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The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  5,436 ratings  ·  808 reviews
By the New York Times bestselling author of The Empathy Exams, an exploration of addiction, and the stories we tell about it, that reinvents the traditional recovery memoir.

With its deeply personal and seamless blend of memoir, cultural history, literary criticism, and journalistic reportage, The Recovering turns our understanding of the traditional addiction narrative on
Hardcover, 534 pages
Published April 3rd 2018 by Little, Brown and Company
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Nihilistic Librarian People have this notion that "rock bottom addicts" look homeless and have no teeth. I am an opiate addict and I shower, have a job, make my car paymen…morePeople have this notion that "rock bottom addicts" look homeless and have no teeth. I am an opiate addict and I shower, have a job, make my car payments. I've overdosed before and you would never know unless I said it. I think your question is exactly why she wrote this book, that people love reading about bottoming out, no one wants to hear about recovery. If you didn't buy it, keep on keeping on. Take what you can and leave the rest.(less)

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Apr 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was an interesting book, and one I enjoyed. It is a memoir of the author’s addiction and coming to sobriety alongside a cultural history of writers and addiction. The breath of Jamison’s knowledge on this subject is impressive if, at times, overwhelming. She lovingly details several writers famous for their drinking, and the creative work that rose from that drinking or was stymied. She also looks at some of the sociopolitical implications of addiction, and there are some interesting ways i ...more
Sep 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, recs
Astute and empathetic, Leslie Jamison reinvents the traditional recovery memoir in an attempt to challenge the dominant understanding of addiction as an apolitical and private experience. Jamison juxtaposes several genres against each other, without mixing them together; the book is a collage of memoir, biography, literary analysis, and cultural history. The author's wide-ranging scope affords her the chance to flesh out her argument that addiction always is social, not just personal, by placing ...more
Elyse Walters
Jul 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Audiobook....read by the author Leslie Jamison. ( I liked Leslie’s voice & I’m guessing the physical book would be useful to own for some readers)

First off ... I’m not an alcoholic. I don’t even drink. But.... maybe if I did I’d look as gorgeous as author Leslie Jaminson? Can I just say - she is ‘stunningly beautiful’....
Geee - GORGEOUS! Harvard Grad...Phd from Yale, writer, graduate from the Iowa’s writing workshop....
and oh yeah - in her spare time .....alcoholic/with a history of an eating
Canadian Reader
When Leslie Jamison was nine and her father was forty-nine, she asked him why people drank. He told her that drinking was dangerous. Not for everyone, he said, “but it was dangerous for us.” Two close relatives were alcoholics—his father and his sister, Phyllis— and, as Jamison later points out, genetics do contribute to alcoholism. Her father was right to warn her. It’s too bad she didn’t heed his words.

As a child, Jamison was shy, self-conscious, and perpetually worried about saying the wrong
May 03, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

Let me start by sharing that I consider Leslie Jamison a brilliant, brilliant writer. The Recovering is an intelligent, thorough book about addiction that includes cultural history, literary criticism, journalistic reportage, and memoir. Jamison asks thought-provoking questions and explores complex topics with a fresh, sharp eye for nuance, such as: whether our stories need to be unique for them to matter, the extent we all go to fill our lives with some meaning or comfort, and the role
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the best description of alcoholism that I have ever read. I like to joke that I have "an addiction to addiction memoirs," but despite having read a lot of such works, Leslie Jamison managed to surprise me with her marvelous book The Recovering.

Part personal story and part research, I loved how Leslie blended her own tale of drunkenness with the stories of other writers and artists who struggled with alcohol and drug addiction. She discusses their lives, their books and poems and music, a
Apr 13, 2018 rated it did not like it
I'm a recovering addict who was looking forward to this book, but found it infuriating, exploitative,narcissistic, and bougie. While Jamison's writing is lyrical, descriptive, and beautiful; her story lacks credibility. She insists that she wants to write a different kind of recovery story and has the audacity to compare her life to real addicts like Billie Holiday and Charles Jackson. Jamison amplifies normal college binge drinking experiences for dramatic purposes. She carefully catalogues her ...more
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, non-fiction
[4.5 stars]
This is such an important book and one that meant a lot to me for various reasons. I appreciate Jamison's candidness—she's very, very open in this book which can be difficult to read. But it's an admirable and accomplished analysis of addiction. It's so much more than a memoir. She looks at other people with addictions, whether artists and writers or just people she meets at AA or in her daily life, and explores different topics that come with coping from this illness: thirst, blame,
Hannah Garden
May 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: may-2018
Mommas, don’t let your dissertations grow up to be memoirs.


