At the beginning of 2020 (which feels like several years ago, right?) I agreed to review the newly published books by Holly Whitaker and Laura McKowen for my online community BOOM Rethink the Drink and this Boozemusings Blog. Both of these books will appeal strongly to women, but I know lots of dudes who have been blown away by females writing about sobriety, including Chris Aguirre, founder of the Since Right Now podcast. He stumbled on “Drinking: A Love Story” by Carol Knapp on a bookstore shelf back in his 20’s and picked it up because here was a babe after his own heart. Another alcohol fun lover! But as he turned the pages and became enthralled with her writing, Surprise! Surprise! It can be hard to believe if you know about Chris’ story, and certainly few things are more unbelievable in retrospect than our own denial, but it was the first time he realized that he had an active, dangerous addiction to alcohol.
Holly Whitaker’s book “Quit Like a Woman” is hard-hitting on the subject of the alcohol industry, the alcohol culture, the targeting of women, and the particular issues they face in recovery (including a chapter entitled AA is for Men). Her voice is sprinkled with sharp humor, colorful language, hair-raising stories of her own fall and redemption, and several pages IN FINE PRINT of everything in our body that alcohol damages. Holly’s approach to recovery is holistic, so you’ll find sound advice on everything from working with core beliefs, self-advocacy, meditation, and growing your agency to willpower and brain capacity, the science of addiction, why it’s so hard to stop negative habits, the impact of unresolved trauma, healthy practices, and the value of therapy. She also covers a lot of RELATIONSHIPS territory, both with ourselves and with others. In short, you’re going to LEARN a lot reading Holly’s book. And if her unique voice appeals to you, it’s a wild ride worth taking. It’s packed with so much information and inspiration, by the end I wanted to start all over again.
“We love to protect alcohol and our right to consume it, and to vilify people who can’t handle it. We venerate the substance; we demonize those who get sick from using it.”
Laura McKowen has a voice that I can only describe as eloquent, almost poetic. In “We are the Luckiest” she takes you on much more of an inner journey of sobriety, a deep dive into the pain and frustration of her struggle with getting and staying sober. Mothers of growing children will find a soulmate in Laura, so will single women who are looking for love and companionship from a place where the childhood template for that search left a Grand Canyon of insecurities, loneliness, and longing.
Holly Whitaker was relieved, almost ecstatic, to leave alcohol behind. Hers is a badass warrior spirit whose default position is defiance, rebellion, curiosity, adventure, and activism. Laura was flat-out devastated at the prospect of a life without alcohol. Her childhood world, her adult world, her family gatherings, all of her relationships with friends and lovers, her pleasurable moments, her workplace atmosphere, her time alone, EVERYTHING included if not revolved around alcohol. For many of us out here, Laura’s deep raw touching honesty about what it took to turn all that around will be priceless–pure gold. She has away of climbing into your heart and singing to your soul. Very often she even adds a line of, “And you can too” in her narrative. It’s intimate, personal, and moving. You’ll feel loved, seen, and heard but best of all, it’s unlikely you’ll ever feel alone again.
“There is a life that is calling you forward, begging you to meet its eye, to glimpse its vision for you. You can get only so far by running away from what you do not want. Eventually you will have to turn toward what you do. You will have to run toward a bigger yes.”
― Laura McKowen, We Are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life
Two beautiful women, two very different stories, two amazing books to encourage and support you along this path but also along any path of self-healing and expansion. Both Holly and Laura are offering a bigger picture, real freedom, a way out of whatever thing, YOUR THING, might be. Holly had quite a few THINGS to overcome. Getting sober, ditching alcohol, was just the first step, but it gave her the tools and wisdom to tackle addictions to cigarettes, bulimia, workaholism, unhealthy eating habits, financial disaster, and weed. Both women had to grapple with the body, image, eating and codependency issues that are cancers in our “modern” culture. Especially for women but not exclusively. We’re all in this together.
As time goes on, I realize how perfect the title for Laura McKowen’s book is. We ARE the luckiest. The THING(s) that are dragging us down, causing us so much grief, diminishing or damaging or even destroying our precious lives, the THINGS we are faced with unraveling, unpacking and healing ARE truly our greatest blessings. They are the keys to a bigger life, or as Laura’s workshops are called, THE BIGGER YES!
“I don’t know what your thing is, but alcohol was mine. And here’s the thing we must know about our things, if we are ever going to survive them. We believe we can bury them, when the truth is, they are burying us. They will always bury us eventually.
Laura McKowen, “We are the lucky ones”
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