on January 4, 2000
The comment above is not made lightly- I was a drunk for 25 years and made several attempts to quit, but could never understand why AA didn't work for me. Everything I ever read on alcoholism was AA oriented, and I thought the only way to quit was to spend the rest of my life in smoky church basements telling my problems to strangers. This book was the voice I'd been looking for, that let me know that there were other ways to think about alcoholism. I don't mean to knock AA because it has helped so many people. But it just didn't work for me. Reading this book was like turning a light on my Beast within. If you want to stop drinking and get control of your life, please try this book. It worked for me.
on March 3, 2002
This book has done more to save my son, who has been a drug addict for the last 10 years, than all three of the rehab clinics and AA meetings combined. For the first time in years, he is actually thinking positive and feeling good about himself. He also encouraged me to read it too. It is a great book for anyone, whether you are an addict or not.
on June 23, 2002
Like the person from Anchorage implies, The Small Book has been superseded by Trimpey's book, "Rational Recovery..." Trimpey has disavowed The Small Book, because he added new concepts and abandoned others (e.g., the Rational Recovery system no longer has support groups). In fact, Trimpey states on his website that he wishes he could pull The Small Book from publication, but he is powerless to do so. Buy the Rational Recovery book instead.
on July 2, 1999
skip this one folks, Trimpey's just gathering his thoughts here. quite alot of what's in this book he omits in the later, "Rational Recovery"(the book). the whole jist of R.R. is A.V.R.T. (addictive voice recognition technique). the Small Book has yet to fully develop this concept as his later work does, and it contains too much "rational-emotive" blah, blah... that I don't believe is needed, i.e. A.V.R.T. supercedes it. his book "rat. rec." is in my opinion definately worth the $.
on July 15, 2010
I recommend this book above the later book ("Rational Recovery: The New Cure for Substance Addiction"). Trimpey may consider it his "albatross," but it has much useful information about social support and Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy, all of which he later disavowed when he chose to make AVRT the totality of his approach. (Just because the "beast" can sometimes be clever enough to misuse the principles of REBT doesn't mean that REBT is worthless in recovery).
As a counselor, I am also obviously not pleased with the whole "treatment is dead" and "Counselors are tools of the 12-step establishment" arguments on the RR website, and in the later book. That attitude is not yet expressed in this book. When Trimpey abolished Rational Recovery groups, he also made a unilateral decision that no one can benefit from the mutual help process. I think that was a mistake, but he's entitled to his opinion since he owns the name. Luckily, there are other non-12-step groups.
AVRT is powerful, but not everyone can use it as their sole channel of sobriety, as Trimpey now claims. Some people can use his "crash course" and recover entirely on their own; but many cannot, and experience continued relapses while trying. They can benefit from social support and counseling. They also deserve a choice, which was Trimpey's original position in "TSB." Unfortunately, he has since renounced that position and maintains that only AVRT works and everything else is evil.
This book gets at a fundamental truth about addiction, namely that addicts can never trust their own minds again when it comes to the substance. It also includes valuable material on self-worth, coping, facing the messes that one has created, and other topics that are glossed over or eliminated from "RR." It also has less ranting about the evils of 12-step programs than the later book, though it had a significant amount as it was.
This book can be a tool in the recovering person's toolbox. It isn't the whole toolbox by any means, but can be very helpful. However, I would not recommend it to a person who is experiencing success and satisfaction with 12-step support, as they will likely feel attacked. That's too bad, because I've spoken to people who were happy with AA and still understood what I meant when I talked about "that voice."
on January 2, 2015
This book is a mixed bag for a number of reasons.
Let me start off by saying that the program he presents is superb. I think it's a great alternative to AA for those of us who don't care for that program. He has a good presentation of REBT, especially as it relates to substance abuse. He covers everything from urge coping to the false ideas that support addictive behaviors (e.g. "I can't stand urges," "I have to have acceptance and love from other people," etc.) to the reasons we drink/use in the first place.
Quick side note for those that are wondering about the last false idea: variants of the idea that "I have to have acceptance/love from other people" IS common with addicted and formerly-addicted people; I've often heard people claim that they "need" their family to be more supportive, less critical, less "triggering," etc. so they can recover. Trimpey correctly points out that, while you'd obviously prefer that your family be supportive and it would probably help your recovery, you don't actually "need" it as an adult; you're perfectly capable of recovery even if you don't get it, and thinking otherwise just fosters unhealthy dependence (and an excuse for continued substance abuse). Obviously as adults we don't always get what we want, but we're still responsible for our behavior. Your family won't always act the way you want them to even if they are trying to be supportive (and, granted not all families actually are trying); this doesn't mean that you "can't quit drinking." This point initially sounded a little jarring to me but it was actually needed and helpful.