I just spent most of the afternoon writing a review of this that Goodreads did not save, so please excuse me while I go rip up some trees by their roots.
Julie Ehlers
One night I told Jack that I sometimes drove out to the truck stop in the middle of the night and worked in the vinyl booths by the supply shop, overlooking all those chrome hubcaps in the aisles. "You just got a hundred times more interesting," he said, and I tried to divide myself by a hundred, right there in front of him, to figure out what I'd been before.

Why’d I even want to read this? I couldn’t stand Jamison’s much-lauded The Empathy Exams, and that feeling hasn’t changed—if anything, I l
Apr 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This here is 500+ pages of the incredible Leslie Jamison "reinventing the recovery memoir."

I have the unbelievably luxurious privilege of not being an addict, never really having even brushed up against addiction, so I can't fully account for how deeply moving I find recovery stories. But I do, I do, I am so incredibly in awe of them -- their urgency, their base devastation, the way the cut through all the clutter to thrum around one. single. need. that is stronger than anything, and then someh
Jul 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Re-upping this one just to say that as of today, 4/2/2021, I haven't had a drink in six years.

"Dave said he trusted my judgement: If I thought I had to stop, I should stop. But he was careful not to tell me what to do, and I read this care as a sign that I wasn't a real alcoholic. This was a relief. It meant I would be able to start drinking again, maybe after a few weeks, without having to convince him it was okay. By stopping for a while, I would prove - to him, and to myself - that I didn't n
Dec 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
whatever beauty comes from pain can't usually be traded back for happiness.
leslie jamison's new book, the recovering: intoxication and its aftermath, straddles several genres at once, coalescing to form a candid, incisive, empathetic, and magnificently composed work about addiction and recovery. with her own personal tale of alcoholism, relapse, and ultimate recovery as narrative anchor, jamison explores the lives of fellow writers for whom addiction was a constant battle (carver, berryman,
My feelings about Leslie Jamison's The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath are sprawling and messy, deeply personal and intensely curious, just like this book. I couldn't put it down and I couldn't wait for it to end so I could begin breathing again. I read it in search of answers, I read it to be angry, to feel morally superior, to have a reason for my outrage. I read it to feel empathy.

The Recovering is an exploration of the mythology of addiction and creativity-that the latter depen
Apr 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Leslie Jamison’s captivating and exceptionally written book, The Recovering, is part addiction memoir and part rumination on the impact addiction plays on creating art. It’s a hybrid like a Cockapoo, or Taco Bell’s French Toast Chalupa. In between retellings of sneaking drinks and sad drunken debacles, Jamison worries that her recovery may signal the end of her creativity and artistic talent.

I was struck by how much The Recovering was like the 14th most populous city in America: Columbus, Ohio.
This is ridiculously, indulgently long, a cross between a memoir and PhD-level research into alcoholism and recovery in 20th-century literature. I wasn’t particularly interested in Jamison’s own trajectory, but rather in the themes she discusses: the history of American law enforcement regarding drugs; Iowa City (where she studied) and its legendary drunks: Carver, Cheever and Denis Johnson (I’ve just started reading Jesus’ Son); the tawdry reputation of female drunks like Jean Rhys; and the co- ...more
Aug 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Leslie Jamison is a master. Nobody thinks like her, nobody writes like her. I don't know how she manages to tell her story perfectly braided with the stories of others—regular others who have recovered from alcohol addiction and famous writers. This book is funny and a gut punch. Everyone can relate because it asks the question: why do we desire things that are so destructive? ...more
This is one of the most beautiful and compelling and true books I can remember reading. So full of insights and glistening wisdom that I found myself underlining for the first time in years.

Read this if you ever felt there was a “leak sprung inside [you].” Read this if you have struggled with addiction. Read this if you have struggled at all. Read this if you are human.
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top-top-reads
Highly recommended.
Kimberly Dawn
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Author Leslie Jamison has written an excellent book on alcohol addiction. Her unflinchingly honest portrayal tells of her various misguided attempts to fill the emptiness she felt within. She connects the dots between her battle with anorexia while she was in college, her onset of alcoholism in early adulthood, and her tremendous wish or need to be desired and loved which led to the compromising situations she often found herself in. Her parents divorced when she was 11 years old, and her father ...more
Victoria Grace
I feel super conflicted about my reading experience with this one. I was so captivated by the first third--like with all of Empathy Exams, I just wanted to bury my face and soak in Jamison's ideas and connections. By the middle of the book, I'd lost the thread and had to force myself to press on. As I tried to pinpoint what was dragging the narrative down for me, I felt the author preemptively running circles around my latent arguments (e.g. "you're only bored by this section because literary cu ...more
Apr 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was in the middle of this book when I read a few critical reviews of it as being bloated and self-indulgent and privileged etc. I liked it a lot. I have no personal issues with drugs or alcohol or addiction to them, but Jamison's book is not just about getting drunk and going to AA. It's about wanting and hunger and the stories we tell about our lives. I really enjoy an honest and well-written memoir and I found this one to be a really easy and warm read like a good conversation with a smart f ...more
May 13, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Goes off the rails occasionally but that’s forgivable for how excellent the rest of it is. I didn’t get the impression that I’d like her writing from what I’d read about her essays but wow, how wrong.
Leo Robertson
May 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Jamison acknowledges that recovery stories are nothing new, really—but worth bearing witness to in their sameness. Certainly I always enjoy reading the myriad ways that people muck up their lives with substances or whatever it is they choose to abuse. (Because we all do it to some extent, right?)

