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6 Noteworthy Memoirs About Parenting a Child with an Addiction

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Certain parenting memoirs help us feel less alone and provide hope that our child’s drug use problem can get better.  If you’re a parent of a child struggling with drugs or alcohol, here are 6 noteworthy books that offer information and advice, and might even give you comfort and strength during this difficult time.

Teens sharing pillsStay Close: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction (2010)
By Libby Cataldi
Stay Close is one mother’s tough, honest, and intimate tale that chronicles her son’s severe drug addiction, as it corroded all relationships from the inside out. It is a story of deep trauma and deep despair, but also of deep hope-and healing.
this riverThis River (2010)
By James Brown
Award-winning author James Brown gained a cult following after chronicling his turbulent childhood and spiraling drug addiction in The Los Angeles Diaries. This River picks up where Brown left off in his first memoir, describing his tenuous relationship with sobriety, telling of agonizing relapses, and tracking his attempts to become a better father.

we all fall downWe All Fall Down (2010)
By Nic Sheff
In his bestselling memoir Tweak, Nic Sheff took readers on an emotionally gripping roller-coaster ride through his days as a crystal meth and heroin addict. Now in this powerful follow-up about his continued efforts to stay clean, Nic writes candidly about eye-opening stays at rehab centers, devastating relapses, and hard-won realizations about what it means to be a young person living with addiction.

Teens sharing pillsMy Daughter’s Addiction: A Thief in the Family – Hardwired for Heroin (2009)
By Marie Minnich
A captivating story of one mother’s journey raising her heroin-addicted daughter. The autobiographical story also chronicles the murder of the author’s mother in 1968; the Youth Culture of the 60s, the author’s experience as a battered wife and the devastating effects on her adult daughter who is a drug addict.

beautiful-boyBeautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction (2009)
By David Sheff
With haunting candor, David Sheff traces his oldest son’s Methamphetamine addiction from the first subtle warning signs, the denial, the attempts at rehab and at last, the way past addiction. He shows his readers that whatever an addicts fate, the rest of the family must care for one another too, lest they become addicted to the addiction.  He shows his readers that whatever an addicts fate, the rest of the family must care for one another too, lest they become addicted to the addiction.

Teens sharing pillsThe Lost Years: Surviving a Mother and Daughter’s Worst Nightmare (2006)
By Kristina Wandzilak and Constance Curry
A child caught in the horror of alcohol and drug addiction. A mother helplessly standing by unable to save her. The Lost Years is the real life story of a mother and child, each giving their first-hand accounts of the years lost to addiction and despair. The story follows the remarkable story of Kristina’s recovery as she lives through rehab, her mother’s tough love and the years of acclimating herself to living a normal life.

Have you read any of these books?  If so, what did you think?  Do you have any suggestions to add to the list?

In honor of mothers this month, one lucky commenter will receive a floral arrangement from 1-800-Flowers valued at $100.  This giveaway ends Friday May  31 @ 5PM EST. US only.

Posted by  |  Filed under Alcohol, Books about addiction, Co-Occurring Disorders, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Substance Abuse, Taking Care of Yourself

23 Comments on “6 Noteworthy Memoirs About Parenting a Child with an Addiction”

Lulu says:
May 3rd, 2011 at 3:19 pm

I would add Broken by William Cope Moyers.
He tells his story of his struggles and eventual recovery.

Ron Grover says:
May 3rd, 2011 at 6:07 pm

I would add the following books.

Addict In The Family: Stories of Loss, Hope, and Recovery – Beverly Conyers

Addicted Like Me: A Mother-Daughter Story of Substance Abuse and Recovery – Karen Franklin

Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life – Henry Cloud

Get Your Loved One Sober: Alternatives to Nagging, Pleading, and Threatening. – Robert J. Meyers Ph. D., Brenda L. Wolfe Ph.D.

No More Letting Go: The Spirituality of Taking Action Against Alcoholism and Drug Addiction – Debra Jay

Don’t Let Your Kids Kill You: A Guide for Parents of Drug and Alcohol Addicted Children – Charles Rubin (my opinion, very good)

In addition to books, there are many mom’s writing blogs on the internet about the daily struggle of how addiction affects their life and their family. I highly recommend reading and commenting to their blogs. Their stories and comments are invaluable in helping anyone dealing with an addicted child or loved one.