Sure, the urge coping skills are more developed in his later books but the REBT stuff in this book's a valuable addition to the material in his later books. For example, if you start with the belief that you "can't stand" urges, odds are you won't even try to cope with them no matter how many urge coping skills you know.
One criticism I have of this book is a criticism I have of the philosophy of REBT in general: the idea that you can get self-esteem and unconditional self-acceptance by "making it up." In REBT there's no objective truth to base this on; you don't need any kind of objective reality and it would be ridiculous and wrong to try to find it. You can do it just because it helps you, even if there's no particular basis for it. (So much for the "rational" part of the program, huh?) In my opinion this is philosophically incoherent. I think that this viewpoint is reflective of Albert Ellis's infatuation with existential philosophy, which both this author and Ellis presents as an obvious, demonstrated "fact" that no one could possibly disagree with. As those who are familiar with Ellis might guess, objective morality tends to get left by the wayside too. (Personally, if I were ever accused of a crime, I'd hope that I'd be judged according to fixed standards of justice, not by whatever the jury's preferences happened to be).
There were a number of cases where he had "mixed messages." He claims in several places to dislike the use of the label "alcoholic" (I agree; I dislike it too) but he uses it himself in several cases. His alternative ("substance dependence") also strikes me as semantics; I don't quite understand why that's better or what distinction he was trying to make. The bigger issues with the label is, as Tom Horvath puts it, it's classic "all-or-nothing" thinking. There's this pervasive idea out there that either you're 100% an "alcoholic" or you're 0% an alcoholic - either you are or you aren't. As Horvath points out (and I wish I had seen in Trimpey's book), substance abuse/dependence exists on a spectrum. Missing this point tends to invite comparisons - "well, I'm not as bad as so-and-so, so maybe I don't really need to quit."
Also, saying "I'm an alcoholic" makes it sound like substance abuse is a fundamental part of who you are (Trimpey does address this in his books as I recall).
Finally, if you believe that "either you're an alcoholic or you're not," you can obsess about whether you are or you're not; it's more helpful to think about it in terms of "alcohol causes me problems and it would be a good idea for me to quit." (Note "causes me problems" - NOT "I have an alcohol problem," which has the same issues as saying "I'm an alcoholic." "Problems" exist on a spectrum and is often easily provable but you can obsess about whether or not you "have a problem").
His criticism of AA is a bit more muted and balanced (with the exception of the issues I mention below) in this book than in some of his other books. He agrees that AA could be helpful for some people (I agree) but not for others (I also agree). He (correctly) objects to institutional AA and its cushy relationship with the government and broader therapeutic community as well as the "one-size-fits-all" view that AA, the 12 steps, and endless maintenance is the "only possible" way to recover. He quotes one treatment center president as saying that, without AA, you have a "0% chance" of recovery, which is ridiculous. He also (correctly) points out that the evidence for the effectiveness of AA is surprisingly weak and that many people are able to quit drugs on their own. The real breath of fresh air is that he doesn't believe that people who do poorly in AA are necessarily at fault; it could just be that AA's not the right program for you. A lot of people buy into the AA dogma that AA's a profoundly effective program for people who are willing to work it; if you don't want to work the AA program or aren't succeeding in it either there's something wrong with you (you're "constitutionally incapable of being honest with yourself" or whatever) or you're working the program wrong or you're just not willing to quit.
The biggest complaint for me was its constant "sniping" at religion and people who believe in it; it's offensive, poorly argued, unnecessary, and counterproductive. This is a huge turn-off for those of us who are religious; it can frankly make the book extremely frustrating to read at times. The author also seems to imply that this program's primarily for humanists, which is unfortunate (and false). He mentions only in passing, towards the end of the book, that many Christians actually don't have a problem with using the program (or REBT in general) after all. I agree - I'm a Christian and have been helped by both RR and REBT. While I obviously disagree with some aspects of it, I still find much of it helpful.
