Sobriety in Isolation

I thought there were few things as isolating as the the first days of recovery. And then I found myself living alone during a pandemic lockdown.

The anxiety, fear, and boredom of early recovery feels a lot like what we're all dealing with today.

I wanted to fast-forward through this dull segment. I want to skip to the part when I was no longer broken and busted up. Was that day coming? Could we skip this part and get there soon? I'd spent years losing time, nights gone in a finger-snap, but now I found myself with way too much time. I needed to catapult into a sunnier future, or I needed to slink back to a familiar past, but what I could not bear was the slow and aching present. Much of my life has been this way. A complete inability to tolerate the moment.

So says Sarah Hepola in her 2015 memoir Blackout : Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget.

In June, I'll be marking five years of sobriety most likely in my home, alone. I'm grateful to have a few years of recovery under my belt, and I feel for those attempting early sobriety during this time of social isolation. Isolation upon isolation. Sobriety clears the mind, burns off the fog, and forces you to deal with emotions you've long been pushing away. Everything feels raw and ragged. Reading about other people's struggles; someone putting words to what you're feeling, it makes things just a little more bearable.

AA reminds you much of our stories are the same...We all want to believe our pain is singular-- that no one else has felt this way-- but our pain is ordinary, which is both a blessing and a curse. It means we're not unique. But it also means we're not alone.

I've read a lot of sobriety memoirs and lately I've been returning to them for comfort and wisdom. There's reassurance to be found in seeing yourself in someone else's experiences, be it recovery, or world-wide health crisis.

Check out some of our favorite addiction and recovery literature below and find solace in knowing we are all in this together.


Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget By Sarah Hepola Cover Image

A memoir of unblinking honesty and poignant, laugh-out-loud humor, Blackout is the story of a woman stumbling into a new kind of adventure -- the sober life she never wanted.

A Drinking Life: A Memoir By Pete Hamill Cover Image

This bestselling memoir from a seasoned New York City reporter is "a vivid report of a journey to the edge of self-destruction" (New York Times).

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The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath By Leslie Jamison Cover Image

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Empathy Exams comes this transformative work showing that sometimes the recovery is more gripping than the addiction.

Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls: A Memoir By T Kira Madden Cover Image

“The book I wish I’d had growing up.” —Chanel Miller, author of Know My Name

Best Books of 2019: Esquire O, The Oprah Magazine Variety Lit Hub Book Riot Electric Literature Autostraddle
Finalist: NBCC John Leonard First Book Prize Lambda Literary Award

Lit: A Memoir By Mary Karr Cover Image


Ablutions: Notes for a Novel By Patrick deWitt Cover Image

In a famous but declining Hollywood bar works A Barman. Morbidly amused by the decadent decay of his surroundings, he watches the patrons fall into their nightly oblivion, making notes for his novel. In the hope of uncovering their secrets and motives, he establishes tentative friendships with the cast of variously pathological regulars.

Jesus' Son: Stories (Picador Modern Classics #3) By Denis Johnson Cover Image

American master Denis Johnson's nationally bestselling collection of blistering and indelible tales about America's outcasts and wanderers.

How to Grow Up: A Memoir By Michelle Tea Cover Image

“A gutsy, wise memoir-in-essays from a writer praised as ‘impossible to put down’”—People

From PEN America Literary Award-winning author Michelle Tea comes a moving personal essay collection about the trials and triumphs of shedding your vices in order to find yourself.

Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man: A Memoir By Bill Clegg Cover Image

Bill Clegg had a thriving business as a literary agent, a supportive partner, trusting colleagues, and loving friends when he walked away from his world and embarked on a two-month crack binge. He had been released from rehab nine months earlier, and his relapse would cost him his home, his money, his career, and very nearly his life.

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Drinking: A Love Story By Caroline Knapp Cover Image

Fifteen million Americans a year are plagued with alcoholism. Five million of them are women. Many of them, like Caroline Knapp, started in their early teens and began to use alcohol as "liquid armor," a way to protect themselves against the difficult realities of life.