Patti Herndon says:
May 3rd, 2011 at 7:44 pm

“Stay Close”-Libby Cataldi…Highly recommend. Also recommend signing up for her email wisdom. Delivery right to your spirit, right when you need it ;0) “No obligation”…LOL…”Snaffles caps off any size bottle jug jar…and it really, really works”!

“Get Your Loved one Sober” -Alternatives to Nagging, Pleading, and Threatening by Brenda L. Wolfe, Ph.D., Robert J. Meyers, Ph.D. Insights related to Motivational Interviewing/CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training)…Good, good stuff!

“The Power of Inner Guidance” -Seven Steps to Tune In and Turn On -Pam Garcy, PhD. For me, this book came as a sort of confirmation about the journey, and the direction I have been heading. –Short read, but infinitely empowering instruction for those who are ready, willing and stable to embark on engaging the potential waiting within. A book that is not, specifically, about addiction, but one that is rocket-fuel for the psyche/spirit in all manner of experiences. An exercise in contemplating and in practice as to how we can collide with all kinds of challenges, (like addiction), obstacles, uncertainties and emerge with increasing faith, gratitude, acceptance, clarity… and a map… regarding the journey.

Addiction is the journey. Recovery is the destination.

Susan Lea says:
May 4th, 2011 at 5:17 pm

‘In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts’ by Gabor Mate

Chris Flippo says:
May 5th, 2011 at 1:17 pm

I want to read all of them and pass them on to my grown children who are now on their way to parenthood… And to friends who have small children so they are ready when their children approach the age of separation and exploration. Wow and thanks for the tools to help others

Ophelia says:
May 5th, 2011 at 2:04 pm

I have not read any of these books, but I am definately going to go find “The Lost Years”. I will struggle for time, working 60 hours every week and raising my meth addict daughter’s 4 and 5 year olds. But I will find the time, because I am going crazy and just knowing that I am not the only one living through this, will help me. We have not only lost years between my daughter and me, but she is losing the best years of her children’s lives.

Kalvin says:
May 5th, 2011 at 6:05 pm

I would recommend a book NVC, Non Violence Communication. I say this because it is practical and spiritual. It teaches how to communicate effectively in all your relationships. A lot of youth listen but like my dad would tell me, it goes in one ear and out the other. NVC clearly breaks down why there is a failure to communicate and helps its readers learn how to communicate better. Communication is the key with youth. Knowing the problem is one thing, having the power to address it is takes work. NVC is more than worth the effort of learning how to communicate non violently.
Non Violent Communication, Rosenthal,

Ana says:
May 5th, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Have not read any but will start looking for them since I need to talk to my daughter about her dads addiction and how we can help. Thanks for the list.

Cathy | Treatment Talk says:
May 5th, 2011 at 8:51 pm

Wonderful selections. We can learn so much from hearing other’s stories. I would also recommend Moments of Clarity, by Christopher Kennedy Lawford. It has short stories by a number of authors. America Anonymous: Eight Addicts in Search of a LIfe, by Benoit Denizet-Lewis is a second. Finally, a book that I think is helpful to parents is The Language of Letting Go, by Melody Beattie.

Loralie Crabtree says:
May 5th, 2011 at 9:20 pm

I have read, “Beautiful Boy,” and loved it. It helped us think further about how our son’s addiction impacts our family.

I also recommend anything by Brennan Manning, a Catholic priest who is a recovering alcoholic. He speaks so beautifully of grace, forgiveness and redemption.

Sue says:
May 5th, 2011 at 9:31 pm

We have a 16 year old son that is an addict and has been in a residential treatment program for the past 9 months. We are at a crossroads of sorts in trying to decide if we should bring him back into our house or find another program for him until he is 18.

I have read most of the books mentioned and I will be looking into the ones that I haven’t. One of my favorite books that I haven’t seen mentioned is,

Come Back by Claire and Mia Fontaine.

Ron, I would appreciate it if you could post links to the blogs you have found by parents of addicts. I obviously haven’t been looking in the right places because I can’t seem to find any when I search for them. I personally know so many parents struggling with their teens addictions so I know there has to be blogs out there somewhere.

Ron Grover says:
May 6th, 2011 at 8:28 pm


Here’s what I’l do. Here is a link to our personal blog:

Go to my blog and if you click on my picture you will be taken to my profile. On my profile there is a list of “Blogs I Follow”. These are the blogs I have followed since I began writing mine. There are many parents and loved ones of addicts writing about their personal journey. When you read blogs and read the comments click their name you will link to their blog if they are writing. It is not a requirement to write a blog to comment on someone else blog. Please comment even if it is to ask a question, it can be done anonymously.

