Recommended Memoirs

A list of some of the best memoirs detailing personal experiences with mental illness, substance use, and recovery

Compiled by Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Recommended Memoirs for Mental Health & Addiction

Drinking: A Love Story (1997) by Caroline Knapp

Amazon Description: “It was love at first sight. The beads of moisture on a chilled bottle. The way the glasses clinked and the conversation flowed. Then it became obsession. The way she hid her bottles behind her lover’s refrigerator. The way she slipped from the dinner table to the bathroom, from work to the bar. And then, like so many love stories, it fell apart. Drinking is Caroline Kapp’s harrowing chronicle of her twenty-year love affair with alcohol.”

A Drinking Life: A Memoir (1994) by Pete Hamill

Amazon Description: “Hamill explains how alcohol slowly became a part of his life, and how he ultimately left it behind. Along the way, he summons the mood of an America that is gone forever, with the bittersweet fondness of a lifelong New Yorker.”

Dry: A Memoir (2003) by Augusten Burroughs

Amazon Description: “You may not know it, but you’ve met Augusten Burroughs. You’ve seen him on the street, in bars, on the subway, at restaurants: a twentysomething guy, nice suit, works in advertising. Regular. Ordinary. But when the ordinary person had two drinks, Augusten was circling the drain by having twelve; when the ordinary person went home at midnight, Augusten never went home at all. Loud, distracting ties, automated wake-up calls and cologne on the tongue could only hide so much for so long. At the request (well, it wasn’t really a request) of his employers, Augusten lands in rehab, where his dreams of group therapy with Robert Downey Jr. are immediately dashed by grim reality of fluorescent lighting and paper hospital slippers. But when Augusten is forced to examine himself, something actually starts to click and that’s when he finds himself in the worst trouble of all. Because when his thirty days are up, he has to return to his same drunken Manhattan life―and live it sober. What follows is a memoir that’s as moving as it is funny, as heartbreaking as it is true. Dry is the story of love, loss, and Starbucks as a Higher Power.”

Girl, Interrupted (1993) by Susanna Kaysen

Amazon Description: “Kaysen’s memoir encompasses horror and razor-edged perception while providing vivid portraits of her fellow patients and their keepers. It is a brilliant evocation of a “parallel universe” set within the kaleidoscopically shifting landscape of the late sixties. Girl, Interrupted is a clear-sighted, unflinching document that gives lasting and specific dimension to our definitions of sane and insane, mental illness and recovery.”

Go Ask Alice (1971) by Alice

Amazon Description: “It started when she was served a soft drink laced with LSD in a dangerous party game. Within months, she was hooked, trapped in a downward spiral that took her from her comfortable home and loving family to the mean streets of an unforgiving city. It was a journey that would rob her of her innocence, her youth—and ultimately her life.”

Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity (2008) by Kerry Cohen 

Amazon Description: “Loose Girl is Kerry Cohen’s captivating memoir about her descent into promiscuity and how she gradually found her way toward real intimacy. The story of addiction–not just to sex, but to male attention–Loose Girl is also the story of a young girl who came to believe that boys and men could give her life meaning.”

Parched: A Memoir (2006) by Heather King

Amazon Description: “In this tragicomic memoir about alcoholism as spiritual thirst, Heather King—writer, lawyer, and National Public Radio commentator—describes her descent into the depths of addiction. Spanning a decades-long downward spiral, King’s harrowing story takes us from a small-town New England childhood to hitchhiking across the country to a cockroach-ridden “artist’s” loft in Boston. Waitressing at ever-shabbier restaurants, deriving what sustenance she could from books, she became a morning regular at a wet-brain-drunks’ bar—and that was after graduating from law school. Saved by her family from the abyss, King finally realized that uniquely poetic, sensitive, and profound though she may have been, she was also a big-time mess. Casting her lot with the rest of humanity at last, she learned that suffering leads to redemption, that personal pain leads to compassion for others in pain, and, above all, that a sense of humor really, really helps.”

Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America (1994) by Elizabeth Wurtzel

Amazon Description: “Elizabeth Wurtzel writes with her finger in the faint pulse of an overdiagnosed generation whose ruling icons are Kurt Cobain, Xanax, and pierced tongues. In this famous memoir of her bouts with depression and skirmishes with drugs, Prozac Nation is a witty and sharp account of the psychopharmacology of an era for readers of Girl, Interrupted and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.”

Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood (2005) by Koren Zailckas

Amazon Description: “Garnering a vast amount of attention from young people and parents, and from book buyers across the country, Smashed became a media sensation and a New York Times bestseller. Eye-opening and utterly gripping, Koren Zailckas’s story is that of thousands of girls like her who are not alcoholics—yet—but who routinely use booze as a shortcut to courage and a stand-in for good judgment.”

Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines (2009) by Nic Sheff

Amazon Description: “Nic Sheff was drunk for the first time at age eleven. In the years that followed, he would regularly smoke pot, do cocaine and Ecstasy, and develop addictions to crystal meth and heroin. Even so, he felt like he would always be able to quit and put his life together whenever he needed to. It took a violent relapse one summer in California to convince him otherwise. In a voice that is raw and honest, Nic spares no detail in telling us the compelling, heartbreaking, and true story of his relapse and the road to recovery. As we watch Nic plunge into the mental and physical depths of drug addiction, he paints a picture for us of a person at odds with his past, with his family, with his substances, and with himself. It’s a harrowing portrait—but not one without hope.”

13 Sites for Self-Help

Free online self-help and personal development

Compiled by Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Image by stokpic from Pixabay

1. Counselling Resource Take psychological self-tests and quizzes, read about symptoms and treatments, compare types of counselling and psychotherapy, learn about secure online therapy, and more

2. DBT Self-Help A site for individuals seeking information on DBT. This site includes DBT skill lessons, flash cards, diary cards, mindfulness videos, and more.

3. Healthy Place Mental health information, including online assessments and breaking news

4. HelpGuide.org Collaborates with Harvard Health Publications to provide a wide range of unbiased, motivating resources and self-help tools for mental, social, and emotional. 100% nonprofit; dedicated to Morgan Leslie Segal, who died by suicide when she was 29.

