Hard as it may be for some to imagine, the holiday season is a very difficult time for many people. Part of it is simply that people may be struggling in life, period. If that’s so, it becomes very sharp around this time of year, not to mention the season-specific challenges and griefs that can come around for people.
What follows is a short list of resources I have found to be personally helpful in recovery. Even though some are issue-specific and I did not struggle with that particular issue, I have personally read/used everything here, just applying it to my own struggles. By contrast, you will notice that many “classic” Christian books about recovery are not on the list. This is because I did not find many of them to be very helpful and, in some cases, would probably make the situation worse.
By way of disclaimer, this is just a list of things I’m familiar with; it’s not exhaustive. Also, the people who produced these resources represent a pretty wide variety of religious, psychological, and scientific backgrounds. Their presence on this list is not a blanket endorsement from me on everything they have to say. They’ve just been helpful to me. They might not be helpful to you. In any case, here they are:
Resources About/Related to Recovery
Alcoholics Anonymous – The “big book” of A.A. Technically, this is issue-specific (alcoholism), but the principles and 12 Steps are broad enough that many have used them in all kinds of other areas. There is also a lot of wisdom to be found here simply in honest, transparent, fearless, and selfless living.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions – If you are working through the 12 Steps, there is a lot of clarification and helpful additional information and inspiration to be found, here. Even if you aren’t, the material on Step 12 about being of service to others is very much worth the read.
Breathing Underwater – This might be my favorite book on the 12 Steps. Rohr is gentle and wise and has great insight into how to weave a life of recovery and increasing health into spirituality.
Narcotics Anonymous – The “big book” of N.A. This is also issue-specific (drug addiction), but I actually like the explanations of the 12 Steps in this book better than the original A.A. book.
The Life Recovery Devotional – Ok, not all of these devotions are going to be amazing, but it is a helpful tool for having a daily time of reading and meditation and cultivating that daily mindfulness. It can be very easy to “coast” when it comes to our recovery and growth, and it’s good to have something to remind us daily to pay attention to that aspect of our lives.
The Chemistry of Joy – The vast majority of the time, our compulsive behaviors or habitual sins are ways to shield ourselves from pain. The ability to build emotional resilience is vital for every human being and especially so for those in recovery. This book addresses the topic holistically – diet, lifestyle, vitamins and supplements, etc.
Resources with Actual Recovery Activities
Narcotics Anonymous Step Working Guides – Technically, they are oriented to drug addiction, but you can mentally abstract them to other areas and struggles you may have.
A Gentle Path Through the Twelve Steps – I think any Christian who struggles with a habitual sin they can’t let go of should give this book a shot and do the work in it. Like most material that deals with 12 Steps, it is not just about big addictions; it’s about patterns and unconscious choices that draw us to things that are bad for us. If you sponsor anybody in a 12 Step program, this is a great book to go through with them.
Facing the Shadow – This is issue-specific to recovery around sex-related issues, although once again, it provides a task-based way to address struggles that could be applied to most things. I will warn you that this workbook will get very intense very quickly. I highly recommend working through this book with a therapist, a sponsor, or a group of like-minded people also going through the book.
The Life Recovery Workbook – A less-intense, less issue-specific workbook to go through that may be an easier first run for people who are early in their journey of trying to tackle their struggles. Yes, these are the same people who produced the devotional book mentioned above.
Joy Starts Here – Once again, addressing the topic of emotional resilience, which I have come to believe is completely vital for anyone trying to recover from addiction or any behaviors that they can’t seem to stop. This is explicitly Christian and deals with the subject of resilience from the standpoint of increasing joy.
Prayer and Meditation
Centering Prayer – I could have picked a few different books, here. I read several and they were all fine. Learning the practice is more important than the specific book you choose. If you are not a theist, you probably won’t get much out of this book unless you are mysticurious.
Listening Prayer – Similar notes as above, but I picked this book because it also has guidance on keeping a prayer journal.
HoloSync – These are audio tracks that put you into a meditative state, and if you’ve ever tried to get into a meditative state with all the distracting thoughts and such, you know that it is often very difficult. I ran across these because of a physical trainer who called it “meditation that works.” I will personally attest that HoloSync has made a huge, observable difference in my resilience and mindfulness and, as much as I’m skeptical of the marketing hype the website uses and as weird as they may seem, I recommend them without hesitation. Your mileage may vary.
Joyful Journey – This is produced by the same people who made Joy Starts Here, mentioned above. It pulls together threads of building joy, journaling, and using the journal as communication with God. It also has some material on listening prayer.
Penzu – A free, private (if you choose), online journaling tool to get started with instead of waiting until you buy the perfect notebook or whatever.
I hope there’s something on that list that lightens your burden a little. Christian, Muslim, atheist, devotee of the mystery cults of Isis – all of us are alive together right now and are having to get through it together, and my prayer for all of you this season is that your tiny corner of the world will be restored and repaired, even just a little bit, and the world will look incrementally closer to the dream God has for His creation.