By: Pat Donoghue, Addiction Expert and Host of Addiction101.org
As any regular reader of my site knows, I have been active in detoxing, treatment and recovery for many years. Because of my involvement with that field and countless similar stories, I have had many friends turn to books to solve their personal addictions or mental health crises.
One friend even turned to me to help write an addiction memoir called the Flight Before Me, which he read to him on an airplane going from Los Angeles to New York.
I wanted to share my thoughts on one of the most used texts dealing with the questions of addiction and recovery, The Six Hour Workday: Overcoming Addiction and the Politics of Work. The book’s author, Alicia Huber, takes a humorous and lighthearted approach to the very serious and challenging questions of addiction and recovery.
Readers may see Huber’s approach as being disrespectful to any professional in recovery services, as this book is clearly aimed at what she describes as “intelligent” readers who may not be as influenced by, or knowledgeable of, a therapist’s professional skills and knowledge.
As someone whose job is to work with people going through substance abuse and mental health crises, I see this book as another example of a writer who never learned to write about substance abuse. I, and many other addiction and mental health professionals, teach these “intelligent” readers the disciplines of recovery from substance abuse and understanding of the importance of treating substance use disorder as an illness. We teach these “intelligent” readers to read books, talk to others to learn more about recovery and to educate themselves on this critical illness.
This book fails to teach even basic skills to a reader who wants to learn about substance abuse and recovery. How much better can you get if the book, which seems to provide advice to readers and others that help people to overcome this disease, actually teaches us how to recover?
Huber’s approach of “research” – or yes, “over-researchering” – may seem like a fun way to educate people about recovery, but the reality is the “facts” that she provides are sketchy and inaccurate, leaving her readers confused and unprepared for any conversations they may have with a therapist.
The one thing that I worry about here is that readers who want to learn more about addiction may feel frustrated by the book, and want to simply throw it aside because they weren’t given the right tools.
What is a recovery guide to be? An addiction expert has to make suggestions and hints and teach us how to learn more. An expert has to make sure that we know how to navigate, what to ask for and how to get on the road to recovery.
This book does not do these things. It tells us how to do what? Ask for help, and provide the right words to describe the problem? How much more does it take to become a recovering addict?
Reading this book is a slap in the face to the many people in recovery who read it and try to become self-sufficient. The book does not do the job of giving readers the tools needed to do what is needed in recovery.
The authors uses the example of John who is arrested for a “drug offense.” John is incredibly frustrated that he has to go to the courthouse, sit in the courthouse holding cell for hours as an aggravated substance abuser and the officer, walking by, never even glances at John. He cannot understand why the person in front of him has a ticket, and he can’t even go see what’s going on with John.
This kind of thinking and behavior is just part of what all addiction and mental health professionals strive to change.
That is the problem with the Huber approach – she does not like the process of “recovery.” What the book and those who wrote this book, including Huber, fail to understand is that learning to cope with the disease of addiction is not the same as learning how to do it professionally. It is not like healing yourself by cleaning out a closet of clothes. It is a learned skill that comes with education and more information.
So I suggest to her readers who are trying to learn about addiction to a basic information document like this published by the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Or, as I would suggest, to read the book and ask for help and suggestions on how you should be helping yourself to recover from addiction and what readers in recovery services can do to continue to help you in recovery.