In general, the author's very patronizing towards anyone who agrees with any kind of an organized religion and claims that there's "not a shred of evidence" for any of it. He doesn't interact with any of the arguments for the existence of God or the historicity of the Bible (or other religious books), nor does he present any actual evidence for humanism or against religion (other than blindly claiming that there's no evidence for religion). I wouldn't have a problem with him not discussing the arguments for and against God seeing as it's beyond the scope of book; my problem is that, having brought it up, he ridicules his opponents without proof and without even examining their actual position or arguments. Not only that, it's totally unnecessary and counterproductive to set up religious people as his opponents in the first place.
It quickly becomes painfully obvious that he has no expertise in the subject matter. He regularly uses straw-men arguments and makes a number of laughable accusations against organized religion; for example, he claims that Christianity believes that people are of variable worth, which is so ridiculous it doesn't even merit a response.
The author also falsely equates AA with Christianity while ignoring several "minor" points like the fact that AA no doctrine of Christ & His death and resurrection, the Trinity, the Bible, etc.; the fact that AA borrows some lingo and practices from Christianity decidedly does NOT mean that they're the same. This is actually one of the reasons I left AA in the first place - the "god" of AA is basically whatever you make up, NOT the God of the Bible. I'm OK, you're OK - the actual truth doesn't matter.
Overall, I do recommend this book and believe that it'll be helpful in your overall recovery. In fact, it'll be tremendously helpful. This book actually compliments his later RR book well so if you've only read one I recommend you read the other one too (see my review of that one). He also has a decent book on eating disorders (also reviewed by yours truly) that's a nice compliment to these books as well.
on April 9, 1999
This book SHOULD have been a classic, and should have filled in all the gaps that 12 step programs like AA don't or can't deal with in regards to addictions. Unfortunately, the "rational recovery" system is almost entirely defined by being what AA is NOT, and is almost entirely dependent on AA to justify it's methods and approaches. It's slightly melodramatic dramatization of the "awesome power of the human intellect" to overcome all problems is extremely question-begging; it might work for Vulcans, but it hardly acknowledges the reality of the human experience. It's snorting dismissial of such concepts as the unconscious, etc. is annoying, imprecise, and pompus. While the book does have some good advice and descriptive metaphors for the addiction/recovery process, it's "just grow up" shtick wears thin. Overall, I found the book's rational-emotive system to be shallow, imprecise, pseudo-scientific, and trite. The book is interesting in its rather phobic reaction to the "irrational" aspect to all life, and the authors seem to have a big complex about psychology in general. The arrogant and cutting tone of the text really just hides a hollow, airtight core rife with circular logic and clever half-truths. Still, it IS worth a read as an alternative to AA and 12-step, and will make you think about taking control of your own life. If nothing else, the book DOES remind us that we own our own souls and are NOT powerless! This reclaiming of our own power is the most valuable aspect of The Small Book.
on April 8, 1999
Trimpey spends too many pages talking about how bad AA is. His AVRT method replaces AA's Higher Power with "the Beast", a demonized personification of "the addictive voice", which is hardly a new idea, and should be familiar to anyone who has been to church or AA meetings. He does provide some good advise on how to stop drinking and some sound cognitive principles for disputing the irrational thinking that leads to drinking, although it seems that he has since rejected the "rational" parts of his own book, which does not leave much. What is good in this book gets lost in the virulence of his attacks on AA. Many of his arguments against AA have merit, but he could have left out several chapters and let people make their own judgements about AA. Those needing help don't need to "take sides", they just need help. Read this book if you want to read a one-sided attack on AA, but if you want to get and stay sober, read Ellis and Velten's When AA Doesn't Work for You.
on January 14, 2013
Great book if you've been struggling to get sober with 12 step programs only to fail again and again. This book puts into words what some of us have always known about getting and staying sober. Many people get and stay sober without 12 step programs by just making a decision to stop being selfish and start living right and then doing it. This book puts that into perspective and provides tools to support that decision. Don't get me wrong, I know that 12 step programs work for some people and that's great. But for others the commitment to a 12 step program is too much, too rigid, too time consuming, or otherwise just doesn't work for their situation. I know a lot of people who have gotten and stayed sober without ever attending 12 step meetings and this book lays out what they've done. It's very much common sense but sometimes as addicts we need to have things laid out for us in black and white to make the connections. I highly recommend this book.
on July 1, 1999
The BEST book I have come across in the subject of recovery from addictions. This is the best gift you can give yourself or others trying to break the habit. Also, check out Rational Recovery..The New Cure for Substance Addiction by Jack Trimpey.