High Achiever by Tiffany Jenkins

3 stars

Addiction affects almost everyone at some point in their lives, either individually or through a friend or family member.

High Achiever by Tiffany Jenkins
High Achiever by Tiffany Jenkins

Knowing this fact, I downloaded this audiobook because I wanted to understand more about the circumstances that might lead someone to develop an addiction and how could they turn their life around after succumbing to the disease.

This book does give insight into the desperation, warped thinking, and manipulation of an addict. And, it does give a brief glimpse at the end of the author living a fulfilling life in recovery. Jenkins is to be commended for doing the work to get and stay clean and for the work she has done to help others in recovery.

While it is clear Jenkins achieved a positive outcome, High Achiever doesn’t offer much insight into the recovery process. Instead of providing depth, it came across more like a gossipy retelling of events.

The book opens with her time in jail, with the second half detailing Jenkins’ double life as she recounts what happened in the treatment center she’s released into to complete her sentence. 

Don’t get me wrong – Jenkins is a great storyteller. She grabs your attention and includes shocking details that kept me listening. After a while, her strengths as a storyteller became a bit of a weakness. Some parts seemed embellished and a little too coincidental to be true. Overall, I felt like I was dropped in the middle of an interesting story, stayed there for a while, and never really found out how it began or ended.

There were so many unanswered questions. I wanted to know if she apologized to Eliot or made amends with her sister. Did she have any setbacks after completing her court-ordered treatment? And, did she ever come to understand what led her to turn to drugs and alcohol in the first place?

I also found it a bit problematic that she never acknowledged her privilege as a white woman with addiction. Instead, the narrative reinforced misinformed stereotypes that addiction doesn’t usually happen to former cheerleaders who look like her.

People who are already familiar with Jenkins and her social media personality might find this an interesting read as a way to learn more about her. Those looking for a personal account of an addict in recovery with depth, self-reflection, and lessons about overcoming addiction may want to pass on this one.

Group by Christie Tate

2 out of 5 stars

Everybody has a story and this book is Christie Tate’s story. The top-ranked law student in her class, Tate was as lonely and depressed as she was smart and successful.

After having suicidal thoughts, a chance conversation led her to seek out group therapy facilitated by a Harvard-educated therapist.

The story that follows is a raw and unguarded recounting of her going to group meetings and working through the ups and downs she experiences in her dating life over a seven-year time period. 

Group by Christie Tate

Before sharing my reactions, I think it is important to acknowledge how much effort Tate put into working through her issues. Kudos to her for dedicating so much energy and resources to working on herself, and for creating a support network among her group members. She seemed to find a community of people who loved her unconditionally. 

As good as these outcomes were, this book was hard to listen to and connect with. I picked Group as my Audible download for the month so I could highlight it in the mental health section of my blog. I was expecting to be able to glean some tips or insights from the author’s journey that I could apply to my own life or share with readers looking to improve their mental health. This is NOT that kind of book. While there are some vague lessons about not abandoning yourself, readers mainly get a lot of in-depth detail about the author’s sex life.

And, while I recognize that a traditional approach to cognitive therapy isn’t for everyone, Tate’s therapist’s approach was concerning to me. For one, he didn’t believe in confidentiality. She describes him using tactics many would consider unorthodox at best and manipulative and unethical at worst. 

From doling out weird assignments to sitting silently while Tate harmed herself during group, his behavior came across as questionable. At one point, Tate herself refers to him as “the puppeteer” of the group, and wonders why she gives “that strange little man such power” over her life. He didn’t always seem to have his patients’ best interests in mind. For example, it seemed a little suspect that every time Tate went to him about not feeling like she was progressing, he suggested she add another weekly group session to her treatment plan.

While this is a book I would like to discuss with others, I don’t see myself recommending it to anyone to read.

Set Boundaries, Find Peace by Nedra Glover Tawwab

4 stars

The cover of Set Boundaries, Find Peace displayed on an e-reader.
Set Boundaries, Find Peace offers practical advice to help readers learn to set healthy boundaries.

