by William Cloud and Robert Granfield
New York University Press, 2001
Review by Fred Ashmore on Mar 31st 2002
This is an undogmatic workmanlike exposition
on an important topic. It isn't flashy or emotive, it doesn't
try to engage your emotions and it provides no easy answers. But
for someone who is concerned about recovery from addiction, either
for personally or for someone else, it provides an excellent overview
of treatment based approaches and group based methods and, more
important, explains how to approach recovery without either (self-recovery).
This is not an academic treatment, nor does
it pretend to be. In the Introduction, Cloud and Granfield describe
the book as a consumer guide to recovery from addiction. They
add that there is an academic account of the same subject in their
book Coming Clean: Overcoming Addiction without Treatment,
about the only formal reference. I think these authors know their
subjects and I trust them to give a balanced view. I intend to
buy Cloud and Granfield's academic discussion of addiction and
expect to find it interesting.
The review of treatment and of self-help groups
is sensible, recognizing that there are serious drawbacks to many
programs and yet that each of them may be right for some people.
Pros and Cons for the various approaches are set out in a clear
and logical way, and I found myself agreeing with pretty much
everything I read. This is good, solid information and does exactly
what it sets out to, providing guidance. I particularly appreciated
the firm condemnation of the life-long disease concept of addiction,
so prevalent in many discussions.
I found the second part of the book which
discusses self-recovery far more interesting. Self recovery is
not something that gets much publicity. It means people who recover
without going to treatment or self help groups - and there are
plenty of them. I agree that that self-recovery merits much wider
publicity. After all, why go through the effort, aggravation and
personal exposure, not to speak of costs, associated with formal
methods if one can achieve the same objectives within the existing
framework of one's life?
Their views on how to decide whether self
recovery is right for someone merit attention. These are not dogmatic
experts and they respect individuality. I seem to hear phrases
such as "it depends" and "here's some information"
and "you might choose this option for the following reasons".
This is well mannered expertise which recognizes that someone
who wants to recover from addiction may prefer to be treated as
an adult. I found myself regretting that I didn't read it many
years ago! As the authors explain, a person who enters either
formal treatment or self help group may well find the addictive
behavior becoming the focus of attention in his or her life rather
than one aspect of it, to be grown out of. This has disadvantages.
I found the advice on achieving self recovery
less concrete than the sections on treatment and self help groups.
But this is to be expected. This isn't a recipe for success. It
is an outline of the various stages of self-recovery, the likely
challenges during them and some ways to improve a persons chances
Were there things I disliked about this book?
Well, you'll have gathered that the style is cool and pragmatic,
not to say rather flat. I like to be caught up in a book about
addiction, because it's a subject I find personally important.
But this is nit-picking. Cloud and Granfield have written a helpful
and highly informative book, aimed at people seeking guidance
on a particular set of problems, and done it really well. If you're
in that group, buy the book.
© 2002 Fred Ashmore
Fred Ashmore is
a member of the public with a strong interest in drugs, drink
and addiction and how people recover from them. He is active
as a meeting host for the SMART Recovery® program,
which offers help for people who seek to modify harmful and addictive