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Summary

"Barnett's prose style is brassy and cleareyed, with echoes of Anne Lamott." (Beth Macy, The New York Times Book Review)

"Emotionally devastating and self-aware, this cautionary tale about substance abuse is a worthy heir to Cat Marnell's How to Murder Your Life." (Publishers Weekly starred review) 

A startlingly frank memoir of one woman's struggles with alcoholism and recovery, with essential new insights into addiction and treatment.

Erica C. Barnett had her first sip of alcohol when she was 13, and she quickly developed a taste for drinking to oblivion with her friends. In her late 20s, her addiction became inescapable. Volatile relationships, blackouts, and unsuccessful stints in detox defined her life, with the vodka bottles she hid throughout her apartment and offices acting as both her tormentors and closest friends.

By the time she was in her late 30s, Erica Barnett had run the gauntlet of alcoholism. She had recovered and relapsed time and again but after each new program or detox center would find herself far from rehabilitated. "Rock bottom", Barnett writes, "is a lie." It is always possible, she learned, to go lower than your lowest point. She found that the terms other alcoholics used to describe the trajectory of their addiction - "rock bottom" and "moment of clarity" - and the mottoes touted by Alcoholics Anonymous, such as "let go and let God" and "you're only as sick as your secrets" - didn't correspond to her experience and could actually be detrimental.

With remarkably brave and vulnerable writing, Barnett expands on her personal story to confront the dire state of addiction in America, the rise of alcoholism in American women in the last century, and the lack of rehabilitation options available to addicts. At a time when opioid addiction is a national epidemic and one in 12 Americans suffers from alcohol abuse disorder, Quitter is essential listening for our age and an ultimately hopeful story of Barnett's own hard-fought path to sobriety.

©2020 Erica C. Barnett (P)2020 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

“I can’t think of another memoir that captures the nightmare of drinking relapse like this one. Erica Barnett’s tale is brutal, maddening, and beautiful. Quitter will give hope to anyone afraid they can't ever get this thing. Hang in there. You just might.” (Sarah Hepola, New York Times best-selling author of Blackout)

“[Barnett] paints a grotesque portrait of the horror show that is alcoholism with great skill and style. I tore through this book.” (Cat Marnell, New York Times best-selling author of How to Murder Your Life

“Quitter is all these things: a beautifully told story of one woman's descent into darkness; a rigorously researched exploration of the causes and treatments of alcohol abuse; a furious howl of pain. Erica C. Barnett has written a female story of addiction that moves beyond clichés and accepted truths. I loved this book, in all its raging glory.” (Claire Dederer, author of Love and Trouble

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the best out there

As an addict in recovery for some years now, I have read and listened to a LOT of memoirs and stories dealing with alcoholism. I find - as a someone who likes to find strength in the experiences others - that it really helps me process my own journey. There's a of stuff out there that spares the details that only we (the few) have truly experienced. They sanitise it and - as far as I'm concerned - lessen the seriousness of the catastrophe that is alcoholism. This book is very different. As it progresses, we are spared nothing. Everything is shared TRULY and earnestly. Inner thoughts, awful mornings, failures and successes. I really, really think it's the best I've read in a long, long while. If you have a problem, OR are recovering and need strength and hope, I'd give this a go. I adored it and it has helped me (even though I am 7 years into sobriety) enormously.

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Very well written about recovery

The writer is a journalist and it is very well written. Her honesty moved me and I did not think she was one crazy lady. Instead I think she gives us the pictures what recovery is for so many people. And she has some very good points about how facilities should meet those who fail time and again. Instead of shaming they need to get the information that recovery is about failing again and again for most people. Thank you Erica, and good luck with the rest of your life. You moved me deeply.

2 people found this helpful

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Boring

I just didn’t get the hype about this book. Maybe it’s just not my type of book but I found it dull and monotonous.

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A story of character.

I found that at times this was difficult to hears. So many relapses and a reminder that unless you keep the focus alcoholism will keep on coming after you. I'm glad I didn't read this at the start of my journey.

