burroughs gives a vivid, semi-autobiographical account of heroin addiction in the early 1950s. He died of alcohol poisoning two days after his last medical appointment.

Get ready to lace up your shoes!

His writing has appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, New Statesman, the Telegraph and other outlets. Dependency is startlingly unlike any other memoir about addiction—that I know of, at least. Next you’ve chosen to recommend Tove Ditlevsen’s Dependency, the third book in her Copenhagen Trilogy. It was first published in Danish in the 1970s, but has only recently been translated into English by Tiina Nunnally and Michael Favela Goldman. I’ll mention some more in relation to the books I’ve chosen, but these are, I think, the four most fundamental ones. I very much related to her always feeling “less than” in normal life, and only becoming confident and alive once she poured alcohol down her throat.

alcoholic memoirs

She’s just someone who uses alcohol to muster up the courage, and, well, survive life. This is just how it has always been since her introduction to Southern Comfort when she was fourteen. Growing up in the public eye is never an easy thing, but Fisher didn’t just grow up in the spotlight. She was a crucial part of the cultural phenomenon, Star Wars. To make things even more interesting, Fisher grew up with the world watching while she battled manic depression, addiction, and visited all sorts of mental institutions as a result. This book is beautiful, compelling, and a riveting retelling of Jackson’s life as well as those of his male relatives who have gone through similar journeys.


Caroline Knapp’s love affair with alcohol started in her early teens. She went on to drink her way through four years at an Ivy League college and an award-winning career as an editor and columnist. Marrying personal stories with statistics and research, her candid memoir exposes the secrecy, myths and destruction related to alcoholism, as well as her eventual triumph over the disease that controlled her life for more than two decades. Occasionally reminiscent of Sylvia Plath, Karr’s writing style is simultaneously unsentimental and moving.

More than just a memoir, this book explores the psychology and neuroscience behind the societal traps that lead us to drink and how drinking affects our brains and our bodies. In this dark but incredibly comedic memoir, Smith tells all about her story and the road she finally took to recover from her perpetual numbing. His investigation into his own history is an epic story through addiction, recovery, cancer, and life as a single parent that you won’t be able to put down. It tells the story of her addiction and eventual recovery in San Diego, California. From drinks at baby showers to work events, brunch and book clubs, graduations, and funerals, alcohol’s ubiquity are a given and the only time that people get uncomfortable is when someone doesn’t drink.

the Recovering By Leslie Jamison

Because writing is difficult, she shines the light on that elephant in the writing room. Learn more about Tempest’s unique approach to alcohol recovery. As a child, Helaina Hovitz witnessed the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.

This pertains to all the authors of the piece, their spouses or partners. Meanwhile successful writing always surprises and challenges us, perhaps by defying the conventions of the form to which it belongs or simply by refreshing them in some way. I’ve chosen these books partly because they’re all excellent, but partly too because through them we can see the conventions of the form being established and refined—and, sometimes, refreshed, defied or undermined.