5. Internet Mental Health A free encyclopedia for mental health information on the most common mental disorders. Created by psychiatrist Dr. Phillip Long.

6. Mental Health Online Create an account to access free mental health services for mental distress, including programs for anxiety, depression, OCD, and other disorders

7. Moodgym Interactive self-help book for depression and anxiety. (This resource used to be free, but now there’s a small fee.)

8. National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse A peer-run resource center

9. Psych Central Information on mental health, quizzes, and online self-help support groups. The site is owned and operated by Dr. John Grohol, inspired by the loss of his childhood friend to suicide.

10. Psychology Help Center A consumer resource featuring information related to psychological issues that affect emotional and physical well-being

11. Sources of Insight Providing the principles, patterns, and practices needed for personal development and success; a source for skilled living and personal empowerment

12. Succeed Socially An extensive, completely free collection of articles on social skills and getting past social awkwardness. It’s written by someone who’s struggled socially himself, and who has degrees in psychology and counseling.

13. Verywell Mind An online resource for improving mental health. All content is written by healthcare professionals, including doctors, therapists, and social workers.


Guest Post: My Experience with Depression

“I had absolutely no direction in my life. I was a loose cannon. An unguided projectile… I viewed life in a negative, nihilistic, cynical, and overall pessimistic way.”

By Kevin Mangelschots

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


Depression, also known by some as the silent killer. And for good reasons.

Little did I know I was going to find this out firsthand.

Early on in life, before the age of 16, everything was perfect. I had loving parents and, in general, a loving family. I had plenty of friends. I excelled in sports and did well in school.

Things were easy back then. The only ounce of responsibility I had was making sure I got passing grades. And what if I didn’t listen in school and got detention as a result? Well, he’s still a young kid who’s figuring out life. Got into a fight? Well, he’s still a young boy who doesn’t always thinks before he acts.

But my perfect world didn’t last.

My Experience with Depression

Around the age of sweet 16, my life started changing rapidly.

I stopped feeling happy and optimistic. At first, I thought it was just a phase everyone my age went through and that it would pass as quickly as it came. But it didn’t. I had a difficult time adjusting to my ever-changing environment and handling the pressure I believed was being put on me.

I didn’t know what I wanted for my future. My friends and schoolmates already knew what they were going to study when they went to college the next year. I, however, did not. I had no direction in life. I was a loose cannon, an unguided projectile, an immature and wild kid, busy with partying and drinking.

I started getting into frequent fights; I’m not a violent person, but the anxiety, negative emotions, feelings of helplessness, and an overall sense of feeling lost in this world led to physical confrontations with others. The fights were a reflection of my poor mental state.

Image by Annabel_P from Pixabay

Then I turned 18. My parents told me it was time to start taking responsibility for my choices and actions because this time “it was for real.”

In college, I decided to pursue the field of nutrition. Not because I had a strong desire to become a dietician, but rather, because people I knew from my home town were going this route, and I figured since I was interested in exercise/health, it might be a good fit.

Newsflash, it wasn’t.

I quit school two months in. Turns out choosing what course to study based on friends rather than what you want in life is not the smartest idea. (Who would’ve thought, right?)

The following year, I gave it another try. This time I studied occupational performance. Long story short, I managed to earn a college degree despite my depression.

After I graduated and started working as an occupational therapist in a physical rehabilitation center, things got better. I was motivated to help people relearn lost skills, improving their quality of life.

But in time, my thoughts turned dark again, becoming negative and nihilistic. I slept less and my sleep quality was poor. I would randomly wake up at night and cry because I felt so terrible. I withdrew from friends and family. I even discovered a way to measure the severity of my depression; when my mood worsened, I craved alcohol. Drinking was a way to self-medicate.

Image by succo from Pixabay

I continued to plow away at work, but an excessive sense of responsibility, perfectionism, and anxiety was eating away at my mental health. I was head deep into my depression.

One day, I woke up and found I couldn’t get out of bed. I had nothing left in the tank. I realized I needed to take some time off work to deal with my depression and get my life in order again. I called my parents and asked to come home.

At first, I didn’t leave the bedroom. There were successive days I didn’t get up to eat or shower. I was in constant mental pain. It was hell on earth.

One evening, I managed to get out of bed and sat down to eat dinner with my parents. They were silent, and looked tired and sad. Until this moment, my depressive haze prevented me from seeing how my illness impacted my family. I decided: that’s it, no more. It was my guilt that fueled the decision to fully contend with my mental illness.

Up until now, I was only living for myself, not participating and valuing what my parents, family, and others did for me. So, something needed to change. I needed to turn my life around. And with my life, my attitude.

I started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants. I took a sincere look at self, including undesirable traits I’d been afraid to face. I set goals for myself. And when I had zero desire to get out of bed, I pushed through. I made sure I did something useful every day.

After several months of therapy and medication, life became manageable. I talked more, was less irritable, and as a result, my life and that of those around me improved. At times I even looked forward to things!

How Depression Changed Me


Although the depression was tough on me, and there were times I didn’t know if I was going to make it, it brought about some positive changes.

I became more mature and resilient; I learned to put things in perspective and take necessary responsibility. But the two most significant aspects that changed were my so-called “intellectual arrogance” and the pessimistic way I viewed life.

Before, I considered myself a fairly intelligent fellow. The problem with this was that I overvalued intelligence, viewing other aspects in life as inferior.

Moreover, my attitude was overwhelmingly cynical and negative. What I failed to realize is that focus shapes experience. And if you only pay attention to the negative, you miss the beauty life has to offer. Now, I actively search for the good and beautiful things happening around me.

