The Unexpected Joy Of Being Sober

The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober
By Catherine Gray
Published December 28th, 2017
Aster, London, England
272 pages
ISBN 978-1-912023-38-7

Whether you are sober curious, newly sober, or in long-term recovery, Catherine Gray’s 2017 book, The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober is a great resource. Catherine understands alcohol addiction from personal experience, and quickly earns your trust through an honest account of her journey to sobriety. Her sense of humor, even about some of the darker chapters of her life, demonstrate that she has transcended addiction to find joy in sobriety. Her message is clear; sobriety isn’t easy, especially in the beginning, but it is well worth it.

With this book, Catherine created a road map to sobriety. Topics include tips on staying sober, navigating social situations, the science of addiction, dating and sex, dealing with hardship, busting stereotypes, and finding a sober community. She also includes a citation page at the back of the book to list the sources for her material.

Catherine includes a “just me” caveat to everything. This is her experience with alcohol addiction and what she did to find sobriety. She is pro-choice when it comes to recovery, and isn’t a champion for any one form of treatment or support group over any other. AA isn’t for her, but she does not intend to dissuade anyone from going to AA meetings if they find them helpful. Catherine would like to see the recovery community embrace the pro-choice concept and avoid the needless in-fighting that often occurs. In her opinion, we are all on the same team. 

If the book advocates for anything, it is for embracing sobriety which is redefined in the introduction as:

  1. Not affected by alcohol
  2. Bright, joyful, and serene
  3. Dazzling in color

Catherine does not favor moderation as a viable approach, but instead is a proponent for total abstinence as the model for sobriety. She views alcohol as an addictive drug, and recognizes addiction as falling along a wide spectrum. In her view, anyone who uses alcohol fits somewhere on the addiction spectrum, and sobriety is something that is good for everyone, not just the addict at the worst end of the spectrum. For the sober curious, she encourages giving sobriety more than a month, because you can’t really appreciate the joy of sobriety when you have only experienced the most difficult part of it. 

Readers are urged to find their own unique combination of tools that help them to stay sober. For Catherine, her combination included an addictions counselor, online recovery groups, the resulting real-life recovery friends, reading voraciously, podcasts, exercise, and meditation. On page 239 she writes, “the best advice I ever received was ‘Don’t try harder, try different.’ If something is not getting you sober or keeping you sober, try something else.” 

The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober is a pleasure to read. Catherine is a professional writer and editor who has worked for magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Glamour. In the preface, she explains how the book came about. “After writing I felt a lot less like drinking. Writing felt like tipping the jumbled contents of my head onto a table and slotting them neatly together, like a jigsaw puzzle.” She writes with a casual, personal style which is entirely appropriate and fitting. 

Perhaps what is most remarkable about this book, is the amazing range and depth of emotion that Catherine can communicate through the written word. Much of the book is light and funny, but other parts are more serious and studious, and still other passages may cause you to shed a few tears. The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober does a wonderful job conveying the benefits of sobriety, and offering a path to find it. The book is available in paperback and e-reader editions, and well worth adding to your sober toolkit. 

Five Coffee Cups

This book was rated on the credibility of the author, the content, the writing style, and overall value. I awarded the highest rating of five coffee cups for the following reasons:

  • The author knows her subject and the book is well sourced.
  • The writing is exceptional and flows well.
  • The content is complete, compelling, useful, original, and presented in an organized fashion. 
  • This book is a helpful resource for people in recovery and a great value at $12.99 US for the paperback version.

Rating System

5 Coffee Cups – I love this book and highly recommend it.

4 Coffee Cups – It’s a fabulous book and I can recommend it with confidence.

3 Coffee Cups – This is a good if not a great book. It may have had fewer coffee cups in one or two of the measuring criteria, but it’s still a good book and worth reading.

2 Coffee Cups – I wanted to like this, but it had too many problems. It’s an okay book, but there are others in this genre that are much better.

1 Coffee Cup  – I really didn’t care for this one and I would not recommend it.

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John L.
John L.

I must get this book. Her statement — “sobriety is something that is good for everyone, not just the addict at the worst end of the spectrum” — is intriguing. Despite propaganda from the alcohol industry, there are no health benefits from consuming alcohol. The alleged “two glasses of red wine to prevent heart problems” is based on non-existent or invalid research. A large Danish study found that in any amount, alcohol is at least a little bit harmful. Alcohol is a poison, pure and simple. No reasonable person has ever advocated that only cigarette addicts stop smoking, or that… Read more »