The Book Newly Sober People Love to Give to Each Other

“This book has SAVED MY LIFE,” wrote one reviewer


“This book has SAVED MY LIFE,” wrote one reviewer

Talking with Annie Grace, author of This Naked Mind.

In your opinion, what would be the ideal cultural role that alcohol might play in 20 years or 50 years? Or, what would be a long-term goal of your work?

This ties in to the conversation around the word “alcoholic,” which is sort of a delicate topic but which I know can put people off. It put me off for a long time.

I really like that idea of questioning alcohol intake in the same way we’d question our sugar intake.

I think, on one hand, the term “alcoholic” can be very empowering. I have a very good friend, she’s sober with AA, and she came to the realization that she was an alcoholic. That realization for her was incredibly empowering, because then she knew she could not drink again in safety, and it gave her the entire foundation for her to build her sober life upon. And it’s a thing that she’s very tied to — that term, because she considers the fact that she can say, “I am an alcoholic,” one of the cornerstones that saved her life. And so it’s very important and powerful for her.

According to the CDC, for excessive drinkers — so for women that’s eight drinks a week — only 10 percent of them actually fit the specification of being clinically addicted to alcohol. So if we’re going to use the term alcoholic, only 10 percent of heavy drinkers fit that alcoholic designation. Whereas for the other 90 percent, the alcohol dependence certainly involves some physical aspects, but it’s much more of an emotional and psychological addiction.

Yes. The definition of alcoholism also focuses the effort of sobriety on a minority of excess drinkers while ignoring millions who also really struggle with drinking.

Yeah. The whole idea is like, giving people permission to opt out while they’re in the gray zone, instead of like, thinking they have to stay on the ride until they get into the red zone.

Allen Carr, yes. Also The Addictive Brain by Thad A. Polk. There’s also a book called Alcohol Explained, by William Porter, and I think that’s really good. And then ironically this book called Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection, by John E. Sarno, which informed how I think about a lot of this, and which I mention in This Naked Mind. And then I’ve gotten a lot from other things, like psychology writer Kelly McGonigal, she’s got two books — The Willpower Instinct and The Upside of Stress — that are really interesting. Not for alcohol specifically, but more for overall, about habit change.

When I was questioning my drinking, I felt like I didn’t fit in, in part because of that one friend who’d become sober herself but deemed me not an alcoholic. And I wasn’t really ready to admit my own problem either. I felt very alone in it, although as soon as I wrote the book [This Naked Mind], people started coming out of the woodwork. Thousands upon thousands of people who were saying, “This is what I struggled with, too.”

And I think the other really important thing is that we stop this cycle of thinking like, “Okay, well, I’ve made one bad decision, so fuck it, I’m going to keep on making bad decisions, because what’s the point?”

If you go into sobriety without changing any of your thinking about alcohol, thinking, “Okay, but drinking is still awesome, everybody still loves it, and I’m the only one who doesn’t get to do it, poor me,” then sometimes you have to have, like, a decade of sober fun experiences to convince yourself otherwise. A decade of, “Oh, this concert is actually fun,” “Oh, this vacation is actually fun,” “Oh, this is actually good.”

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