My 5 Favorite Addiction Memoirs

By Aaron Emerson

Recovery books. Addiction memoirs.

Whatever you wanna call them, there’s thousands of them. The internet is filled with them. If you are looking for a good recovery memoir but don’t know where to start, a quick Google or Amazon search can be overwhelming.

Throughout the last several years, I’ve read dozens of books about addiction and recovery. I even put together my own memoir by compiling past journal entries. I’m always looking for a good one I haven’t read.

I understand how hard it can be to find the right one, so that’s why I’m putting together some suggestions. To start, here are my five favorite addiction books, in no particular order. I will follow up in the next week or two with another set of suggestions.

-The American Fix – Inside the Opioid Addition Crisis and How to End it.
By Ryan Hampton

Ryan Hampton, a recovering heroin addict, founded a non-profit organization called Facing Addiction. He is an activist who has made it his life’s work to raise awareness, erase the stigma attached to addiction, and smash the barriers people face getting into treatment.

In his book, American Fix, Hampton does a great job of mixing his own personal story with solutions on ending the opioid epidemic. If you are looking for a book that not only gives hope for recovery, but provides an outline on how to change the treatment landscape to improve outcomes, this is a great choice.

-A Million Little Pieces
By James Frey

I know, I know. Oprah called him out for fabricating parts of his story and flat out making some things up. It really pissed me off when I heard that Frey lied about jail time and parts of his story. That doesn’t change the fact that his book is legendary, though.

Frey does a better job than almost anyone at taking you inside the mind of an addict. Once you start reading A Million Little Pieces, you won’t want to put it down. Even though parts of it are fake, Frey does a masterful job at showing the reader what it’s like to be tortured physically, mentally and emotionally by addiction. A Million Little Pieces takes you through Frey’s trip to rehab and how hard it was for him to find the motivation to get sober.

-Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines
By Nic Sheff

Sheff, who’s father wrote Beautiful Boy (now a major motion picture), is a terrific writer. He started using drugs at a very young age and eventually got hooked on meth and heroin. Tweak takes you through Nic’s journey of addiction, recovery, relapse and trying to get sober again.

He also does a great job of relaying the misery family members go through watching their loved ones destroy their lives. If you haven’t read Tweak or Beautiful Boy, you are missing out. Sheff also wrote a follow up book, We All Fall Down, a couple years later, but you will want to read Tweak first.

-Beyond Belief
By Josh Hamilton

I read Beyond Belief when I was serving a year in jail back in 2011 and it gave me a lot of hope. Josh Hamilton is a professional baseball player and was the number one overall draft pick in 1999, labeled as the next superstar.

That came with a ton of pressure for Hamilton. He did not handle it well and got into drugs and alcohol. Slowly, drugs completely took over his life, ruining his family and career. He was banned from baseball for too many failed drug tests and was looked at as a laughing stock around baseball.

His story didn’t end there, though. He got sober, turned his life around and worked his way back into baseball, winning the MVP. His story is one of redemption and faith. It is one of the best turnaround stories I’ve ever read.

Junkie: Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict
By William S. Burroughs 

You can’t talk about addiction memoirs without mentioning Junky. It’s a classic and was unheard of to write a book about heroin addiction in 1953. Initially published under the pseudonym William Lee, Burroughs fictionalized his experience using heroin and other drugs in the 1950’s.

It shows what it was like to be a drug user back in the day when addicts were truly underground. There was simply no help available when Burroughs was using heroin and addicts were hopeless souls. Burroughs was part of the “Beat” generation and helped inspire the counter-culture movement of the 1960’s. Even if you aren’t into addiction memoirs, Junky is a must read.

-Please comment your favorite addiction/recovery memoirs or make a suggestion by commenting below!

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Author: Aaron Emerson

From Lansing, Michigan, I am a recovering heroin addict and alcoholic. I share my story to spread hope, raise awareness and erase the stigma of addiction. I am a huge Detroit sports fan and have a seven year old daughter.

3 thoughts on “My 5 Favorite Addiction Memoirs”

  1. One of my favorites is Dry by Augustan Burroughs. It’s his memoir about recovery from alcoholism and his trip to rehab. I will have to read some of your suggestions!

  2. Nice! I’m looking forward to watching Beautiful Boy, but I haven’t read the books. I just read “I Swear I’ll Make it Up To You” by Mishka Shubaly. I posted a quick review on my FB a couple days ago. Glad to hear you’re writing your own book. I self-published a book a few years ago, “The Shores We Walk”, but I was in active addiction and didn’t have the time or capacity of editing it correctly and doing the story justice, so I eventually took it off the market. It’s definitely worth taking the time and doing it right.

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