Out of the Wreck I Rise: A Literary Companion to Recovery (Paperback)
“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. At the same time, the country is seeing entire communities brought to their knees because of opioid additions. These scourges affect not only those who drink or use drugs but also their families and friends, who witness the horror of addiction. 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, 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.
Featuring Charles Bukowski, John Cheever, Dante, Ricky Gervais, Ernest Hemingway, Billie Holiday, Anne Lamott, John Lennon, Haruki Murakami, Anaïs Nin, Mary Oliver, Samuel Pepys, Rainer Maria Rilke, J. K. Rowling, Patti Smith, Kurt Vonnegut, and many more.
About the Author
Neil Steinberg is a columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times and has written for a wide variety of publications, including Esquire, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated and Forbes. He is the author of eight books, including Drunkard and You Were Never in Chicago, the latter published by the University of Chicago Press. Sara Bader is a book editor, researcher, and quote collector. She created and maintains Quotenik, an online resource of verified quotations. She is the author of Strange Red Cow and researcher for the best-selling The Atheist's Bible.
“A new, very different kind of book. . . . The selections are laid out in an arc that reflects the arduous process, in chapters with subtitles like ‘The End of the Party,’ ‘Making the Leap’ and ‘Early Recovery.’ There’s humor alongside some of the wisdom. . . . But many of the contents are expectedly harrowing.”
— New York Times
“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.”
— Toronto Star
"A vivid and accessible panoply of literary and philosophical wisdom that is singular in the field of contemporary self-help. Their impeccable research and exploration of a new paradigm provides the reader both an intellectual and emotional approach to the enduring struggle with addiction that has existed for centuries. But this is not a book solely for the intellectual. The well-chosen quotations that are the core of the book express the deep longings and suffering of people from all walks of life. Thus it would be a welcome addition for anyone with an addiction and/or their families."
— New York Journal of Books
“Weaves together a number of quotes and truisms about addiction into a compelling narrative that also serves as a good road map for people in recovery.”
— The Fix
“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.”
— Starred review
“Literature’s great wonder is its ability to take the reader into the experience of others, to elucidate an experience and drive us to greater understanding. I’m not an addict, but I have friends who are or who teeter on the edge. Reading Out of the Wreck, I recognized despair, shame, fear and the deep loneliness of those grappling with the illness. . . . The book ramped up my compassion for friends who frequently seem to sabotage efforts to get them well again—such is the nature of addiction.”
“A book of inspiring poetry—because really that’s what it is—would be a thoughtful gift for someone you love who struggles with addiction. But it’s also good read for anyone who might benefit from the smart, witty, insightful and brutally honest words of a pal, someone who knows a thing or two about how difficult it is to recover after being blindsided by life—a break-up or the shocking results of an election, for instance.”
— Mark Konkol
“The loose, impressionistic, bibliophilic explorations of Out of the Wreck I Rise make it an appealing read for many audiences. It is a book for addicts in recovery who seek wisdom beyond 12-step, conference-approved literature, for those who do not yet think of themselves as addicts or have not yet started recovery, and for non-addicts who want to learn more about the mystified, discreet workings of recovery communities: a world where “specifics are often hard to come by.”
— Chicago Book Review
“This book is a life line for those of us at our most vulnerable.”
— Domenica Ruta, author of With or Without You
“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.”
— Walter Ling, founding director of the Integrated Substance Abuse Programs at University of California, Los Angeles
“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.”
— Alexandra Styron, author of Reading My Father: A Memoir
"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."
— Gene Weingarten, author of Fiddler in the Subway, Pulitzer Prize winner, Washington Post