Johnston delves into the topic of alcohol addiction both from a personal and a cultural perspective – she shares her story of addiction and recovery, while naming alcohol as a public health problem, from risky teen drinking to full-blown addiction. She brings many experts into the conversation, and their voices are welcome.
The two perspectives – public and private / cultural and personal – don’t detract from one another as much as could be expected. Johnston weaves her story, her problems, into a narrative which includes others, who are named or anonymous. The stigma of being a woman alcoholic is discussed at length, as well as a whole chapter on a problem unique to women: drinking while pregnant.
I often feel like these kinds of books paint too rosy a picture of what being an alcoholic vs what being sober is like. The recovery story needs to include three parts: what things were like, what happened, and what they are like now. People make huge transformations when they become sober, but the process of getting sober is grueling and sometimes unforgiving, and completely worthwhile. I want to read about the transformations without being (re)traumatized by the process – this is a fine line which Johnston walks really well.
I recommend this book to anyone who thinks they have a drinking problem, or who knows/loves someone with a drinking problem, or anyone in recovery. There are some great insights in this book, and some good suggestions about public policy towards alcohol.