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by William Cloud and Robert Granfield
New York University Press, 2001
Review by Fred Ashmore on Mar 31st 2002

Recovery from AddictionThis is an undogmatic workmanlike exposition on an important topic. It isn't flashy or emotive, it doesn't try to engage your emotions and it provides no easy answers. But for someone who is concerned about recovery from addiction, either for personally or for someone else, it provides an excellent overview of treatment based approaches and group based methods and, more important, explains how to approach recovery without either (self-recovery).

This is not an academic treatment, nor does it pretend to be. In the Introduction, Cloud and Granfield describe the book as a consumer guide to recovery from addiction. They add that there is an academic account of the same subject in their book Coming Clean: Overcoming Addiction without Treatment, about the only formal reference. I think these authors know their subjects and I trust them to give a balanced view. I intend to buy Cloud and Granfield's academic discussion of addiction and expect to find it interesting.

The review of treatment and of self-help groups is sensible, recognizing that there are serious drawbacks to many programs and yet that each of them may be right for some people. Pros and Cons for the various approaches are set out in a clear and logical way, and I found myself agreeing with pretty much everything I read. This is good, solid information and does exactly what it sets out to, providing guidance. I particularly appreciated the firm condemnation of the life-long disease concept of addiction, so prevalent in many discussions.

I found the second part of the book which discusses self-recovery far more interesting. Self recovery is not something that gets much publicity. It means people who recover without going to treatment or self help groups - and there are plenty of them. I agree that that self-recovery merits much wider publicity. After all, why go through the effort, aggravation and personal exposure, not to speak of costs, associated with formal methods if one can achieve the same objectives within the existing framework of one's life?

Their views on how to decide whether self recovery is right for someone merit attention. These are not dogmatic experts and they respect individuality. I seem to hear phrases such as "it depends" and "here's some information" and "you might choose this option for the following reasons". This is well mannered expertise which recognizes that someone who wants to recover from addiction may prefer to be treated as an adult. I found myself regretting that I didn't read it many years ago! As the authors explain, a person who enters either formal treatment or self help group may well find the addictive behavior becoming the focus of attention in his or her life rather than one aspect of it, to be grown out of. This has disadvantages.

I found the advice on achieving self recovery less concrete than the sections on treatment and self help groups. But this is to be expected. This isn't a recipe for success. It is an outline of the various stages of self-recovery, the likely challenges during them and some ways to improve a persons chances of success.

Were there things I disliked about this book? Well, you'll have gathered that the style is cool and pragmatic, not to say rather flat. I like to be caught up in a book about addiction, because it's a subject I find personally important. But this is nit-picking. Cloud and Granfield have written a helpful and highly informative book, aimed at people seeking guidance on a particular set of problems, and done it really well. If you're in that group, buy the book.

© 2002 Fred Ashmore

Fred Ashmore is a member of the public with a strong interest in drugs, drink and addiction and how people recover from them. He is active as a meeting host for the SMART Recovery® program, which offers help for people who seek to modify harmful and addictive behavior.