During National Recovery Month we celebrate the achievements of people who are overcoming issues with substances and mental health. Recovery Month helps spread the word about better ways to treat and recover based on evidence. It encourages the growth of a strong and proud community of people who are in recovery. We also give credit to the professionals and community members all over the country who play a big role in supporting recovery in its different forms.
While each of our buildings and our digital library has local and national resources and information for you, I want to remind you that we are also a repository of stories. People telling their experiences with the hopes of inspiring you. In recognition of Recovery Month, let’s take a look at memoirs that represent recovery, treatment, family and community.
In his book “I’m Not Broken,” Jesse Leon shares of his life as a young Latino in San Diego growing up with a loving mother and siblings yet outside influences led to drug use and rebellion. Abuse at a young age attributed to his spiral into drug and alcohol addiction and prostitution. Living the ‘thug life’ further trapped him. Mid-book he meets the person who will inspire him to start reclaiming his life. Read about his recovery and his work to resist again and again as he rebuilt his life. Jesse is now a mentor for incarcerated youth.
When I started writing this post, I thought about reading something about Carrie Fisher who was also a survivor and fighter and advocate, yet as I explored people represented in our collection I found myself with many choices. You will find other biographies in our catalog if you want to learn more.
Harris Wittel was a comedian, writer and one of the producers for Parks and Recreation. The night before his death, he told a stand-up audience that he was “in a good place” and living sober. He died of a heroin overdose the next day. In “Everything is Horrible and Wonderful” his sister Stephanie Wittels Wachs shares the anguish of his family picking up and moving on, mingling with vignettes of Harris’s life. It’s a funny, poignant book about Stephanie’s grief and her first year without him when Harris lost his battle with addiction.
Want to read other memoirs of family and friends struggling with recovery? Start your search by looking for family relationships and additions in our catalog.
Let’s visit the works of two professionals, each with successful practices and yes, published work. Dr. Richard Sandor gives us “Thinking Simply About Addiction” and has worked for decades with people recovering from addiction in roles as medical director at several nationally accredited drug and alcohol treatment programs and served as president of the California Society of Addiction Medicine. Looking through the lens of twelve-step programs, Sanders shares his experiences and philosophies in a conversational voice, easy to comprehend. You will develop a greater understanding of the automatic, involuntary behaviors that leave the addict feeling unable to help themselves, thus the need to grow spiritually through the program they follow.
Dr. Leana Wen wrote “Lifelines: A Doctor’s Journey in the Fight for Public Health” and has worked as an emergency physician, former Baltimore health commissioner, CNN medical analysist and a contributing columnist for the Washington Post. She was one of the ER doctors during the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 and was writing medical articles during the Coronavirus Pandemic, and, amazing to me, were her personal accounts of what she saw, thought and did during both. Sandwiched between is her work with Planned Parenthood and other organizations. As a public health advocate, Wen has been on the front line of our nation’s efforts to ensure “citizens are not robbed of decades of life and that where children live does not determine whether they live.”
I’ll close this survey of feel-empowered books by introducing Gina Schaefer, author of “Recovery Hardware.” Gina opened her first Ace Hardware store in Logan Circle neighborhood of Washington DC. Whitman-Walker was just down the block and some of her first (and best) employees found her because of that proximity. Note that this book is shelved with the entrepreneurial books about building a business, making powerful connections and soaring high. “Recovery Hardware” does have all of those elements. But the glue that held it all together was the stories about her employees. At times 50% of them were recovering from addiction, just out of prison or leaving an abusive relationship. While there are tips and best practices for a new business owner, this book is about the community that develops between the neighborhoods and the employees.
Each of these books reminds us that no one can overcome addiction and the results of addiction alone. Success is more readily found with a supportive network. As we recognize Recovery Month, let’s applaud our communities and our professionals doing the work to provide those networks, and let’s cheer on and support our community members who are in recovery.