Maybe my voracity for this type of material, in fact, left not that much new about it. Odd that Jamison thought it necessary to repeat the narrative of Billie Holliday/Harry Anslinger/Rat Park/Tent City,
Sep 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow. This book took me a very long time to read — almost a year. It’s long, and dense, and although I was never bored reading it, it was a struggle at times. I cried a lot, about Jamison’s story, and the stories she told from ordinary people at AA meetings, and the deep reporting she did, which was often heartbreaking.

You can tell that this was, at least partially, drawn from a dissertation, because her depth of knowledge about the subject of addiction, particularly about alcoholism and writers
Aug 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
I should start by confessing my love of addiction memoirs. I read so many each year and am completely drawn to them. At this point I did not think it possible that anything could be added to the genre. But little did I know Leslie Jamison was working on this truly extraordinary book with a reader just like me in mind. Jamison’s approach is meta, self aware, complex and brilliant. Her exploration of drunk male writers and the romancing of intoxication through history as well as her stocktake of h ...more
Oct 18, 2018 rated it liked it
I feel like I say this everything I'm not blown away by a memoir.. BUT

I just hate reviewing memoirs. Its so stressful. I always fee like I'm saying "I'm not a fan of this woman's life." And that's just... not accurate. I'm just not a fan of this story.

This was one that I just couldn't connect with. Its fine, I just found it to be slow in the middle and overall repetitive.

I normally stay far away from recovery memoirs, having lived one myself and heard thousands more through the years. This book, though, promised to turn "the traditional addiction narrative on its head, demonstrating that the story of recovery can be every bit as electrifying as the train wreck itself." My ears perked up and I took note. The blurb goes on to say (from the publisher):

All the while, she offers a fascinating look at the larger history of the recovery movement, and at the literary an
May 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
There’s a really beautiful scene in this book where Leslie Jamison finds herself in a tiny Iowa town and, looking for the closest AA meeting, finds a group of four: a local librarian, two bikers passing through, and a single mom from a nearby farm. The person with the key to the church where they’re supposed to meet never shows, but instead of parting ways, the group sits in a park to talk. Much of this book is about finding community, and I found all these cultural and political assumptions ill ...more
Unlike many of y’all, I have made it this far in my life without ever reading The Empathy Exams: Essays, so this is my first encounter with Leslie Jamison’s work. The Recovering is a meandering co-exploration of Jamison’s struggles with alcohol addiction and the struggles of other famous and infamous artists, as well as everyday people she encounters in the news and AA.

Throughout this (EXTREMELY LONG) memoir, Jamison keeps a surprisingly good grasp on the privileged status of her own story of a
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“Every addiction story wants a villain. But America has never been able to decide whether addicts are victims or criminals, whether addiction is an illness or a crime. So we relieve the pressure of cognitive dissonance with various provisions of psychic labor - some addicts got pitied, others get blamed - that keep overlapping and evolving to suit our purposes: Alcoholics are tortured geniuses. Drug addicts are deviant zombies. Male drunks are thrilling. Female drunks are bad moms. White addicts get their suffering witnessed. Addicts of color get punished. Celebrity addicts get posh rehab with equine therapy. Poor addicts get hard time. Someone carrying crack gets five years in prison, while someone driving drunk gets a night in jail, even though drunk driving kills more people every year than cocaine. In her seminal account of mass incarceration, The New Jim Crow, legal scholar Michelle Alexander points out that many of these biases tell a much larger story about 'who is viewed as disposable - someone to be purged from the body politic - and who is not.' They aren't incidental discrepancies - between black and white addicts, drinkers and drug users - but casualties of our need to vilify some people under the guise of protecting others.” 8 likes
“I am precisely the kind of nice upper-middle-class white girl whose relationship to substances has been treated as benign or pitiable - a cause for concern, or a shrug, rather than punishment. No one has ever called me a leper or a psychopath. No doctor has ever pointed a gun at me. No cop has ever shot me at an intersection while I was reaching for my wallet, for that matter, or even pulled me over for drunk driving, something I've done more times than I could count. My skin is the right color to permit my intoxication. When it comes to addiction, the abstraction of privilege is ultimately a question of what type of story gets told about your body: Do you need to be shielded from harm, or prevented from causing it? My body has been understood as something to be protected, rather than something to be protected from.” 5 likes
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