By Arlene Eisenberg, Howard Eisenberg, Al J. Mooney M.D.
Reviewed by Aongus C.
This large volume is one of the most ambitious books on recovery that I have read. It is no less than an encyclopedia of recovery, covering physical, mental and spiritual health. The focus is resolutely practical: the authors concentrate on topics such as illnesses, feelings, relationships, diet and exercise, financial and career issues.
Co-author Al Mooney is a medical director of the Willingway Hospital, a treatment center in Georgia. His family has been ravaged by alcoholism, as a moving introduction explains. Perhaps this accounts for the informed realism of the book. His co-authors, Arlene and Howard Eisenberg, are described as writers of best selling medical books; this handbook is a model of readability.
They treat recovery as a journey in time, and divide the process into three phases: Phase One: early recovery (the first year or two); Phase Two: rebuilding your life after the fog of early recovery lifts; Phase Three: prolonging and enjoying your life (includes advice on smoking and diet).
Each phase gets a section to itself, and each section in turn is divided into a series of short articles. For example, the ten chapters dealing with Phase One cover more than 200 topics including AA and alternative groups, cravings, the many emotional and psychological obstacles to staying sober, medical check-ups and possible physical damage caused by your addiction, social, family and sexual relationships, panic and anxiety attacks, emotional difficulties such as anger and resentment.
There's some interesting advice on coping strategies when life seems to get the better of you. The other sections of the book follow a similar pattern. Mooney and the Eisenbergs are committed but clear-headed proponents of AA. You'll find over 40 pages advocating the AA program. The authors insist that you do not have to be an AA member to benefit from the book -- and their claim stands up, since the advice dispensed is so down to earth. They acknowledge the problems that some people have with the concept of a Higher Power and even warn against relying too much on one to save your life. More important, perhaps, they give a brief description of Rational Recovery and SOS, and some contact information. This is where I first heard of SOS.
This book is also what convinced me that I am an alcoholic. I was attempting a course of controlled drinking at the time. I read the section on Phase One with a mounting sense of recognition. I could identify completely with the picture of the alcoholic and dry drunk it painted. For so practical a book, it had a powerful emotional impact. It was enough to stop me drinking! "The Recovery Book" helped change my life. I'd have to recommend it.