What Helped Me Get My Depression Under Control

In addition to medication and therapy, I found the following to be helpful:

  • Seeking help. We can’t do everything on our own, no matter how much we’d like to. There are times when you will need help to cope with your depression. In addition to professional help, seek support from family and trusted friends. You may find that feeling heard and understood is what carries you through the darker days.
  • Setting goals. I had no desire to do anything in life. I had no goals. For severe depression, I would advise setting smaller goals you think you would mind doing the least (minimal effort) and/or goals which you found important in the past (before your depression took over).
  • Taking responsibility. Although depression can be debilitating, practice taking responsibility for the things in life under your control. For me, it was easy to blame others for everything that went wrong, believing the world to be wretched and unfair, but it didn’t do me any good.
  • Exercising. Mental health and physical health go hand-in-hand. Exercise releases endorphins, the “feel good” brain chemicals related to pleasure. If you don’t enjoy exercise, try a hobby that requires some level of physical exertion. As an additional benefit, engaging in exercise can take your mind off the stressful things in life.
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

My Depression Warning Signs

For me, there are clear signs that indicate my depression is coming back or worsening. Keep in mind that warning signs vary from individual to individual. What might be a warning sign for me may not for you.

  • My desire to do anything decreases. Hobbies I enjoy like weightlifting and running suddenly mean very little to me. But it’s not just about hobbies. Things like getting out of bed and showering suddenly become difficult because I have zero motivation or energy.
  • My thoughts get darker and more negative. It becomes increasingly tough to see the positive things in life or the positive in people. I become cynical and pessimistic.
  • Overthinking. I tend to overthink when things go bad, which is basically what depression is for me: feeling bad.
  • Anxiety. Negative thoughts and overthinking lead to increased levels of anxiety. My anxiety about the little things in life may seem insignificant to others who don’t have a mental illness, but a simple act such as calling or visiting a friend can freak me out and lead to rumination.
  • Ruminating. Intrusive thoughts run through my head and there’s no “off” switch.
  • Irritability. I become increasingly irritable; I’m in a foul mood all of the time and the smallest things piss me off.
  • Increased desire to self-medicate. I experience a strong desire to drink. Alcohol impacts the brain by triggering a release of dopamine. This rush of dopamine creates feelings of pleasure and happiness.
  • Decreased sleep quality. My overall sleep quality gets worse, partly due to constant overthinking and ruminating. Anxiety and stress are also big factors. And when I’m able to fall asleep, I wake up throughout the night.

Conclusion

Depression is a terrible disease that may go unnoticed if the signs aren’t recognized or known. A person with depression might attempt to maintain a positive front, possibly because they don’t want to complain or they’re afraid of being misunderstood.

There are multiple symptoms of depression; my symptoms went hand-in-hand, playing off one another and creating a vicious circle of negative thoughts that sucked the energy and lust for life from me.

Depression symptoms are different for different people. Learning to identify the symptoms will help you to recognize depression in others. Furthermore, an increased awareness enhances empathy and enables you to better support someone with depression.

I give the following advice to anyone with depression:

  • ☑ Don’t give up.
  • ☑ Seek professional help.
  • ☑ Seek support from your family and close friends.
  • ☑ Set goals and work hard to achieve them.
  • ☑ Take responsibility for the things you can control.
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Is there a cure for depression? No. Do I think I will ever be totally depression-free? Maybe. What I do know for sure is that my illness is manageable and livable at the moment. I look forward to what the future has in store for me. Which is a lot more than I anticipated at first.


About the Author:

Kevin Mangelschots is a writer and occupational therapist with seven years of experience in the field of physical rehabilitation. He is a long-time fitness enthusiast. Kevin lives in Belgium and has created a platform for other bloggers to share their life stories where he writes about his own experience with depression at retellinglifestories.com.

Professional Membership Organizations for Mental Health Professionals

A list of membership associations for mental health counselors, psychotherapists, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, specialists, etc., including ACA/APA divisions and international organizations

Compiled by Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Image by 정훈 김 from Pixabay

National (United States)

American Counseling Association (ACA) Divisions
American Psychological Association (APA) Divisions

Canada

UK & Ireland

Australia & New Zealand

European Organizations

International Organizations & Associations


Resources for Suicide Prevention & Recovery

A resource list with links to useful sites, free assessment tools, low-cost trainings, printable PDF toolkits/guides, and more

Compiled by Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Image by sreza24595 from Pixabay

Education & Advocacy Sites

At-Risk Youth

Assessment & Screening

Low-Cost & Free Trainings

Toolkits & Guides

Suggested Books

Image by Roman Hörtner from Pixabay

Suicide Survivors

Crisis & Chat Lines

Online Support

MOBILE Apps


Resources for Grief & Loss

A collection of recommended reading and other resources for grief and loss

Compiled by Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Recommended Books

Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief (2000) by Pauline Boss, Ph.D. (176 pages)

Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief (2017) by Joanne Cacciatore, Ph.D. (248 pages)

The Grief Club: The Secret to Getting Through All Kinds of Change (2006) by Melody Beattie (368 pages)

Grief Day by Day: Simple Practices and Daily Guidance for Living with Loss (2018) by Jan Warner (272 pages)

The Grief Recovery Handbook, 20th Anniversary Expanded Edition: The Action Program for Moving Beyond Death, Divorce, and Other Losses including Health, Career, and Faith (2009) by John W. James & Russell Friedman (240 pages)

Healing a Teen’s Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas for Families, Friends and Caregivers (Healing a Grieving Heart Series) (2001) by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. (128 pages)

How to Survive the Loss of a Love (2006) by Melba Colgrove, Ph.D., Harold H. Bloomfield, MD, & Peter McWilliams (208 pages)

It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand (2017) by Megan Divine (280 pages)

I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping and Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One (2008) by Brook Noel & Pamela D. Blair, Ph.D. (292 pages)

No Time for Goodbyes: Coping with Sorrow, Anger, and Injustice After a Tragic Death, 7th ed. (2014) by Janice Harris Lord (240 pages)

Permission to Mourn: A New Way to Do Grief (2014) by Tom Zuba (121 pages)

Resilient Grieving: Finding Strength and Embracing Life After a Loss That Changes Everything (2017) by Lucy Hone, Ph.D. (256 pages)

Unattended Sorrow: Recovering from Loss and Reviving the Heart (2019) by Stephen Levine (240 pages)

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (2016) by Pema Chodron (176 pages)

The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief (2015) by Francis Weller (224 pages)

Recommended Books for Children & Adolescents

The Fall of Freddie the Leaf: A Story of Life for All Ages (1982) by Leo Buscaglia (32 pages, for ages 4-8)

