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THIS NAKED MIND TPB by Annie Grace
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Many have praised this book and with good reason. It’s well researched on the negative impact of drinking, both physically and mentally, so there is a lot about the book that is interesting and illuminating. It's also good at unpicking the failings of Alcoholics Anonymous, and I liked its positivity about living alcohol free.

Unfortunately for me it didn’t deliver as a whole. Firstly, I feel that the title is misleading; ‘control alcohol’ suggests it’s going to help a drinker to moderate intake, but in the end the author advocates giving alcohol up altogether. Because I came to the book as someone who drinks a bit too much but not way too much, hoping it might help reduce my intake from around 25 units a week to 14, I found this irksome. I didn't want to give up drinking and I still don't. Half way through This Naked Mind I realised I was reading a book where the content didn’t match the way it was pitched. Like Annie Grace, I am a writer and for many years worked in marketing, and whilst I can appreciate ‘control alcohol’ will appeal to a broader readership than a ‘give up alcohol’ message, I came away feeling I had been misled.

I also found it jarring that the author describes herself as ‘a moderate drinker’ but says she was drinking ‘two bottles of wine a night’ prior to stopping, which isn’t my definition of ‘moderate’ - far from it! Nor was I convinced that she is a hoot sober. Grace may well be great company and funny (she claims to be both), but here perhaps the book might have benefited from more ‘show’ and less ‘tell’ - as it stands the writing isn't witty. In particular there is no irony and as a Brit I longed for some.

Perhaps most crucially of all, I was not persuaded by the notion of ‘cognitive dissonance’ as a motivation for abstention. As I understand it, the argument is that we are mentally distraught because we know alcohol has many negative effects overall, yet we are still drawn to drinking because we are conditioned to do so. I don’t disagree that western society heavily promotes drink, and I agree that we drink because we believe it is going to relax us and make us feel sexy, witty etc. However for many individuals the relationship with alcohol (as with other drugs) is very complex; it’s frequently used to numb anxiety, depression, grief and so on, and giving up may leave us very exposed other fronts. Being 'naked' all the time mentally is not that easy. Grace touches on these motivations but only lightly, whereas in my experience key to overcoming dependence is tackling these issues too. I’ve lost a partner to alcohol - he could not overcome these demons - and I can’t see that the cognitive dissonance argument is one that would have helped him to stop.

Furthermore, whilst perhaps there is something I failed to grasp, I believe living with cognitive dissonance is part of life. Uncertainty, ambiguity and conflicting responses to people, circumstances, experiences - in fact just about everything - are inevitable - not everything can be ironed out to resolve any sense of incoherence or discomfort. Otherwise it strikes me that we end up with a very black and white world, where anything that doesn’t make sense cognitively is ‘wrong’. Accepting conflicting parts of ourselves seems healthier and more pragmatic; I accept I have conflicting feelings about alcohol, just as I accept that I have conflicting emotions about my mother, my desire for chocolate and pros and cons of driving a car. I even have conflicting feelings about this book - part of me wants to give it 4 stars, part of me 2, so I’ve ended up with a compromise and given it 3!
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Reading Progress

August 31, 2018 – Started Reading
September 3, 2018 – Finished Reading
September 9, 2018 – Shelved

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message 1: by Lora (new) - added it

Lora Schellenberg Great review Sarah, I agree. If this book helps problem drinkers quit, then by all means, whatever it takes! But I went in with curiosity, not even close to the sort of drinker the writer is, so automatically i found it less relatable. I completely agree with your point about the writing style as well... constantly saying “this book will...” and “that’s why I wrote this book” got a little annoying. PS Sorry to hear about your partner.


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