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Book Review: Alive Again by Howard C. Samuels

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Alive Again Recovering from Alcoholism and Drug Addition, by Howard C. Samuels, Psy.D. with Jane O’Boyle, is a raw and honest look into the world of addiction and recovery. The author started using drugs at a very young age and it took more than 12 years for him to begin his road to recovery.

He’s been sober for 28 years. In that time he has learned to follow a 12-step program that has led him to a happier and more productive life, including becoming a therapist and counselor and opening his own recovery center.

Samuels writes, “I have so many clients that come into my office, and they recognize they are addicts in an intellectual way but not in an emotional way. They have not yet emotionally connected to their ‘bottom.’ My bottom is seared into my memory: the visualization of the time when I knocked on my mother’s apartment door, and when she opened the door, she looked at me with an expression of abject fear.”

A Life Filled With Opportunity

Samuels grabs the reader’s attention from the first page. He details how he was getting high. “I had a needle in my arm , pushing it in and out-“booting” heroin I’d just copped down in the East Village-rushing my brains out.”

In this particular story, the author is in his lower level bedroom “with an elegant bathroom that had walls covered in silk.” His parents were having a cocktail party on the floor above him with their friends including Ted Kennedy, Christopher Dodd and Mario Cuomo, “the usual crowd.”

The author’s father, whom he was named after, was an accomplished man. He created Baggies and Hefty bags, worked for General Patton and worked in public service. Samuels was the fifth child of eight and was, in no uncertain terms, born into wealth.

The author writes that he always felt less smart and capable than his siblings. He writes, “I had no self-confidence or self-esteem and no one to talk to about my feelings. I seemed to get into fights at school almost every day.”

Samuels was dyslexic before such a condition was identified as a learning disability. In the end, after hitting his own bottom and getting sober, he went back to graduate school at age 40, it took seven years for him to complete. He then opened his own recovery center and has helped many addicts start on their own journey to recovery.

Author’s Twelve-Step Program

Samuels uses a chapter to write about the various support groups available to recovering addicts including Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12-step program offered through that organization. He mentions several times how his own experience with addiction has helped him help others.

Samuels believes in the 12-step program but because he doesn’t use God as his “higher power,” so he has developed his own version of the 12-steps. He details all 12 steps in the book.

He writes, “In my mind, the most important step is the first step. It’s the only way to have long-term sobriety, in which your life can really change.”

The author’s first step is, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Noteworthy Features of Alive Again

This is a really good book filled with a lot of straight talk about addiction, addicts, enablers and what it takes to get sober. Having had a drug addict in the family, the stories Samuels writes about is like reading about what this family member experienced and the pain he has caused and continues to cause.

Reading about addiction from a recovering addict has shed much needed light on the mistakes my family has made in trying to help our relative get clean and stay clean. Anyone who may have their life touched in some way by an addict or is having trouble with addiction him or herself, needs to read this book.

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