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Offers a broader view of how recovery might happen
on January 16, 2013
Given the best-selling author and the long list of celebrity endorsers, providing a balanced review of this book is a challenge.
Lawford's book has much to recommend it. The book is a small encyclopedia about recovery. Many experts are quoted on specific issues that will be meaningful to specific readers. The major categories of addiction, plus a few related issues, are covered (alcohol, other drugs, eating disorders, gambling, hoarding, sex/porn, and nicotine). The "Seven Self-care Tools" are worth knowing (cognitive-behavioral therapy, 12-step and other groups, mindfulness, meditation, nutrition and exercise, body work, and journaling).
The book includes information not easily available elsewhere. For instance, several non-12-step self-help groups, including SMART Recovery, Moderation Management and Women for Sobriety, are listed. Natural recovery--recovery without treatment or attending a self-help group--is acknowledged. However, some of the major evidence supporting natural recovery is not reported. (To learn more about natural recovery do a web search for "alcoholism isn't what it used to be.")
From my perspective the major shortcoming of this book is that, without thoroughly knowing the scientific literature, the reader (and the author) can't know which experts are (significantly) straying from it. In my opinion some do. The scientific literature should be the foundation for recommending recovery activities. Apparently in an effort to get many experts quoted, the book provides unclear, unscientific or even contradictory information about many issues. For instance, how likely is a moderation outcome for drinking problems? How important is it to make the yes/no distinction between addict/not-an-addict? What is the role of genetics? How important for recovery is believing addiction as a disease? How sound is the science supporting suggested nutritional interventions in recovery?
Please note that I am one of the individuals quoted in this book (pg. 247). I am grateful to have been included. One error about my topic is that SMART Recovery meetings do not focus on controlled use, but on how to abstain. However, SMART Recovery invites individuals who are considering abstinence to participate in its abstinence-oriented discussions.
In the Introduction, page xxxv, the author states "this book...builds on the foundation of the 12-step fellowships to guide you to solutions." If you accept the 12-step foundation as the context for this book, then this book has much to offer, and it can also expand your thinking about recovery. However, the 12 steps are not a helpful foundation for many, if not most, individuals seeking recovery. Most people who recover do not attend 12 step meetings at all, or quit participating in them quickly.
For someone looking for an approach to recovery without a 12-step foundation, Stanton Peele's 7 Tools to Beat Addiction is an excellent choice. To read about how others have overcome alcohol problems, Anne Fletcher's Sober for Good examines the science of recovery and gleans guidance from 222 individuals with at least 5 years success by a wide range of methods. Her next book, due out Feb, 2013, Inside Rehab (for which I was extensively interviewed), promises to reveal what actually happens in addiction treatment, and how to find good treatment. For a critique of the 12-step approach, try You've Been Lied To by Hank Hayes.
If you follow a 12-step approach to recovery, this book can start to expand your understanding of just how different other recovery approaches might be. Unfortunately in the US (perhaps less strongly elsewhere) 12-step language and concepts dominate the recovery discussion so much that other approaches, much needed for most, are stifled. This book begins to offers a broader view of what recovery might consist of.
A. Tom Horvath, Ph.D.
President, Practical Recovery