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SOBER HEART by Mary Ellin  Lerner


Reflections on Life and Love in Recovery

by Mary Ellin Lerner

Journalist and musician Lerner shares lessons that she learned while recovering from alcoholism in this debut essay collection.

The author says that she started a blog in the hope of combating a stereotype that she calls “The Guy in the Trench Coat”—a visual of a disheveled man, lingering on a street corner with a pint bottle of liquor in his pocket. She says that this idea of an alcoholic lingers not only in the minds of the general public, but also in those of addicts: “During my brief career as a problem drinker, I didn’t think I had a problem,” she writes in her introduction to this book. “Why not? Because I never turned into The Guy in the Trench Coat.” The essays collected here discuss Lerner’s five years as a drinker and eight years of sobriety, focusing particularly on the ways that her addiction related to her identity as a single mother who was unlucky in love. The essays, rarely longer than three pages in length, provide snapshots into the recovery process, addressing temptation, longing for approval, and figuring out how to fill one’s day, absent the structure that drinking provides. Some cover difficult moments, such as when Lerner met her recovering-alcoholic ex for lunch, and he told her that he’d received a terminal health diagnosis—and was drinking again. Others deal with more quotidian topics, such as Lerner’s inability to finish the E.L. James novel Fifty Shades of Grey because she didn’t find it relatable. The author offers many bits of useful wisdom, as when she says, “A gentle ‘no’ is the essence of sober behavior—just as important to master as a thoughtful ‘yes.’ ” Overall, her book illustrates how varied the experience of alcoholism can be, and how much of recovery is concerned with things other than the fear of relapse. It will likely appeal most to readers whose midlife drinking problems developed as a means of coping with other difficult issues. Such problems are not erased by sobriety, Lerner points out, but she effectively shows how her sobriety allowed her to finally confront other problems.

A slim, thoughtful, and candid account of a single, sober mother seeking fulfillment.