Reading in Recovery: Positive Influences and Inspirational Stories

Why reading in recovery creates a positive influence

Books have inspired action for so many years – the art of storytelling is a creative pursuit that can give us the opportunity to live in another person’s shoes yet learn valuable lessons along the way. Last year, writer Shaima Khan shared their personal view on reading via Thrive Global, a website that publishes information related to well-being, wisdom, wonder, purpose and more. They stated:

“Every book has an intention when being written, whether it carries an intent to simply amuse a person through a heart-touching story including characters or just guidelines to a perfect life, some depict an excellent biography of the person or scientific facts of…diseases.”

While in recovery, books can have a valuable stance in helping a person feel inspired, hopeful, grounded or simply educated.

The Benefits of Reading: The Big Book and Other Publications

12-Step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) come accompanied with the Big Book – which outlines the history of 12-Step programs and provides detailed accounts of others in recovery who’ve found sobriety. In 2018, flight attendant Julie shared with Mental Health First Aid the devastating reality that came with alcoholism – admitting out loud that she had a problem. She explained that in publishing her own story, she was able to overcome shame as well as help others – and the Big Book provides not only the 12-Steps for readers to become acclimated with, but it also describes the importance of these steps and how others have applied them throughout their lives.

The Open Education Database explains why reading is so beneficial to us:

Vivid imagery

When we read books, we’re able to pull up a mental image of what’s happening. This improves cognitive functioning and makes it easier to recall information.


Previous research has shown that when we read stories, we can become so entrenched in them that it feels as though we’ve actually experienced it ourselves. The same neurological regions are stimulated – which means that we can learn lessons from others without even physically having gone through what they’ve gone through.

Different patterns

Reading requires that the brain utilizes multiple complex cognitive functions, and these variations of brain waves can serve as healthy brain exercise – which can certainly boost restoration in recovery.

Attention bias

The stories we read have a beginning, a middle and an end – which force our brains to operate by thinking in sequence. The more we read, the quicker our brains are able to adapt to this way of thinking – and this can expand our attention span which could very well have benefits in other areas of recovery.

Changes in brain structure

The volume of white matter in the language area of the brain increases as we dive into reading. Over time, our brain structure can improve – which may even mitigate some of the effects caused by addiction.

Books to Read in Recovery

There are many books that have influenced positive change in recovery, and it’s all about finding ones that spark your creativity and interest. A few years ago, Holly Whitaker, a woman who developed a website called Hip Sobriety – which provides up-to-date information on addiction recovery, shared her list of top books for healing. Here are a few of them, along with short descriptions:

  • The Easy Way to Control Alcohol by Allen Carr

Holly explained the impact this book had on her in recovery by stating:

“The book completely flipped the idea of sobriety for me – from something that seemed a consequence to something by the end I 1,000% wanted.”

  • Integral Recovery by John Dupoy

This book informs the reader of how addiction gets started – but it also provides an evolutionary approach to recovery.

  • Awakening the Brain by Charlotte A. Tomaino

In this book, it’s been noted that the author helps readers understand how the brain functions; relapse prevention is also addressed in a discussion of both science and spirituality, which gives those in addiction recovery a more holistic view of healing.

Recovery Activities: Reading as Self-Care

When we read books, we become more actively engaged in our own lives by partaking in the present moment. We embrace the utter chaos that can ensue within stories and become mesmerized by the sheer impact that these stories can have as we become sucked into them ourselves. In short, reading is an act of self-care – because we’re taking the time out of our daily lives to pursue an activity that reaps positive effects on the mind, body and spirit.

Recovery is typically structured – but there are moments of personal time when a person can dive into books that inspire them. Cumberland Heights strives to provide an environment where those in recovery can build a community of support. If you’re ready to begin your journey to healing, speak with a professional from Cumberland Heights today.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland River in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of two 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first. For more information, call 1-800-646-9998 today.