Healing Your Grieving Heart for Kids: 100 Practical Ideas (Healing Your Grieving Heart Series) (2001) by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. (128 pages, for ages 12-14)

Healing Your Grieving Heart for Teens: 100 Practical Ideas (Healing Your Grieving Heart Series) (2001) by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. (128 pages, for ages 12-18)

The Invisible String (2018) by Patrice Karst (40 pages, for ages 4-8)

The Memory Box: A Book About Grief (2017) by Joanna Rowland (32 pages, for ages 4-8)

Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss (2005) by Pat Schwiebert & Chuck DeKlyen (56 pages, for ages 8-12 years)

When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death (Dino Tales: Life Guides for Families) (1998) by Laurie Krasny Brown (32 pages, for ages 4-8)

When Someone Very Special Dies: Children Can Learn to Cope with Grief (1996) by Marge Heegaard (32 pages, for ages 9-12)

When Something Terrible Happens: Children Can Learn to Cope with Grief (1992) by Marge Heegaard (32 pages, for ages 4-8)

Recommended Books for Clinicians

Creative Interventions for Bereaved Children (2006) by Liana Lowenstein (205 pages)

Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy, Fifth Edition: A Handbook for the Mental Health Practitioner (2018) by William Worden, Ph.D. (352 pages)

Grief Counseling Homework Planner (PracticePlanners) (2017) by Phil Rich (272 pages)

In the Presence of Grief: Helping Family Members Resolve Death, Dying, and Bereavement Issues (2003) by Dorothy S. Becvar (284 pages)

Transforming Grief & Loss Workbook: Activities, Exercises & Skills to Coach Your Client Through Life Transitions (2016) by Ligia Houben (264 pages)

Treating Traumatic Bereavement: A Practitioner’s Guide (2014) by Laurie Anne Pearlman, Ph.D., Camille B. Wortman, Ph.D., Catherine A. Feuer, Ph.D., Christine H. Farber, Ph.D., & Therese A. Rando, Ph.D. (358 pages)

Free Printable Workbooks & Handouts

Additional Resources for Grief & Loss


Book Review: The Sober Survival Guide

The Sober Survival Guide provides readers with an opportunity to explore their drinking habits and determine if an alcohol-free life may be right for them. It also serves as a handbook for coping with everyday life situations that may lead to cravings or relapse. (Includes a quote from the author and exclusive details about his next book, which is set to be released by the end of this year!)

Reviewed by Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP


Message from the Author, Simon Chapple:

“I didn’t ever set out to write a book, but as my blog grew and more people were visiting my website and finding the articles I was writing helpful, I was getting a lot of comments that I should do something more substantial, from here the book began to evolve.

The more I wrote, the more immersed I became in writing a book that I felt would have helped me at the time I wanted to quit. Right through the process I asked myself ‘would this help someone who wants to change their relationship with alcohol?’, if the answer was no, I removed it. 

I wanted to create something unique in the ‘quit lit’ sector, that would not only help readers learn the best strategy for quitting drinking that worked for me, but would also help set them up for long-term success when it comes to dealing with the challenges that arise in the months and years after getting sober.

I decided to split [The Sober Survival Guide] into two parts. The first part deals with the process of actually quitting drinking and guides readers along the path to freedom, the second part addresses specific situations that come up after quitting, such as social events, vacations, parties and events, relationships with friends, partners and family and dealing with ‘coming out’ about being ‘alcohol-free’.

My whole approach to sobriety is around our mindset, I believe that living alcohol-free should be seen as a positive lifestyle-choice that we make for ourselves, rather than feeling like we have been deprived and have to get by on willpower because we have had something special taken away from us.

I recently completed the manuscript for my second book – How to Quit Alcohol in 50 Days, which is a one-chapter a day roadmap to becoming alcohol-free and I am excited about the release at the end of this year.”

-Simon Chapple, August 7, 2020

Image by Markus Spiske from Pixabay

Can you relate to any of the following statements about alcohol?

  • “I can’t have fun without it. Imagine going to a party without drinking!”
  • “It makes me feel less anxious or depressed.”
  • “It helps me sleep.”
  • “I can’t relax without it.”
  • “It makes me entertaining to be around.”
  • “It fits the lifestyle of my boozy friends.”
  • “I like the taste.”
  • “It’s cool and sophisticated.”
  • “I’m not confident enough to talk to new people without it.”
  • “It helps me deal with all the problems that life throws my way.”
  • “It stops me from worrying, especially about how much I’m drinking.”
  • -Source: The Sober Survival Guide, pg. 6

Maybe you’ve questioned your drinking habits or wondered if you have a problem with drinking. Maybe you’ve thought about quitting, but can’t imagine a life without alcohol. You may, at times, wonder if you’re an alcoholic, but are quick to dismiss the idea because you haven’t hit “rock bottom” and you can’t relate to the 12-step concept of being utterly powerless over a disease.


Simon Chapple is not an alcoholic, nor is he in recovery; he is a person who doesn’t drink. In his book, The Sober Survival Guide, Chapple explains that he doesn’t deem it necessary to carry a label for the rest of your life (as many in AA and NA do). “Remember that you hold the power to be who you want to be, and you can choose what labels you use for yourself” (pg. 11).

In The Sober Survival Guide, Chapple shares about his personal journey as a heavy drinker to discovering sobriety and living an alcohol-free life. He discusses alcoholism and the stigma surrounding certain labels (i.e. “alcoholic”) in the first part of the book, which “sets the scene for you to explore what an alcohol-free life might look like for you” (pg. 21). You are also given the opportunity to examine your relationship with alcohol along with your beliefs about drinking.

The second part of the book serves as a practical handbook for anyone who wants to stop drinking; it includes helpful tips for navigating everyday life situations that could trigger a desire to drink. Some of the problems and challenges you may face include stress, accountability, special events/parties, boredom, sleep, and sober sex, among others.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Throughout the book, Chapple encourages the reader to examine their core beliefs about drinking by asking thought-provoking questions. These questions can serve as journaling prompts for the person who is wondering, “Am I an alcoholic?”

The last few pages of the book provide the reader with helpful resources, including Chapple’s blog and free online support community.


