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Laura E. Bean "BeanReads" (London, UK)

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Why You Drink and How to Stop: A Journey to Freedom
Why You Drink and How to Stop: A Journey to Freedom
by Veronica Valli
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.65

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for those seeking to stop, or for those who stopped a long time ago., 15 Jan 2014
Having removed alcohol from my life completely I have been amazed at the difference (fast, positive & lasting) I have noticed, and I've become very interested in the subject of alcoholism and addiction generally.

I am already an admirer of plain-speaking anti-alcohol advocates such as Jason Vale, and I read Veronica Valli's book with interest. There are a wide range of titles to choose from when researching alcoholism and I have recommended Jason Vale's book many times and will continue to do so. However Veronica Valli also adds a great deal with `Why you drink and how to stop' and the reason for this lies in the first part of the title.

While Jason Vale's book pragmatically discusses overcoming desire to drink and dispelling many of the alcohol myths, Veronica Valli goes to the deep-rooted psychological reasons as to why an addict picks up a bottle (or anything else) in the first place.

Veronica addresses the emptiness inside that certain people will attempt to fill with addiction (of all varieties) and her book uses compassion, clinical study and her own candid experiences of addiction recovery to help people understand why they are seeking oblivion in alcohol or other substances.

Quite a lot of space in the book is set aside to discussing the more spiritual side to recovery that is necessary for people seeking peace outside of addiction. This spirituality that Veronica is discussing is not religious, but an exploration of our inner existence. This explores important aspects such as self-worth and esteem; the concept of shame and displacement; and the roles of fear and denial in the establishment and growth of addiction.

Veronica also provides sensible advice for those struggling to deal with an alcoholic in their life - giving them ideas and insight for how to help their loved ones.

I learned a tremendous amount from this book about myself and has given me food for thought on the way I think about myself, and what I can do to enrich the spiritual side of my life.

For anyone tackling an addiction to alcohol (and even for those who have not drank a drop in years), I think there are two books they should read - Jason Vale's `Kick the Drink Easily' is one, and Veronica Valli's `Why you drink and how to stop' is the other.

Kick the Drink. . .Easily!
Kick the Drink. . .Easily!
by Jason Vale
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.49

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Address the desire - not the addiction, 5 Nov 2013
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I discovered a passion for sobriety after about three months of giving up alcohol `for a while'. It did not take long to realise that life without alcohol was immeasurably better in every way.

I have had numerous conversations with like-minded individuals, many of whom have recommended to me Jason Vale's book `Kick the Drink - Easily.' This book is something of a cult in the sober community and many people credit the clear, logical destruction of all arguments in favour of alcohol as the reason they have successfully forsworn booze.

More encouraging is the fact that many testimonials (a generous number of which are listed in the front of the book) indicate it has not only given readers the strength to `give up' alcohol, but that it has removed their desire to drink. This is the root of the success and appeal - because the result is permanent (and not an ongoing struggle of willpower) and, as the title suggests, because it is easy.

Early in the book Jason confesses that his text contains its fair share of brain-washing, or rather repeated, mantra-like messages which serve to break down common perceptions about alcohol.
Jason realises the dominant feeling experienced by those contemplating a life without alcohol is fear. Fear they will no longer enjoy life; that their social life will be neutered; that they are forever depriving themselves of a precious treat.
The rest of the book smashes these concepts, proving that without alcohol your social life will not only survive but flourish; relaxation will be deeper (and not merely a drug-induced stupor); and that there is a treasure-trove of other treats beyond intoxication.

Jason Vale fearlessly confronts every misconception about alcohol and a teetotal lifestyle and offers practical, down-to-earth advice on how to overcome issues such as: `what do I tell my friends and family?'; `will people think I'm boring?'; or `where will my confidence come from?'

One of the most valuable and contentious elements of `Kick the Drink - Easily' is the complete denial that most people are `normal drinkers.' Jason maintains that alcohol is a highly addictive substance which when drank - induces the user to crave more. Therefore the majority of drinkers do not have full control over their consumption on account of this chemical inducement to drink more. This is why people struggle to `just have the one'; this is why people - even `normal drinkers' - frequently drink to the point of intoxication; because the majority of those who drink are not in control of their drinking.

In essence Jason is not in favour of moderation. If you try to exert control over your intake of an addictive substance - you are setting yourself up for a fight. Even if that is a fight you ultimately win - why bother? By not drinking at all you exonerate yourself from the internal dialogue that inevitably accompanies a struggle to find, and stick to your limits.
It is increasingly hard to drink a small or `moderate' amount of alcohol and `controlling ` your intake is a constant, exhausting battle - not drinking at all is a simple mental reprogramming that is blissfully easy in comparison.

The repeated message that `Kick the Drink - Easily' gets across is that life without alcohol is not a terrible privation but freedom itself. It is this theory which gives Jason his main issue with resources like AA (which he does praise for the fact that it has without doubt saved countless lives.) The issue Jason has is a philosophical one. Why take life `one day at a time'? Why spend the rest of your life in `recovery' with a millstone of a label like `alcoholic' around your neck?
Instead of freeing yourself from the prison of alcohol addiction only to incarcerate yourself in the prison of `recovery', Jason argues the third option is to free yourself from your desire to drink, and from the belief that by abstaining from alcohol you are missing out.

