Book by: Knauer, Sandra
Review by: Kathie M. Palin
Professional Academic Advisor
University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Sandra Knauer’s book provides a wonderful resource for those interested in dual diagnosed addictions. Knauer, herself a survivor of incest, covers the subject of addictions and compulsive behavior from the healing and recovery perspective -- a process that can take a life time.  Addictions and compulsive behaviors are the outward signs of the painful memories that stem from sexual abuse occurring in a person’s life. These behaviors can include excessive spending, shopping, sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling, eating, and working.

Firsthand accounts of recovering individuals enable the reader to understand the development of addictions and compulsive behaviors as an attempt to anesthetize the emotional pain of the abuse. The best avenue for recovery is through a twelve-step program, for which there are many, including AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), SA (Sexaholics Anonymous), OA (Overeaters Anonymous), NA (Narcotics Anonymous), ISA (Incest Survivors Anonymous), and PA (Prostitutes Anonymous – many prostitutes are incest survivors).

The book successfully illustrates how and why the sexual abuse survivor develops a particular addiction and/or behavior as a protective blanket in an attempt to cover the pain and feel normal. This addiction or behavior wards off the excruciating pain felt from the abuse; a pain that can not be seen by someone on the outside. The “high” generated by the addiction or behavior feels good but once the survivor begins to come down, shame and fear spirals to depression. To feel better, the addiction or behavior begins again.

It is not a matter of “just stopping” the addiction or behavior; it is not a matter of “being strong-willed.”  It is a matter of coping with the original pain, feeling it, dealing with it, and going through it to the other side.  Recovery becomes a lifelong struggle for most survivors.

This book is well-written and easy to read. Survivors’ firsthand accounts allow the reader to understand the concepts presented within a real-world perspective. The book provides a strong base to recognize students who demonstrate these behaviors and supplies a list of support groups and resources that are helpful for referral. With its clear view of the reasons for the development of an addiction or compulsive behavior, this book is best suited for mental health counselors and those in the field of addiction.

Recovering from Sexual Abuse, Addictions, and Compulsive Behaviors: “Numb” Survivors. (2002). Book by Knauer, Sandra. Review by Kathie M. Palin. Binghamton, NY: The Haworth Social Work Practice Press. 354 pp. Price $34.95 (paperback). ISBN 0-7890-1457-2.

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