The Sober Survival Guide is an easy read with clearly-presented information. The book has a non-judgmental feel to it, unlike much of the 12-step literature that suggests your drinking is related to character flaws. (The language and concepts of AA can be off-putting and difficult to relate to for individuals at the lower end of the alcohol use disorder spectrum.)

Furthermore, The Sober Survival Guide empowers the reader to make changes; you don’t have to admit powerlessness over a disease and turn your will over to a higher power to quit drinking. Chapple’s message is hopeful and inspiring; plus, many of his strategies are based on evidence-based practices, including CBT and mindfulness.

Image by klimkin from Pixabay

If you are currently questioning whether or not your drinking habits are “normal,” The Sober Survival Guide will provide answers. This book will lift you up and inspire; as you read through the chapters, you may also feel an enormous sense of relief. Furthermore, you will be equipped with a wealth of effective strategies if you do choose to cut down or quit drinking. (Quitting drinking is not easy, but 100% doable, providing you put in the effort and have supports.)


I recommend reading The Sober Survival Guide if you’ve ever wondered if you’re an alcoholic. (You may not see yourself as a “problem drinker,” but you sometimes experience problems related to your alcohol use.) I also recommend this book if you’ve already made the decision to quit or cut down on alcohol. And if you’re a heavy drinker, but are unsure if you want to stop, The Sober Survival Guide has the power to motivate and inspire. Friends and family members of a heavy drinker will also benefit from this book.

Additionally, The Sober Survival Guide is recommended for anyone working in the mental health field. If you have a client who is worried about their drinking or unsure if they have a problem, this book offers answers while providing a refreshing perspective on alcohol use. (It’s proven that people are better equipped to make sustainable change when presented with a variety of options instead of just one. Don’t contribute to the myth that AA is the only way to get sober!)

Image by bruce lam from Pixabay

Is there anyone who should not read this book? In some ways, The Sober Survival Guide oversimplifies addiction; it does not take into account the complex relationship between trauma and substance use. Some of the techniques described in the second part of the book are not trauma-informed. Additionally, if you’ve been diagnosed with a serious mental illness (i.e. major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.), your recovery requires a co-occurring approach in order to treat both the addiction and the mental disorder. Lastly, if you have a severe addiction and are physically dependent on alcohol, it’s likely you’ll require extensive, ongoing treatment in order to fully recover; the tips in the book aren’t sufficient (which is noted by the author).


In sum, if you’re tired of the role alcohol plays in your life, consider reading The Sober Survival Guide! You have nothing to lose, but much to gain.


For Simon’s newest book (Kindle version), How to Quit Alcohol in 50 Days: Stop Drinking and Find Freedom, which is set to be released by the end of this year, click here! Check back for an exclusive review on Mind ReMake Project prior to the release date.


Journal Prompts from The Sober Survival Guide

Chapple recommends journaling as a tool for reflection and change. The following prompts are based on material from The Sober Survival Guide. (Download a printable PDF version below.)


  • ✒ Reflect on the following:
      • What are your drinking habits now? How much? How often? What drinks do you have?
      • What were your drinking habits one year ago?
      • What were your drinking habits five years ago?
      • (Compare your answers. Are you drinking more now than you were before?) (pg. 29)
  • ✒ Calculate the time (per week) you spend drinking alcohol. Consider calculating the time spent planning to drink or recovering from the effects of alcohol. (pg. 147)
  • ✒ List the reasons your life is better because of alcohol. Next, challenge each reason. (pg. 44)
  • ✒ Does labeling yourself as an “alcoholic” or “addict” help or harm you? Why? (pg. 10)
  • ✒ Do you believe you have to hit “rock bottom” to recover? Why or why not? (pg. 41)
  • ✒ Have you ever hit “rock bottom”? Describe the incident in detail. If you haven’t had a “rock bottom” experience, what do you think it would look like? (pg. 41)
  • ✒ What are your current beliefs surrounding alcohol? For each belief you list, write a challenging statement. (Example: “I fail at everything I do – I doubt I can [quit alcohol].” Challenge with “If I don’t try, I won’t ever know. I’ll approach this with an open mind and a sense of curiosity.”) (pg. 38)
  • ✒ Record your current feelings surrounding drinking. (pg. 58)
  • ✒ List specific fears you have about quitting drinking. (Examples: What if my friends think I’m boring sober? What if I fail? What if I can’t have fun anymore?) (pg. 79)
  • ✒ Create a cravings log. List the times of day you experience cravings and what is happening at those times. (pg. 78)
  • ✒ List the pros and cons of drinking. (pg. 77)
  • ✒ List some of the reasons you want to stop drinking. Write about how you want your life to change. (Be specific!) (pg. 25)
  • ✒ List the ways alcohol has negatively impacted your health. Include health concerns you may not have experienced yet. (pg. 28)
  • ✒ List all of the occasions or special events you’ve put alcohol ahead of and reflect on your answers. (pg. 33)
  • ✒ List all of the people, situations, and events you’ve neglected in favor of drinking. Then, for each item, write how the same situation/event would have looked like if you hadn’t been drinking. (pg. 36)
  • ✒ List your justifications for drinking. (Examples: “I work hard; I earned this drink.” “It’s just a beer, not hard liquor.” “I never drink alone.” “I only drink on weekends.”) (pg. 32)
  • ✒ Review your list of current beliefs surrounding alcohol. Assign an emotion to each belief. (Example: “Without drinking each day, I’ll never be happy.” The underlying emotions are worry and sadness.) Next, replace each belief with a truthful statement, something that could become. (Example: “I am happy because [insert reason(s) here], but I have a hard time not drinking every day. So I’m working on this to become stronger.”) (pg. 47)
  • ✒ Write a “breakup” letter to alcohol. (pg. 55)
  • ✒ List all the things you want to do or experience once you are alcohol-free. (pg. 69)
  • ✒ Create a list of ways you can celebrate your success. (Be sure to calculate how much money you’ll save by quitting drinking.) (pg. 84)
  • ✒ Create a sober bucket list. (pg. 148)
  • ✒ List everything you may lose if you start drinking again. (pg. 83)
  • ✒ Create a personal accountability statement. (pg. 83)
  • ✒ List ways you can respond to others when they ask why you’re not drinking. (Examples: “I’m driving.” “Not now, no thanks.” “Not tonight, maybe another time.”) (pg. 74)
  • ✒ When you have an upcoming event that’s potentially triggering, visualize what you will do, say, etc. Write your detailed vision in your journal. (pg. 97)
  • ✒ Create a list of coping skills for when you’re experiencing a low mood. (pg. 116)
  • ✒ Create a gratitude list. (pg. 117)
  • ✒ Create a daily thought log. What are some of the thoughts you have about drinking throughout the day? (pg. 120)
  • ✒ If you experience a lapse or relapse, describe what happened. Pinpoint the exact moment you decided to drink. (pg. 66)
  • ✒ Review what you wrote (in the previous entry) about your lapse or relapse. Identify the triggers you experienced. (pg. 78)
  • ✒ Write a statement of commitment to an alcohol-free life. (pg. 168)

