I know it’s hard to believe, but simply by reading a book I stopped drinking for good (or at least until now). Unbelievable, but it happened, and I am going to try to explain how. But first, a bit about me. I have been drinking for 25 years. I got started later than most, having my first beer at age 21. From that point until recently I descended into full-blown alcoholism. Near the end of my addiction, I was drinking 10 beers every day, with a complete inability to stop for more than one or two days at a time.
For a while now, I’ve recognized I had a problem (ya think?), and I began to try to pull myself out of the cycle of addiction. I tried Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and even got 3 sponsors. My experience with AA was summed up perfectly by Matt Salis in his article The One Thing that actually Comforted me through Early Sobriety. In it, he said:
…the typical Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting was a damp church basement full of cold, metal folding chairs occupied by hopeless sad-sacks drinking bad coffee from Styrofoam cups and chain-smoking cigarettes while whining to each other about their bad luck and hopelessness.
Yes, that. AA made me feel more shameful than drinking ever did. Every time I spoke with my sponsor he’d say “did you go to a meeting today?” “When was I supposed to do that?” I would think. I’m in work by 7am, I pick up my kids at 4pm, make them dinner, clean the house put them to bed… The usual response was “if you had time to drink, you had time for AA.” I rarely found that to be true. There was never an AA meeting in my kitchen at 10pm while my family was sleeping — but there was always beer.
Please don’t misinterpret my point. I am very grateful for the men who sponsored me in AA. They were always there for me to help me see things the way they did — they would have done anything to help me get sober, and often did. AA didn’t work for me, but it wasn’t their fault. In fact, according to most reliable sources only about 10–15% of people who try AA actually find lasting sobriety. This journey has taught me that there are many paths to sobriety. If you’re one of the millions of people who found sobriety through AA, I commend you. It wasn’t for me.
I desperately searched for help. I talked to a therapist who insisted on diving deep into my childhood, which is mostly blocked out of my mind. I am convinced that talking to a therapist about my mother fueled my alcoholism rather than relieved it. Nothing was working, but I kept searching.
Then I started reading what people were writing about sobriety online. I started an instagram account for myself and followed hundreds of sober people sharing inspiring memes and photos. I don’t remember exactly how the idea came to me, but by the grace of God I did a search for “how to get sober” and This Naked Mind came up. So I ordered it.
What makes this book so special?
Wouldn’t it be great if you could just read this section of my article and find sobriety the way I did? Well, I have bad news for you, it’s not going to work like that. In fact, I’ve tried to convey some of the resonant points to other people and they stare at me puzzled, which made me realize two things: 1. what resonated with me, may not be what flips the switch for someone else, and there’s a LOT in the book, and 2. the points in the book build on each other very effectively. Trying to convey an excerpt of this book to someone is like singing a single note of a song and expecting people to appreciate the music, it can’t be done.
What I can tell you is much of your alcoholic behavior is driven by your subconscious thinking. This book shines a light on that and retrains your subconscious mind to see alcohol as an addictive poison that is ruining you physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and financially.
Critics of This Naked Mind say that the book is repetitive, but I say that’s part of the magic. The part of my brain that wanted to drink even when I consciously did not want to is childlike, and needs to be treated like a child. If you watch a children’s educational program, you’ll see this same repetition of salient points.
The book isn’t perfect, but perhaps it’s the imperfections in the writing that makes it so relatable. Annie comes across as an old friend who’s excited to share her new-found sobriety, not a clinical therapist (you know how I feel about therapists). Annie uses a lot of metaphors to get her points across. At times these metaphors can be a bit hard to keep up with — one minute drinking is like a blister on your foot and in the next paragraph it’s like cookies in an open house. But again, I am reluctant to nitpick something that worked so well for me.
My only real criticism of the book is the title of some of the chapters. For example, Chapter 22 is titled, The Secret to Happily and Easily Drinking Less. By the time I had gotten to Chapter 22, I was ready to completely remove alcohol from my life. I didn’t want to know how to “drink less.” There was part of me that thought by reading this chapter I’d be undoing what I had learned, so I put the book down for a couple of weeks. When I finally picked the book back up and read just a few paragraphs into the chapter, I read this, “When I talk about drinking less, I mean much less — in fact, I mean nothing.” Ok, so this chapter is here to help sell the book by making it more appealing to those who fear stopping drinking and just want to drink less. I get it.
The nay sayers
Many of the negative reviews of This Naked Mind reference the fact that much of the information in the book is derived from or directly pulled from other sources. This is true. In fact, Annie is quite transparent about this and sites all of her sources diligently in the end notes — a great place to find further reading.
What these negative reviewers are missing is summed up in this quote:
“If more information was the answer, we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.”
- Derek Sivers
There’s a difference between information and storytelling. Annie connected with me from the first word of this book. The preface, which can be found on Amazon, was a narration of my daily/nightly routine. And perhaps as a direct result of this immediate connection, I stuck with the book.
Many Amazon reviewers say things like this:
“this book takes way, way too much from other books. She acknowledges these other books — most obviously Alan Carr’s Easyway”
- R. Howell, Amazon review
Take a look at Alan Carr’s book on Amazon, it has 1/10th the number of reviews (at the time I’m writing this) and a lower rating. It can be inferred, therefore, that Alan’s book, while full of similar information, is not connecting with readers the way this book is.
By the time I had gotten to the end of the book, I had completely stopped drinking. Not in an AA way where I was convinced I had an incurable disease, but in my own way of knowing that alcohol is a poison that adds no value to my life. I’m free.
For years, I would get a depressed feeling if I thought I couldn’t drink on a given night. And the only thing that lifted my spirits was the thought of drinking. That paradigm has now flipped in my mind. I literally get excited at the thought of not drinking, and the idea of being in a situation where I traditionally drank, upsets me. I feel strong and confident. I have an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment that I could have never gotten in a bottle.
This feeling happened to me once before. Right when my second daughter was born I got a bad liver test. Those two events were enough to shock my subconscious mind into sobriety. Although it seems to fit, I don’t like the phrase “spontaneous sobriety” because it implies that you’re sitting around one day and you suddenly become sober. In both instances when it has happened to me there was either a shocking event (medical scare, responsibility of another child to care for) or a desperate search for answers — neither were “spontaneous”.
The mistake I made last time this happened to me was I thought I could go back to drinking in moderation. And I did for a while — four beers on a Friday night, a six pack for the weekend. That slowly but steadily increased to where I found myself before I found This Naked Mind. This time I’m not going back. I now know that any amount of alcohol will awaken the addiction monster in me.
I am truly grateful for Annie Grace. She unlocked something in me and hundreds of others like me, that seemed impossible for 25 years. I hope you’ll give her a chance to do that for you if you’re struggling with alcohol.