Book Recs

The Lost Years, Surviving a Mother and Daughter’s Worst Nightmare, by Kristina Wandzilak and Constance Curry.

A child caught in the depravity of alcohol and drug addiction; a mother helplessly standing by unable to save her. The Lost Years is the real life story of just such a mother and child, each giving their first hand accounts of the years lost to addiction and despair. Both mother and daughter are now in recovery – the mother from co- dependency and the ravaging effects of an addicted loved one; and the daughter, Kristina, now a nationally acclaimed speaker on addiction and is a professional addiction interventionist.  Visit her website at:

This memoir was helpful by giving an honest, disturbing look in to the underworld of cocaine and crack, ending  with its message of hope and recovery.  I tucked this book in to the bottom of my daughter’s suitcase when I helped her pack for medical detox in August 2009.  Four days later, she walked out of detox, AMA (against medical advice), and back to her life of addiction.

beautiful boy: a father’s journey through his son’s addiction, by David Sheff

David Sheff is a writer whose books include Game Over, China Dawn, and All We Are Saying. His many articles and interviews have appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Playboy, Wired, Fortune and elsewhere.  His piece for the New York Times Magazine, “”My Addicted Son,” won many awards and led to the writing of this book.

This book is a fiercely candid memoir that brings immediacy to the emotional roller-coaster of loving a child who seems beyond help. It contains a lot of good information about meth addiction and brain chemistry, treatment programs, and the parent/addicted child relationship.  The personal story of David Sheff and his son, Nic, is touching and heartbreaking.  Nic has ultimately written a book of his own, Tweak.  I also think that he has relapsed multiple times.  Here are 8 pages of excerpts that I thought were especially good.  They are categorized under:  Parents of Addicts, Addiction, Recovery, Treatment Programs/info.   Go to the  addiction resources referenced in this book and recommended by David Sheff.

The Alcoholism and Addiction Cure, by Chris Prentiss

This book is essentially an advertisement for the Passages Treatment Center programs that take a holistic approach to recovery.  The book/treatment centers claim to:  “Heal the Underlying Causes, How to End Relapse, How to End Suffering”.  “Freedom from dependency starts with understanding that alcohol and drugs are not the problems,” says Chris Prentiss, cofounder of Passages.  “They are merely the substances you are using to help yourself cope with your real problems . . . “  (Duh.) Passages’ 30 day treatment program seems insanely expensive ($75,000) and too short to truly effectively uncover an addict’s deep emotional problems that drove him/her to use in the first place.  Although I’m not completely sold on 12 step based treatment programs, they at least have ubiquitous aftercare support groups (AA) in place that are accessible and free.  I’m not sure what a “graduate” from the Passages does to keep him/herself on the path of sobriety. The personal struggle of Prentiss’ son, Pax, who was addicted to heroin, cocaine, and alcohol for ten years, was the best part of the book, in my opinion.  It gave me some insight in to the power of addiction and  good information about the physical withdrawal from heroin that     was helpful.

•Night Navigation, by Ginnah Howard

Just finished a wonderful novel by Ginnah Howard, Night Navigation. The characters, language, personal dilemmas, the emotional rollercoaster of addicts and their families, all were hauntingly familiar.  It’s obvious that Howard has had personal experience navigating the landscape of addiction and mental illness.

The book opens with Del giving her 37 year-old bipolar son, Mark, a ride to a medical de-tox facility for heroin addiction. “Through the four seasons, Night Navigation takes us into the deranged, darkly humorous world of the addict – from break-your-arm dealers to boot-camp rehabs to Rumi-quoting NA Sponsors.  Al-Anon tells Del to “let go”;  NAMI tells her to “hang on”.  Mark cannot find a way to live in this world; Del cannot stop trying to rescue him.  And yet, during this long year’s night, through relapse and despair, there are flare-ups of hope as Mark and Del fitfully, painfully try to steer toward the light.”

Told in the alternating voices of an addict and his mother, this riveting novel adds new depth to our compassion for and understanding of addiction, parents and their troubled children.

This book is not only beautifully written; but the revealing glimpses it gives us into the world and psyche of a struggling addict, contributed to my growing knowledge base and understanding of what my daughter must be experiencing.  For underlines and excerpts from this book that “spoke” to me, go to:  Night Navigation Notes

Healing the Addicted Brain, The Revolutionary, Science-Based Alcoholism and Addiction Recovery Program, by Harold C. Urschel, III, MD.  I haven’t been able to read all the way through this book – it’s a little dry, but does have some good science-based information about brain chemistry and addiction.  The book seems to support 12 step recovery programs, but also advocates the use of medications to initiate recovery and help maintain sobriety.  Some of the chapters that I’ve found helpful are:  Combating Triggers and Cravings, Medications to Initiatate Recovery and Maintain Sobriety, Dealing with Dual Diagnosis, Regaining Enjoyment and Pleasure.  The audience that the book seems to be written for, is the addict/alcoholic, which seems to be somewhat unrealistic, to me.

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