A Literary Companion to Recovery
By Neil Steinberg and Sara Bader
“There’s still time to change things.”—Siri Hustvedt, The Blazing World
Addiction is easy to fall into and hard to escape. It destroys the lives of individuals, and has a devastating cost to society. The National Institute of Health estimates seventeen million adults in the United States are alcoholics or have a serious problem with alcohol. This scourge affects not only those who drink or use drugs but also their families and friends, who witness the horror of addiction. Both the afflicted and those who love them are often baffled by what is happening, never mind what to do about it. With Out of the Wreck I Rise, Neil Steinberg and Sara Bader have created a resource like no other—one that harnesses the power of literature, poetry, and creativity to illuminate what alcoholism and addiction are all about, while forging change, deepening understanding, and even saving lives.
Structured to follow the arduous steps to sobriety, the book marshals the wisdom of centuries and explores essential topics, including the importance of time, navigating family and friends, Alcoholics Anonymous, relapse, and what Raymond Carver calls “gravy,” the reward that is recovery. Each chapter begins with advice and commentary followed by a wealth of quotes to inspire and heal. The result is a mosaic of observations and encouragement that draws on writers and artists spanning thousands of years—from Seneca to David Foster Wallace, William Shakespeare to Patti Smith. The ruminations of notorious drinkers like John Cheever, Charles Bukowski, and Ernest Hemingway shed light on the difficult process of becoming sober and remind the reader that while the literary alcoholic is often romanticized, recovery is the true path of the hero.
Along with traditional routes to recovery—Alcoholics Anonymous, out-patient therapy, and intensive rehabilitation programs—this literary companion offers valuable support and inspiration to anyone seeking to fight their addiction or to a struggling loved one.
Introduction: Why Put It Off?
1 The Best of Life: The Good Times Sour
2 I Don’t Want to Do That: The End of the Party
3 The Direction You Least Trust: Making the Leap
4 Nothing to Lose: Early Recovery
5 Wait, for Now: The Importance of Time
6 Somewhere to Go: Alcoholics Anonymous
7 Shakespeare’s Child: Family and Friends
8 Upon Breach of My Late Vows: Relapse
9 Gravy: On Life Anew
“Chicago journalist Neil Steinberg and quote-collecting collaborator Sara Bader had a rich lode to mine in compiling their sampler of thoughts—rueful and revelatory—on (wo)mankind’s complex and enduring relationship with alcohol. Out of the Wreck I Rise: A Literary Companion to Recovery is like a pub crawl around the globe and across the ages, in company with an artistic who’s who of brilliant if besotted company.”
Starred review | Library Journal
“Chicago Sun-Times columnist Steinberg and book editor Bader have compiled this collection of prose and poetry on the subject of addiction to help those who are still struggling or who are in recovery to find solace in the lives of great people who have also battled the disease. The writings are organized along the lines of an addict’s journey—when the good times sour, the importance of time, and the power of embracing a new life. The experiences of well-known figures such as Etta James, Sid Caesar, and John Cheever are relayed in their own words, with feeling and lack of pretense. Anyone affected by addiction will surely identify with the accounts included here, and thus, not feel alone in times of difficulty.”
Domenica Ruta, author of With or Without You
“This book is a life line for those of us at our most vulnerable.”
Walter Ling, founding director of the Integrated Substance Abuse Programs at University of California, Los Angeles
“Recovery is a journey: a journey of heroes. These heroes, the authors tell us, are all here—to encourage, to guide, to comfort, to come along. Look and listen for them, the authors urge; they are hidden in plain sight, in prose and in verse. Read, savor, and ponder.”
Alexandra Styron, author of Reading My Father: A Memoir
“Sara Bader and Neil Steinberg have done a superb job mining the masters of prose, poetry, and songwriting to create a literate answer to the pablum that is often served us as self-help. Brimming with wisdom, humor, and compassion, Out of the Wreck I Rise will offer the curious bibliophile a satisfying dip into the literature of overindulgence. But for the reader who may be swimming the hard current toward recovery, this book will be something invaluable. It will be a life raft.”
Gene Weingarten, author of Fiddler in the Subway, Pulitzer Prize winner, Washington Post
“This book is terrific. A recovery plan that summons not a Higher Power but a higher intellectual power. The sort of book I’ve been waiting for all my life: rational help for the writer, the reader, the skeptic, the thinker.”