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Harrowing, truthful and well written

The honesty of this book is the stand-out for me. It has been very well written and the narration is excellent. I have read many stories of addiction and recovery, this isn't rock-star stuff this could (and does) happen to anyone of us. One tiny criticism is the final relapse is glossed over almost as though it's "we've been here before, I won't bore you with the details again" yet it was as important to understand as the first relapse. One of the best biographical books covering alcoholism you will find.

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True story of addiction

loved it , I really needed this book, I have relapsed so much and it's the REAL recovery not what the movies make it out to be. You beautifully told the story of relapse and recovery I so badly needed the relation. READ!!!

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  • Alissa Robinson
  • 17-12-20

Brave story but overwritten

I have mixed emotions on this book. I am proud that the author was brave enough to honestly detail her battle with addiction. This part deserves 5 stars. My struggle was how egotistical, self centered, and obsessed the author was as well as how overwritten the book was. She is an excellent writer but it kinda lost my interest at times due to being a bit dry.

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  • Valerie Mongan
  • 21-11-20

Lack of self responsibility

This woman blames everyone in her life for her problems but takes zero responsibility for her own actions

2 people found this helpful

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  • Danielle T
  • 16-11-20

Long Drunkaloug But Well Defined

I picked this book because I myself have been in recovery for several years.  Thanks to a 12 step program that I was willing to go to any length for and a Higher Power who has not only saved my life more times then I can count, but removed the obsession to drink alcohol somewhere between the 1st and 3rd step.

My thoughts on Erika's book,  by chapter 20 was that its the longest drunkalouge I've ever heard. I myself was sick for a very long time and the disease of alcoholism progressed into my 40's. What upsets me is the author did not actually work the program until the very end and then provides only a glimpse into her step-work. She also convoluted phrases she heard in the rooms or her treatment stints as if they were actually part of this particular program.  "Playing the tape forward" is just one phrase or slogan she attributes to the program, which is incorrect. "Triggers" a treatment term absolutely- is not part of the basic text either and I believe to be harmful to newcomers who are still holding onto a reason they drink when it is stated in the text (which is the program) that once an invisible line has been crossed, the alcoholic has lost the power of choice or control and that a complete psychic change is needed by a Higher Power (something greater than the alcoholic themself) to recover from alcohol.
  
I can only hope that she changed the names of the people that gave their time to her freely as to not break their own anonymity. As far as breaking the anonymity of the program itself, that is obvious and why I'm writing this review. Had I never heard of this specific 12 step program, I would've been confused and not sure I would've even tried it out.  There are many ways to get sober,  and each person's journey is different.  I , like the author tried everything before I finally surrendered to the program at 39 years of age , but the key,  the absolute necessity to stop drinking, is to take action and get in the steps as soon as possible.  This saved my life and has given me a life beyond my wildest dreams. I have recovered.  Our disease is not about the drink itself but the fact that we can't live sober.  So alcohol is actually our solution to our restless and discontent selves.  The 12 steps gives us simple instructions on how to live life,  add it works! But as the author proved at the end,  you have to actually work it. I wish she'd done more research so that she could find that what she hears in the rooms is not always the true program. 12 Step programs have NO opinions on whether you take medication, and in none of the conference approved literature does it say "Meeting makers make it". Meetings are a small part of 12 step recovery programs. I'm glad the author finally found what works for her.  But her experience is HERS and hers only and does not reflect what the basic text of any 12 step recovery program states clearly in black and white.  Treatment centers are huge money makers, grab yourself what the author calls "Big Book Thumpers" and I promise you won't have to live in alcoholic hell anymore. 

