The Power of Personal Experience – 7 Memoirs to Inspire Recovery


There is power in personal experience, especially in the recovery community. Group therapy is an essential part of mental health treatment at Sanford Behavioral Health because we are drawn to those who share a similar history.  Knowing that someone else was once in your shoes (and is now on the other side) relieves the loneliness and sense of isolation and inspires hope. Tis the season for looking ahead to the New Year and evaluating the old one. If you are contemplating drinking less, quitting altogether, or in recovery, we have selected seven inspirational memoirs for your holiday gift list.


The Power of Personal Experience – 7 Inspirational Memoirs

Dry – Augusten Burroughs

Darkly funny, this memoir tells the tale of Burrough’s long and excruciating road to recovery. His boss and co-workers stage a much-needed intervention at work. He is sent to a treatment center that specializes in gay and lesbian patients, and chaos ensues. This book describes an extremely rocky road to recovery and, at times, is painful to read – genuine, triumphant, brilliantly written.


Lit – Mary Karr

Unflinchingly honest and funny, Lit chronicles this self-described “blackbelt sinner’s” amazing journey to sobriety and redemption. Our favorite vignette is when, early in her recovery, she listens to a story in group therapy. A well-dressed woman talks about drinking secreted vodka from a frozen turkey carcass in the basement refrigerator. Sometimes, the most unexpected situation illuminates the problem. Karr thinks, “I’m not like them.  I’m not as bad as them.  I’ve got it much more together than these crazies,” but comes to terms with her alcohol use disorder in the end.


Quit Like a Woman – Holly Whitaker

Holly Whitaker is the founder and CEO of Tempest, a virtual recovery program that offers education, community, and support to women. This is her recovery story and also an expose to the role alcohol plays in our society and with women in particular.


Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man – Bill Clegg

Bill Clegg, now sober, is a literary agent in New York City. Portrait is the story of how he lost clients, his home, his loyal partner, and his mental health to crack. Brilliantly written with a perilous spin through the big city, this book is also an exploration of the pattern of addiction.


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

Blackout begins with the author locked out of a hotel room without a key or the memory of which room or with whom she had spent the night. Interestingly, Blackout is a story of resistance from someone who thought alcohol gave them confidence and creativity. It is also a story of toughing it out when faced with necessary change.


Mrs. D is Going Without – Lotta Dann

The original memoir is from a friend of Sanford Behavioral Health (she has written several articles for our online magazine Excursions). This is a tale from a self-styled “boozy housewife” whose fun drinking and partying habit had become an obsessive hunger for more than a bottle of wine a night. Mrs. D’s New Zealand humor and relatable stories make this a fast read. It is a standby for those who are considering making a change to the damp or dry life!


Never Enough The Neuroscience and Experience of Addiction – Judith Grisel

After 25 years as a neuroscientist, Judith Grisel shares scientific information about addiction from the perspective of her own experience of using drugs and alcohol. The bottom line is that all regular drug use acts on the brain to diminish enjoyment over time. Grisel talks about her path to addiction and recovery and her conclusion that community is the key to a “cure.”


Recommended Reading from Sanford Clinical Liaison Dr. Anna Flores

power of personal experience book and hot chocolate

Recommended Reading – Eating Disorders – Dr. Anna Flores

Sanford Behavioral Health’s Dr. Anna Flores makes recommendations for those with eating disorders, substance use disorders, or just looking for great books to inspire!


Old Standbys

If the books above hit a little too close to home, we offer the tried and true books below. And if you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, eating disorders, or co-occurring mental health conditions, don’t wait to change your life –  get in touch with a Sanford Behavioral Health admissions specialist today at 616.202.3326.


Alcoholics Anonymous: The Big Book’ – William G. Wilson (Bill W)

Originally published in 1939, the “big book” has been translated into 70 languages and sold more than 30 million copies.


Staying Sober – Terrence T. Gorski, Merlene Miller

Sanford Founder Rae Green’s pick, Staying Sober, is a patient textbook for recovery and relapse prevention. Be aware it is simply written but packed with robust information that stands the test of time (first printing was in 1986).


If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, eating disorders, or co-occurring mental health conditions, don’t wait to change your life. Click the link below to speak to a Sanford admissions specialist.

Sanford Behavioral Health is licensed and accredited as an addiction, eating disorder, and co-occurring mental health treatment facility, serving all of Michigan and beyond. Each of Sanford’s facilities in Greater Grand Rapids is carefully and diligently crafted to create a welcoming and comforting environment. Sanford is led by a psychiatrist-led team of medical, clinical, and support personnel providing medication-assisted, evidenced-based treatment to residential, outpatient, and telehealth patients. For more information, visit