You will see the writing and comments become a two way communication and I consider many, many of these people true friends even though I have never met them in person.

Cathy | Treatment Talk says:
May 6th, 2011 at 10:43 pm

Hi Sue,

I happened to see your comment and thought I would add some websites that I have found helpful.
Libby Cataldi has a blog on her site-
Lisa Frederiksen’s site – Breaking the
Lisa discusses the brain and addiction related research on her blog. This is three mother’s journey’s through their children’s addictions.
I will also add my blog –, which is sharing and support for addiction, recovery and treatment.

Sue says:
May 9th, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Ron and Cathy, Thanks so much for the blog links. I have bookmarked dozens of them now and will sit down to read when I have more time. It truly does help to know that you aren’t alone as a parent dealing with your family being torn apart by an addicted child.

Kris says:
May 9th, 2011 at 5:47 pm

I’m pissed off!!!!!!!!!! My son and daughter in law are addicted to perscription pain pills two professionals who have beautiful kids ( my grandchildren ) and so much to live for. The thing is my life has been filled with addiction problems, my dad was an alcoholic and my brother was a heroine addict, I grew up learning to be the caregiver and watch my moms torment and our lives filled with stealing, promises and tears. I don’t think I can do it again, I feel such anger and detachment it kind of scares me, I want to take their kids out of that home and protect them…Help

Jill Fries says:
May 10th, 2011 at 11:44 am

I would also strongly suggest finding an Al-Anon support group that practices the 12 steps and 12 traditions in your area. The group I belong to kept me sane during the worst years of my son’s addiction. Sharing with other’s and practicing the 12 steps enabled me to set healthy boundaries and maintain a relationship with my alcoholic and multi-drug addicted son. Although my son, who is now an adult, is not completely drug free, we do have a healthy relationship and he is slowly putting his life back together again.

Susan Lea says:
May 12th, 2011 at 8:26 pm

I want to thank everyone who has recommended links to other blogs and suggested books to read. Thank you to Ron, Cathy and Olivia. And I highly recommend anything by Libby Cataldi and her website. She writes “daily meditations” that are so inspiring. They often help me through a rough day.

Patti Herndon says:
May 16th, 2011 at 6:05 pm

The link to Dr. Libby’s website:

SMART Recovery family/friends: link:

The Anatomy of Emotion online workshop facilitated by Mr. Edward Garcia, MA, CSW: Insights into how anger, fear and the resulting anxiety serve to stall us -How we can learn to break free from the stall to experience increasing well being/potential/better lived moments through all the challenges we face as parents of addiction-challenged/dual diagnosed sons/daughters.

Addiction is the journey. Recovery is the destination.

Patti Herndon says:
May 16th, 2011 at 6:06 pm


Karen says:
October 16th, 2011 at 9:41 pm

stay close….a must!!!!
don’t let your kids kill you…. another must for us struggling!
“a beautiful boy” truly put as well. educate educate educate…..It sure has helped me. learning all that you possibly can about the addiction and the addict is one of the best forms of treatment, in my opinion.

Susan Thesenga says:
June 20th, 2012 at 2:23 am

I have written a memoir (published April 2012) with my adopted daughter about her ten years of extreme drug addiction and the unusual path we followed in our recovery. It is Love Unbroken: From Addiction to Redemption. It’s available on my website, on amazon and B&N sites, and as an ebook through various retailers. Gabor Maté, M.D., author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction has said, A harrowingly honest narrative of trauma, suffering, and addiction, Love Unbroken is also a triumphant story of soul redemption.”

House of Principles Halfway House says:
September 19th, 2012 at 11:38 am

Thanks for awesome books on addiction, I am soon gonna go for we all fall down.

Debbie says:
November 23rd, 2012 at 10:59 pm

My husband and I have just today had to ask our son to leave our home and we are devastated. He is addicted to prescription pain medication. We have discovered that he has been stealing from us and pawning our belongings. We don’t know how to handle this situation and, as I said, are very heartbroken. He is divorced and has no where to go and can’t afford his own place, so we’re feeling especially bad knowing that its Holiday time and the weather is getting cold and we’ve kicked him out.

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