Bonus Material: Checklist for the Problems and Challenges You’ll Face

Guest Post: How to Stay in Shape During the Lockdown

Two simple workout programs for the home; no gym required!

By Kevin Mangelschots

Crazy things are happening all around the world at the moment. The pandemic, lockdowns, riots… In times like these, it’s crucial that you keep your mind sharp and healthy. But in many places, gyms have not reopened. And not everyone has the luxury of owning a home gym.

If you lack access to a gym (home or otherwise), fear not! You will be amazed at how fit you can get with little (or no) equipment if you put your mind to it! This article reviews ways you can workout at home (minus the weights and fitness machines).

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Beginner Workout Program 

Warmup: 

⬜ 2-3 minutes of walking or riding the bike

Use this time to start your day off right. Go outside (weather permitting) and walk or ride your bike to warm up. If staying inside is your only option, walk in place or walk around your home.

Workout: 
  • ⬜ 30 seconds squats – 30 seconds rest
  • ⬜ 30 seconds planks – 30 seconds rest
  • ⬜ 30 seconds pushups – 30 seconds rest 
  • ⬜ 30 seconds lunges – 30 seconds rest 
  • ⬜ 30 seconds sit-ups – 30 seconds rest 
  • ⬜ 30 seconds Superman – 30 seconds rest 

–> Repeat this routine 2x. 

Cooldown:

⬜ 2-3 minutes of walking or slow biking 

Intermediate Workout Program 

Warmup: 

⬜ 2-3 minutes of walking or biking

Workout: 
  • ⬜ 20 burpees – 30 seconds rest 
  • ⬜ 30 close-grip pushups – 30 seconds rest 
  • ⬜ 20 Bulgarian lunges (10 left, 10 right) – 30 seconds rest 
  • ⬜ 30-second plank – 30 seconds rest 
  • ⬜ 40-second side plank (20 seconds left, 20 seconds right) – 30 seconds rest
  • ⬜ 30 seconds mountain climbers – 30 seconds rest 
  • ⬜ 30 seconds Superman – 30 seconds rest

–> Repeat this routine 2x.

Cooldown: 

⬜ 2-3 minutes of walking or slow biking 

Adjusting Your Workout Program 

Both of the above workout programs can be easily modified to be less difficult or more challenging. Below, I will explain how you can experiment to adjust the difficulty of your workout program and ways you can experiment if you are getting bored. Sometimes, changing things up is necessary to maintain motivation.

Reduce or increase rest times. Reducing or increasing rest times will make the workout harder or easier. 
 
Increase or decrease the reps and sets. The amount of reps refers to how many times you repeat the same motion for one set. For example, bench pressing 100 kg (220.5 lbs) five times in a row counts as five reps. The amount of sets refers to how many times you repeat a number of reps. For example, bench pressing 100 kg (220.5 lbs) five times in a row counts as one set. You can do multiple sets of the same exercise after you take a short rest.
 
Increasing the amount of reps and sets makes the workout harder while decreasing makes it easier.  

Adjust the way you do certain exercises. Most exercises can be made harder or easier. For example, pushups can be done on hands and toes, the traditional way, but can also be performed on hands and knees. Alternatively, they can be done with your feet raised on a bench, making them harder.

Squats can be done with or without weights. If regular squats are too easy, you can perform single-leg squats to increase the difficulty of the exercise.

Image by Keifit from Pixabay

Add or decrease the number of exercises. You can also add or remove exercises from your routine to alter the level of difficulty. Exercises should be added as your level of training advances.

Consider adding the following exercises to a workout program:

The exercises listed above are just a few examples to add to your workout in order to make things trickier or for a nice change of pace if things get boring. Don’t hesitate to add your own exercises; get creative! Just be sure to perform any exercise with the correct form in order to prevent injuries.

Why Are These Workouts Effective?

The workout programs in this article are compound exercises. Compound exercises are exercises or movements that target multiple large muscle groups at the same time. (For example, squats are compound exercises that target the legs in addition to the back and abdominal muscles, among others.) With compound exercises, you get more “bang for your buck.” The core of any training program should always consist of compound exercises.

High-intensity interval training. This means your heartrate increases and stays elevated for prolonged periods of time. We accomplish this with exercises of a certain level of intensity and by keeping rest periods between the exercises relatively short.

Strength, endurance, and mobility combined into one workout. With these workouts you will become stronger because you use your own body weight as resistance and your endurance will increase because your heartrate goes up with this high-intensity interval training style. Your mobility will increase as well because you will be utilizing a full range of motion.

Easy, even for individuals lacking prior experience.

Easily adjustable workout routines. Multiple ways to adjust the templates to make your own workout more challenging or less difficult.  

Convenience and value. No equipment or gym memberships required; a cheap and easy path to fitness. Both exercise programs require little time and can be performed at home. No drive to the gym. What’s not to like?

Additional Home Workout Ideas

  • Dumbbell workout
  • ⬜ Cardio kickboxing
  • ⬜ Jumping rope
  • ⬜ Home trainer
  • ⬜ Treadmill
  • ⬜ Walking up and down the stairs
  • ⬜ Resistance bands workout
  • ⬜ Kettlebell workout
Image by Rattakarn_ from Pixabay

Closing Thoughts 

In comparing the workouts, the biggest differences between the beginner and intermediate programs are the amount of exercises, the difficulty level, and the overall volume. Rest times are initially the same because everyone’s cardiovascular health is different, but should be adjusted for each individual.