I discovered Nedra Glover Tawwab, a licensed counselor, through Instagram, and was inspired by the helpful advice she offered on setting boundaries on her feed. 

As helpful as her posts are, I felt like I needed more depth than the collection of quotes and lists on her feed provided to truly apply her advice to my life. 

Her book “Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself” introduced me to the definitions, practical advice, and examples I needed to be able to set healthier boundaries in my personal and professional life. 

She makes a strong case that boundaries are critical to healthy relationships and to personal peace. Her assertion that boundaries are the root of self-care was a powerful insight for me. 

Tawwab also offers practical tips, exercises, and quizzes that empower readers to assess whether they have porous, rigid, or healthy boundaries and feel more assured in setting healthy ones.

I appreciated that the book discussed a variety of settings (social media, work, friendships, dealing with toxic people) where boundaries can be applied, although it was a little repetitive at times. And, like most expert advice books, some parts resonated with me and my circumstances, and parts weren’t really relevant at all.

Recovering people-pleasers or individuals who frequently feel overwhelmed and resentful but aren’t sure why will find this book helpful. This guidebook will be most useful to those who need a foundational understanding of what boundaries are, but even expert-level boundary-setters stand to pick up a tip or two.

Stop Overthinking by Nick Trenton

The cover of the book Stop Overthinking

For many of us, stress levels have skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic. And, as a founding member of the overthinkers club, a book with nearly 2 dozen tips for stopping stress in its tracks sounded promising. 

The basic premise of this book is that we should not see ourselves as “helpless in the face of stress” because we have many tools at our disposal for eradicating (or at least minimizing) this negative emotion.

The book is very straightforward and doesn’t go into a lot of detail about how your brain works like some other books on the subject. It makes the point that a lot of the stress in our lives is voluntary and the best way to reduce stress is to say no to unnecessary stress. 

One of the observations that really made me think was about how “your schedule can become one of your greatest stress reduction tools.” The concept of reframing my schedule as a stress-reducer rather than an endless to-do list was very powerful for me.

Some of the other advice is really basic. For example, when you encounter a problem, Trenton urges you to “physically see that the problem is separate from you.”

Another simple piece of advice: “Validate your own emotions and accept them.” Both of these tips are easy to understand, but a lot harder to put into practice.

The advice might be overly simple for some, but for me, there was something about the simple, uncomplicated advice that was appealing to me. However, it might not have been as appealing if it was my first read on the subject.

What is your best stress reduction tip? What other stress-reduction books have you read?

Don’t You Know Who I am? by Ramani Durvasula

4 stars

The cover of Don't You Know Who I am" by Rumani Durvasula, Ph.D.

Unfortunately, all of us will encounter a narcissist at some point in our lives.

When it inevitably happens, this book about the proliferation of narcissism in America and how it negatively impacts society and individuals can help you understand how to cope.

Durvasula is clearly an expert on the subject, and this book is full of great insights on how to deal with narcissists in your life. She reminds us that insecurity is at the core of narcissism, and as the subtitle promises, gives us tips on how to stay sane amidst the chaos these individuals create. 

“Stop handing over your kindness to a narcissist.”

Ramani S. Durvasula, Ph.D.

She does not sugarcoat what optimists and people who believe in fairness need to do to protect themselves from the toxicity of being around a narcissist. She reminds us throughout the book that life isn’t fair and that “there are no exceptions to narcissism — everyone gets hurt.”

I listened to this as an audiobook, and while I got a lot from it, I’d recommend reading this one in hardcopy if you are able. The citations were a little tedious in audiobook form, and it was hard to skip to the chapters that relate directly to the reason you sought out the book.

Despite my challenges with the format, it was one of the better books I’ve read on the subject of narcissism. Years after reading the book I still find myself referring to its helpful reminders such as “stop handing over your kindness to a narcissist.”