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  • Ruf the Magic Dragon
  • 21-03-21

One of the better Alcohol Addiction Memoirs

Erica's story is absolutely heartbreaking. She did an excellent job detailing her childhood and all life events that led up to her Addiction. Her numerous relapses had me gasping out loud. I can totally relate to her experience with the egomaniacal Sponsor who felt she wasn't working the Program correctly. That is a huge problem in AA. Although, I question Erica's decision to spend time in bars because that's where her friends hang out. To me, that is not wise when there are so many other things you can do with friends that don't involve Alcohol. Maybe, she just meant she doesn't avoid bars altogether and only spends time in bars infrequently. That I can understand. She does an absolutely perfect job in the final chapter of analyzing the current situation in the US regarding Addiction Treatment. Treatment for Addiction, like Treatment for Mental Illness, is an obscene joke for which providers should be ashamed. It is mind-blowing how tightly the Treatment Community holds on to 12 Step Programs at the foundation of Sobriety. I highly recommend 12 Step Programs as a supplement to medical treatment, but not as the foundation of treatment and in place of medical treatment. Medical treatment, as Erica states, should include medication and other therapy administered by appropriately qualified professionals. You wouldn't accept a Nurse's Aide as the primary administrator of your Cancer Treatment so why should anybody accept someone with random education of 2 or less years as the administrator of their Addiction Treatment. Someday soon, we will look back on how we treated those with Addiction Disease and Mental Illness in 2020 with as much horror as we have when we look back on treatments involving things like leaches for bleeding the patient.

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  • Kizzy Nicholas
  • 30-01-21

arrogant

the writer lacks the ability to self reflect on any mistakes she made during her addiction. the treatment industry is failure but forgets she didn't do anything they told her to do. She wondered what she kept relapsing. The phrase she so hated 'terminal uniqueness' sums her up perfectly.

Here is the deal. Treatment centers have trained staff (she is mixing up detox with treatment). There also many levels of treatment beyond in patient, such as partial hospitalization, transition housing, intensive outpatient. The latter two she was recommended and decline. So if you need it. Go to rehab and do what your told and be honest and open. If you knew how to stop drinking, you wouldn't be there so listen to someone else. Treatment centers will talk to you about medicines to help with recovery. This author spent so much time questioning everything that should probably missed the discussion. Go to AA. Don't listen to the research babble it doesn't work. No one has done a proper clinical study. but when you know people with 40 years of sobriety, they must have some secret. Yes you may need other treatments. Addiction is a coping mechanism for problems you aren't facing. sobriety allows you to address the mental health or societial issues that need attention.

bottom line. there is hope if you are an addict. Listen to someone. you are not alone and you can do this. Trust treatment, trust doctors and trust the programs. Ignore this author. Her only true honest was when she finally admitted she is an AA and in therapy.

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  • Jeanne Wallace
  • 18-11-20

Brutal Lies + Honesty

An amazingly real, truth of a drinker's life. Probably the most eye opening book I've listened to on this heart wrenching subject.
I'm sharing with friends who have suffered on all sides - alcoholic parents, binge drinking themselves, Covid anxiety increase in alcohol dependency. Last 2 chapters are amazing but not without all the prior. Written & read so well. Read it and weep. Read it and understand. Read it and heal. Thank you Erica.

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  • JjM
  • 22-09-20

Truthful portrayal of the insidiousness of alcoholism

Written in an honest narrative tone and calm demeanor, Ms Barnett walks you through the journey to hell and back with commentary from the point of view crafted with her journalism expertise. So real you can smell the puke.

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  • Abbie Gold
  • 09-09-20

Best, authentic story I've read/listened yet.

Truly impactful. I especially appreciated the repeated relapse theme and the insight and truth behind us all needing to figure it out on our own.

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  • Vanae
  • 01-09-20

Intriguing and absolutely amazing!

To hear and walk through Erica's struggle is difficult to understand how she and many others actually CAN overcome any type of addiction. Although, we all know "it" really never completely "goes away." Strong book, I'll be listening to it again.

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  • Bridget O.
  • 24-08-20

One of the best recovery books ever!

So glad I found this one. Great for anyone who might think it’s too late. Her story will not be forgotten. Brave and inspiring.