There are countless testimonials to the efficacy of Jason's arguments in `Kick the Drink - Easily' however I came at the book from a slightly different angle - that of having already `kicked the drink' some time ago.

I had heard many glowing reviews about the power of the book and the compelling nature of Jason Vale's arguments and I was curious to read it.

However for a long time I held off doing so as I had already flicked this switch in my head and felt no desire to drink. The more I heard about Jason's reprogramming techniques- the more afraid I became that reading the book would tamper with the precious logic I had developed - I still didn't know where this previously dormant `willpower' had come from and I was terrified of unbalancing it.

I fully realise how nutty this reticence must sound and I mentioned it on a blog post in the Soberistas pages. Lucy Rocca said she understood how I felt - but was quite sure I would be in no danger if I read the book.
So I did read it and unsurprisingly no damage was done and I am still happily and contentedly alcohol free.

Apart from preaching to the converted - I found the book highly readable (Juice Master aside Jason is neither a medical doctor nor a psychologist and does not write as if he is) and full of practical advice to help readers execute a vital shift in perception.
There are plenty of facts and statistics in this book about drinking and the damage it can do - however as Jason says himself - most drinkers are not idiots and they know why they shouldn't drink. The critical point is that they also know they want to do it anyway and it is in addressing this desire that this book is so valuable.

Precious Bane (VMC)
Precious Bane (VMC)
by Mary Webb
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Too well hidden gem in English literature, 14 May 2010
This review is from: Precious Bane (VMC) (Paperback)
Mary Webb is under appreciated now much as she was in her own lifetime and her output of the so-called Nature novel is overlooked in favor of other authors such as Hardy. One reason for this may be the dialect used throughout, although I cannot agree that this renders the text impenetrable. Rather one quickly becomes accustomed and this adds more colour and authenticity to the telling.

Something most striking about the novel is also true of Mary Webb's other work such as Gone to Earth in the beauty of the description which hints at her other poetic output and betrays the depth of love for the Shropshire countryside felt by both Prue Sarn, the heroine of Precious Bane and also of the author.

The story itself s extremely compelling and introduces a range of characters where even more minor protagonists (for example the child-like mother or the text-obsessed Sammy) are fully realized and rounded.

Prue Sarn is a wonderful narrator and I genuinely grew to love her. Her strength when required was a welcome break from the general passivity of her nature and while biddable (she effectively allows herself to become a slave to her charismatic brother Gideon) Prue clearly has a will of her own and her submission is born of love rather than fear.

Other reviews have complained of the stock characters used but I disagree. While it is true that Jancis and Gideon may be more typical, protagonists such as Beguildy, who while being the villain of the piece to some extent, also injects an element of humor with his nonsensical claims of wizardom and his interactions with his dry-witted and cynical wife on the subject.

Other accusations from other reviewers center around the moralistic nature of the story which may hold some water but I felt that this was nicely countered by the character of the narrator. While in many ways Prue could be considered to be a character beyond reproach, her world view clearly demonstrates that she neither believes this of herself nor judges others by such an exacting standard. Her interactions with Felena, who Pure clearly perceives as a `forward' woman and a love-rival for the affections of Kester, but this is not held personally against Felena and indeed Prue feels for her because of her cruel treatment at the hands of the other women.

This is a beautiful novel which as suggested by other reviewers does well from multiple readings and is evocative of what is now a lost way of life.
Laura Bean

Sawn-Off Tales (Salt Modern Fiction)
Sawn-Off Tales (Salt Modern Fiction)
by David Gaffney
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Original with a twist in the tale, 12 May 2010
Sawn Off Tales appear to be short stories which offer a form of snapshot. However as the title of the collection suggests, rather than giving the reader a posed and contrived instance, they are violently abbreviated and unexpectedly truncated. The real treat with Sawn Off Tales is that whilst this is the case, each tale does have a feeling of completeness, even if it is merely the recounting of an impulse, an emotion or the most wistful of memories.

While the highly abbreviated nature of the collection (it takes less than 40 minutes to read in total) may irk some readers, what really impresses is that the majority of the stories incorporate some form of twist at the end. Upon the delivery of this `punchline' in many cases the previous content of the fable is revisited in a new light. This approach means that Gaffney manages to create layers and depths in paragraphs which many struggle to achieve in volumes. The term `punchline' for the revelation at the end of many of the stories may also be appropriate due to the humorous content of Sawn Off Tales.

I felt largely sympathetic to the majority of dysfunctional and seemingly disconnected characters in Sawn Off Tales. Not necessarily the luckiest, most successful or even the most stable members of society, they are delivered with such a degree of pathos and humour that the viewer embraces them with affection despite their (often alarming) faults in a way that avoids patronising the protagonists.

The tale of the man who collects the smiley potato shapes from his meals right up until the call of the health inspector, succeeds in making the reader both laugh at and sympathise with the character in spite of the discomfort at the underlying darkness of the mood.

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