Top critical review
Influencer Recovery, Part One
Reviewed in the United States on January 31, 2020
Laura McKowan’s new memoir, We Are the Luckiest, is one of two new books related to alcohol use disorder released in sensationalist fashion for the new year. I purchased the audible version.
Observing the run-up and promotion on social media and online recovery communities, I perused Laura’s website, some blog postings, and her Facebook page, where she maintains a presence consistent with author platform. She seems to have a loyal following in the thousands, though the volume of real engagement is difficult to ascertain. What emerged was a picture of a woman with stable, albeit short-term sobriety (five years) who is carving out a career based on this. With a background in marketing, she offers various workshops ranging from an introductory 90 minute online course and weeks long courses on sobriety and “creativity” to a $4800 master class on writing a book. For many working in this realm of coaching or, I reluctantly use the term, thought leader space, the books they author are intended as a draw to their websites and various click funnels. I awaited the book, hoping for substance; I wanted to see something of value for people struggling with addiction, whether alcohol or other, and regardless of demographic.
Laura writes well, no argument. Her workshopped, expository style is rich in imagery, metaphors, and all the creative writing craft one would expect from someone of her background—working in Boston advertising agencies. That being said, the book is little more than a collection of thematically related blog post/journal entries. Other than a few references to events described earlier in the book, there is no unifying theme or case that she builds to a conclusion. Perhaps it's because I'm outside her target demographic, but I saw no "surprising magic." If you’re looking for a how-to book on recovery or anything boldly innovative, this is not that book.
Laura shares her personal perspective on alcohol dependence, entering recovery, challenges in sobriety, and very limited experience with the traditional model of recovery (AA, NA, twelve steps). Her courageous sharing of some of her war stories is de rigueur, almost expected in the recovery world. She resides in an upscale town on Boston’s North Shore, far from the front lines of the addiction crisis both literally and figuratively. Primarily alcohol-focused, this tale of recovery in a bubble is scarcely relevant to the struggles of people in places like rural Ohio, Kentucky, Georgia, Oklahoma or the provinces of Canada. While this is Laura’s reality and her personal bottom, it is nevertheless a marketable version of addiction and recovery.
One valid issue Laura raises is the traditional model’s failings; AA has numerous flaws, and is simply not the right recovery vehicle for many. There is also much it gets right, and someone of Laura’s obvious abilities could have pulled more out of it, had she persisted. An enlightened explanation of the traditional model’s shortcomings, based on the experience of someone who fully engaged the process, would have greater benefit to readers than one-sided criticism. Yes, it’s far from perfect, but tell us how to get something out of it.
Laura has no clinical background, and the only reference to the science of addiction was borrowed from her BFF, Holly Whitaker (whose new book is the subject of Influencer Recovery Part Two). The neurobiology of addiction recovery should be handled in a layperson-friendly manner that takes account of the audience. Absent is the credibility that comes from training and therapeutic work in the field. Laura’s self-made program of recovery seems to consist of abstinence, yoga, readings, and a community of other recovery outliers. Vague references to mentors were made, and more detailed ideas about finding and receiving guidance would be helpful to readers.
To summarize, if you’re looking for authoritative, educated direction and insight into recovery from addiction here, it’s lacking. What this book represents is one individual’s monetization of her self-directed recovery. It offers value to a very small proportion of those attempting recovery from addiction, and that is valid. Everyone should have an individualized program of recovery attuned to their unique needs and circumstances. For a few, this is the shoe that will fit, but to be clear, this is the Kardashian-ification of recovery.
Disclosure: I’m a RN with extensive training and experience in holistic/energy practices, as well as science-based transformation/motivational techniques with 29 years personal recovery, emerging recovery expert and activist, and author of two books on recovery. I read and reviewed this book to keep abreast of developments. I’m sorry this is harsh, but this is recovery, and it’s too important to whitewash. It’s unfortunate that real experts and innovators who offer real solutions to the addiction crisis simply don’t have access to the same types of platform that sensationalists do. KK