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Book Review: Sober Siblings by Patricia Olsen and Petros Levounis

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Book Review: Sober Siblings by Patricia Olsen and Petros Levounis

Susan Sullivan, a counselor at Malibu Beach Recovery Center, who previously reviewed the DVD series “Meth Inside Out,” reviews “Sober Siblings” which Pat Olsen co-wrote with Dr. Petros Levounis, MD.   Sober_siblings book cover.jpgPat is a regular contributor to the Malibu Beach Recovery Center blog.


Addiction is a family disease. Whether that addiction takes the form of alcoholism, drug addiction or any of the many insidious compulsions that can plague an individual, misdirected dependency creates havoc with the home. These behavioral maladies can rip families apart and create lifelong distress for the loved ones of the afflicted. Family members may feel resentful at the implication that they too need to seek help.  After all, he/she is the one causing all the problems. Why do I need to change? The undeniable truth is that once addiction infiltrates the home, no one escapes unscathed. For family members who do not look for some kind of plan, guidance, or program themselves, the wounds will quietly fester within and eventually lead to troublesome personal problems – even if that is simply alienation. There will always be that sore spot within (surrounding the sibling) and often much greater angst and acting out in our own lives. Feelings of guilt, shame, helplessness and hopelessness may take over and darken our lives obliterating our chances for joy and happiness.

Sober Siblings by Patricia Olsen and Petros Levounis, MD, MA, shines a 10,000 watt light bulb on a subject that many families keep in the dark, revealing secrets, judgments and gnawing apprehensions that have festered in the minds of those less focused-on family members – the siblings.

As a sober sibling myself, I found this book tremendously insightful and illuminating. Many sober siblings (whether recovering addicts themselves or the blessedly non addicted) have a basic knowledge that somehow, we need to ‘take care of ourselves first’, ‘create boundaries’, ‘release with love’, and ‘not buy into the drama’.  Sober Siblings breaks down the structure of the complex issues of living with an addictive family member, defines the characteristics that allow one to identify with the problem and then sets out to provide a clear, cognitive set of tools to deal with the uninviting life with an addicted sibling. Chapter after chapter, I gleaned enriched knowledge in areas I thought I already basically knew.  I saw my own siblings in a more compassionate light, leading to an understanding of how to approach taboo subjects. Fear of confrontation falls away in the face of the loving but firm approaches laid out for us.

Organized in a logical progression of categories (Description of the Uneasy Triad, Definitions of Addictions and Other Disorders, [the extremely helpful] Division of Responsibilities, Defining Relationship Goals, Establishing Boundaries, Validation of Feelings, Finding Support, Getting Help and Acceptance), the authors take us on a journey of personal recovery – each step building to an eventual structure of support, clarity and most welcoming – personal relief.  The weight of living with an addicted sibling is crushing and through the information in this book, that weight lifts with ease. The authors’ professional experience and expertise are evident on every page giving the reader a sense of trust – we are in good hands, they know their stuff – so to speak and the reader gets an immediate sense of hope that the journey through this book will lead to not only a greater understanding of the unique position a sober sibling lives in, but also relief from the deeply scarred over wounds that have taken a lifetime to form. Relief is almost instantaneous when chapter by chapter this reader found new and compassionate ways of dealing with an old problem.  Describing the nature of addiction, identifying feelings of anger, shame, and frustration, providing actual scripts to use when setting boundaries (and direction on how to maintain them), unveiling the pros and cons of interventions and looking at treatment and therapy options for both the addict and the sober sibling, the book delivers information in an uplifting, cogent manner.  

Sober Siblings is like a how-to manual of preparation for the non-addicted family member, not unlike an earthquake preparation manual helps save lives in a natural disaster. 


Sober Siblings by Patricia Olsen and Petros Levounis, MD, MA is available through Lifelong Books. and on  

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