Keep in mind that the workout programs are templates only; they provide general guidelines that can be adjusted for fitness and training level as well as individual differences. For example, one person may struggle with pushups while another has difficulty with squats. Prior experience and recent injury or illness should be taken into account. You can reduce or increase reps/sets or perform alternate versions of an exercise, such as performing pushups on hands and knees if the traditional pushup is too hard.

The common stigma that you need a lot of fancy equipment or heavy lifting to stay in shape is not necessarily true. While exercises that utilize body weight only may not lead to bulging muscles, they will lead to fitness and you being in great shape as you lose fat and gain strength.

Getting in a quality workout with the current lockdown regulations is challenging, but with some knowledge and determination it can certainly be done!


About the Author:

Kevin Mangelschots is a writer and occupational therapist with seven years of experience in the field of physical rehabilitation. He is a long-time fitness enthusiast. Kevin lives in Belgium and writes about general health with a specific focus on mental health and self-improvement on his blog, healthybodyathome.com

 

Group Therapy Resource Guide

A resource guide for clinicians who facilitate counseling groups

By Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Throughout my counseling career, group therapy has been a focal part of what I do. I’ve worked mainly in residential settings where groups take place several times a day.

Initially, group counseling terrified me. (What if I can’t “control” the group? What if a member challenges me? What if I can’t think of anything to say? What if everyone gets up and leaves? – that actually happened, once – and on and on. What made group therapy especially intimidating was that if I “messed up,” an entire group of people [as opposed to one person] would witness my failure.)

I got over it, of course. Group facilitation wasn’t always comfortable and I made many (many!) mistakes, but I grew. I realized it’s okay to be both counselor and human; at times, humans say dumb stuff, hurt each other’s feelings, and don’t know the answer. By letting go of the need to be perfect, I became more effective. Group facilitation is now one of my favorite parts of the job.

This resource guide provides practical information and tools for group therapy for mental health practitioners.

Group Therapy Guidelines

Group therapy is an evidence-based treatment for substance use and mental disorders. An effective group calls for a skilled clinician to meet treatment standards. Professional associations, such as the American Group Psychotherapy Association, develop best practice guidelines based on scientific data and clinical research.


SAMHSA promotes research-based protocols and has published several group therapy guides for best practice, including TIP 41: Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy, Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy – Quick Guide for Clinicians, and Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy Inservice Training (a training manual), in addition to group workbooks/facilitator guides for anger management, stimulant use disorder, and serious mental illness.

Book Recommendations

Group Exercises for Addiction Counseling (2012) by Dr. Geri Miller

The book itself is small in size but packed with helpful information and creative ideas. As a new counselor lacking in clinical skills, I supplemented with activities to engage the clients. Group Exercises for Addiction Counseling never failed me.

250 Brief, Creative & Practical Art Therapy Techniques: A Guide for Clinicians and Clients (2019) by Susan I. Buchalter

A more recent discovery of mine. This guide provides detailed instructions accompanied by thought-provoking discussion questions for each intervention. I was impressed with both the quality and originality; an instant upgrade to “house-tree-person.”

For clinical group practice

  • Corey, M. S., Corey, G., & Corey, C. (2018). Groups: Process and practice.
  • Yalom, I. D., & Leszcz, M. (2015). The theory and practice of group psychotherapy.

Icebreakers & Teambuilding

You need only Google “icebreakers” and you’ll have a million to choose from. I’m not listing many, but they’re ones clients seem to enjoy the most.


Activity 1. My most highly recommended icebreaker activity involves passing out blank slips of paper to each group member and instructing them to write a “fun fact” about themselves, something no one else in the group would know. I provide them with examples (i.e. “I once had a pet lamb named Bluebell” or “I won a hotdog eating contest when I was 11 and then threw up all over the judges’ shoes”). Depending on the crowd, you may want to tell clients not to write anything they wouldn’t want their peers to know. (I adopted this guideline after a client wrote about “sharting” himself.) Once everyone has written something, have them fold their papers and place in a container of some sort (a gift box, paper bag, plastic bowl, etc.) Group members take turns passing around the container (one-at-a-time) and picking a slip to read aloud. They must then guess who wrote it. (I give three guesses; after that, I turn it over to the group.)

Activity 2: A similar but more structured activity is to write out questions ahead of time and have clients take turns drawing and answering the questions. Questions can be silly, thought-provoking, or intending to illicit a strong emotional response (depending on the audience and goals for the group).

Activity 3: “People Search” involves a list of traits, feats, talents, or experiences. Each client receives the list and is given x amount of time to find someone in the group who is a match; that individual will then sign off. The first person to have their list completely signed sits down; they win. I typically let clients continue to collect signatures until two additional people sit down. (Prizes optional, but always appreciated.) During the debriefing, it’s fun to learn more (and thereby increase understanding and compassion).

Activity 4: “First Impressions” works best with group members who don’t know each other well. It’s important for group members to know each other’s names (or wear name tags). Each group member has a sheet of paper with various “impressions” (i.e. judgments/stereotypes). For example, items on the list might be “Looks like an addict” and “Looks intelligent.” Clients write other group members’ names for each impression. In addition to enhancing a sense of community, this activity provides an avenue for discussing harmful stereotypes and stigma.

Activity 5: Affirmations groups can be powerful, generating unity and kindness. The effect seems to be more pronounced in gender-specific groups. There are a variety of ways to facilitate an affirmations group, ranging from each person providing an affirmation to the client on their right to individuals sharing a self-affirmation with the group to creating a self-affirmation painting. Another idea is to give each client a sheet of paper. (Consider using quality, brightly-colored paper/posterboard and providing markers, gel pens, etc.) Clients write their name on it and then all the papers are passed around so each group member has the opportunity to write on everyone else’s sheet. Once their original paper is returned to them, they can read and share with the group. This can lead to a powerful discussion about image, reputation, feeling fake, etc. (Plus, clients get to keep the papers!)

