One important vision I have for this podcast is to share diverse experiences of addiction and recovery. How people write about it, yes, but even more importantly, the nitty gritty of how they made sense of their own addiction and found their way to recovery. Today’s guest, Holly Whitaker, is a fierce, passionate, and incisive writer who has charted an adventurous path out of eating disorders and addiction.
Holly is perhaps best known for her 2019 book, Quit Like a Woman, and she also got a lot of attention around that time for a controversial New York Times opinion piece called "The Patriarchy of Alcoholics Anonymous." We talk about her own experience of addiction and recovery, how 12-step recovery saved her life at first, but then how she charted a course to a different pathway. We discuss the complicated matter of distinguishing between the program of AA and the institutions around AA—and, what it was like to write openly about all this. Beyond that, it’s a wide-ranging and really energizing talk: anorexia and bulimia and their relationship to addiction in her experience. How striving after money and status, or craving after partnership and connection, can be related to addiction. Her changing perspective on what recovery means to her—from control and just stopping, to something more. The good and the bad of “self-improvement”, and the urgent need for and a vision for holistic recovery. I am grateful for the way she shares her experience so openly, and I hope it is useful to you.
Holly Whitaker is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol. Her work has been featured in Vogue, New York Times, Time, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, and many others. Holly focuses on the intersections of systems, culture, and individual experience and identity through the lens of addiction and recovery. She was also founder and CEO of Tempest (formerly Hip Sobriety), a virtual platform that offered education, community, and support services.
In this episode:
- Neil Gaiman on writing: “The moment that you feel that just possibly you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself, that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”
- Two classic pieces came to my mind about the topic of AA vs the institutions around AA: William White and Ernest Kurtz on “The Varieties of AA and Recovery Experience” and Ernest Kurtz on ““Whatever Happened to Twelve Step Programs?”
- Allan Carr’s “Easyway” books, e.g., Quit Drinking Without Willpower
- Internal Family Systems therapy
- press release about Tempest
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