Activity 6: “Most Likely to Relapse/Least Likely to Relapse” works best with a well-formed group and may require extra staff support. It’s good for larger groups and can be highly effective in a therapeutic community. Clients receive blank pieces of paper and are tasked to write the names of who they think is most likely and least likely to relapse. After writing their own name on the sheet, they turn it in to staff (effectively allowing staff to maintain a safe and productive environment). Staff then read each sheet aloud (without naming who wrote it). If they choose, clients can share what they wrote and provide additional feedback. (Most do.) Clients selected as “most likely” (in either category) have the opportunity to process with other group members and staff.


Access group therapy worksheets and handouts here.

Links to Additional Group Activities

Psychoeducation & Process Groups

In need of fresh material? It can be easy to fall into a rut, especially if you’re burnout or working with a particularly challenging group. The following three PDF downloads are lists of ideas for group topics. I also included two links to sites with helpful suggestions.


As a group facilitator, consider incorporating some sort of experiential activity, quiz, handout, game, etc. into every session. For example, start with a check-in, review a handout, facilitate a discussion, take a 5-minute bathroom break, facilitate a role-play, and then close the group by summarizing and providing clients with the opportunity to share what they learned. If that’s not feasible, provide coffee or snacks; sitting for 45 minutes is difficult for some, and 90 minutes can be unbearable.

Another idea is to have a “fun” or “free” group in the curriculum. Ideas include going bowling, having a potluck, Starbucks run, game group (i.e. Catchphrase, Pictionary, etc.), escape room, nature walk, etc.


Dealing With Challenges

Clients are not always willing therapy participants; some are court-ordered to attend or there to have privileges restored. Some attendees may be there “voluntarily,” but only to save their marriage or keep a job, not believing they need help. In residential treatment, clients attend mandatory groups as part of the daily schedule — participate or you’re out.

Even when attendance is truly voluntary, a group member may be in a bad space. Maybe they’re stressed about the rent or just got into a fight with their significant other. Or what if the AC is broken and the group room is 80 degrees? What if a client has unpleasant body odor or bad breath or an annoying cough?

Multiple factors combine and it’s suddenly a sh**show. (I’ll never forget the client who climbed onto a chair to “rally the troops” against my tyranny.) Anticipating challenges is the first step to effectively preventing and managing them.


Click here for an excellent article from Counseling Today that addresses the concept of client resistance.

Tips for dealing with challenges

  1. If possible, co-facilitate. One clinician leads while the other observes. The observer remains attuned to the general “tone” of the group, i.e. facial expressions, body language, etc.
  2. Review the expectations at the beginning of every group. Ask clients to share the guidelines with each other (instead of you telling them). This promotes a collaborative spirit.
  3. After guidelines are reviewed, explain that while interrupting is discouraged, there may be times when you interject to maintain overall wellness and safety. (Knowing this, a client is less likely to get angry or feel disrespected when/if it happens.)
  4. If you must interrupt, apologize, and explain the rationale.
  5. Avoid power struggles at all costs, especially when a client challenges the benefits of treatment. (The unhealthier group members will quickly side with a challenger, leading to a complaint session.) Challenging the efficacy of treatment (or you as a clinician) is often a defense mechanism. Sometimes, the best response is simply “okay,” or none at all… and keep moving. You can also acknowledge the client’s perspective and ask to meet with them after group (and then get back on topic). If the group is relatively healthy, you may want to illicit feedback from other group members.
  6. If a client becomes angry or tearful, give them time to vent for a moment or two (don’t “Band-Aid”); they may be able to self-regulate. (If they do self-regulate, share your observations and offer praise.)
  7. If a client’s anger escalates to a disruptive level, ask them to take a break. At this point, their behavior is potentially triggering to other group members. Don’t raise your voice or ask them to calm down. Direct them step out and return when they’re ready. You may have to repeat yourself several times, but remain firm and calm, and they will eventually listen.
  8. If a client is disrespectful (cursing at you or another client, name-calling, insulting, etc.) while escalated, let them know it’s not okay, but don’t attempt to provide feedback. (A simple, “Hey, that’s not okay,” will suffice.) Bring it up with the client later when they’re able to process.
  9. Once the client who has been disrespectful leaves the room, acknowledge what happened and let the group know you will follow up with the client. If another client wants to talk about it, ask them to share only how it made them feel, but stress that it’s not okay to talk about an absent group member. (“How would you feel if we talked about you when you weren’t here?”) Strongly suggest that they wait until the person returns (and is open) to have a group discussion.
  10. After a major blow-up (and once everyone is calm), it can be beneficial for the group to process it with the person who escalated. Group members can empathize/relate, share their observations and/or how it made them feel, and offer feedback.
  11. If other disruptive behaviors occur in group (side conversations, snoring, etc.) address them in the moment (without shaming, of course). Point out the behavior and explain how it’s disruptive to the group. Refer back to the group guidelines. Ask group members to comment as well. If you let a behavior persist, hoping it will eventually stop, you’re sending the message that it’s okay, not only to the person who is disruptive, but to the entire group. This impacts the integrity of the group and opens things up for additional disruptive behaviors.
  12. For clients who monopolize, who are constantly joking, or who attempt to intentionally distract by changing the topic, point out your observations and encourage group members to give feedback.
  13. If, on the other hand, clients seem disengaged or unmotivated, seek out their feedback, privately or in the group, whichever is clinically appropriate.
  14. If there’s a general level of disengagement, bring it up in the group. Remain objective and state your observations.
  15. Anticipate that at times, people may not have much to say. (And while yes, there’s always something to talk about, that doesn’t mean someone is ready to or has the emotional energy to.) Maybe they’re distracted or tired or feeling “talked out.” It’s good to have backup plans: watch a psychoeducational film, take a walk in the park, listen to meditations or music, provide worksheets, education reading material, or coloring sheets.

Always keep in mind a client’s stage of change, their internal experiences (i.e. hearing voices, social anxiety, paranoia, physical pain, etc.), external circumstances (i.e. recent medication change, loss of housing, conflict with roommates, etc.), and history of trauma. What looks like resistance may be something else entirely.

Professional Group Therapy Associations

Academic Articles

Online Articles

Additional Links