Extracts from today’s five-star review of The Fix by Britain’s Education Secretary in The Mail on Sunday
…. for the most edgy of today’s writers, the battle zones they want to explore are not foreign fields but their own bodies.
Whether it’s been Irvine Welsh’s exploration of the effect of heroin on a young Edinburgh hedonist, Bill Clegg’s chronicle of a gilded American yuppie’s descent into drug abuse, James Frey’s invented memoir A Million Little Pieces or, most impressive of all, Edward St Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels, addiction has become the new enemy with which the bravest of our youth dare to do battle.
Damian Thompson, too, has visited the most dangerous parts of that battlefield. And in this wonderfully honest, perceptive book he makes clear that addiction, like war, is Hell.
He spares us nothing from his own experience as an alcoholic and prescription-drug abuser. He is not inviting us to admire his outré bohemian past or his attempt to reach the palace of wisdom via the road-of-excess Rioja. He is painfully honest about the sadness – in both senses of the word – of working your way through bottles of red wine on your own, waking up not knowing in whose house you’ve been incubating a hangover, and then looking forward to the buzz later from a special sleeping pill.
Thompson’s skill as a reporter, and moral courage as a man, is on display throughout this book in his pitiless account of his own weakness. But even more impressive than this is his insightful analysis. Having reflected so honestly and unsparingly on his own addiction, he is in a strong position to see how addiction is warping society.
He knows that many of those offering help to addicts are also selling an ideology. He sees through the 12-steps theology of Alcoholics Anonymous, which regards addiction as a disease, thus robbing the individual of free will and control over their own lives. Thompson shows brilliantly that indulgence in intoxicants – whether Vietnamese heroin or Hogarth’s gin – has as much to do with the mores of your peer-group as it does with any in-built condition or ‘disease’ of the mind. But, more importantly, he also sees through the little lies we all tell ourselves about our tastes and habits, and discerns the patterns of addictive behaviour beneath …
Thompson shows how the upsurge in recreational use of prescription drugs, easier access to pornography, the ubiquity and sophistication of computer games and even the substitution of sugar-rich muffins (really a massive lump of cake) for a slice of toast at breakfast are all feeding guilty appetites …
Thompson’s book is at once blackly funny, intellectually serious and compellingly readable, but it does not make many recommendations as to what steps we might take to reverse these unhappy trends.
He knows that if the addict is to recover, the first step is to acknowledge the scale of the problem. It is for each of us to take responsibility for our own recovery.
Posted in: Booze, Pills
The Fix: How Addiction Is Invading Our Lives And Taking Over Your World is OUT NOW, published by Collins. Click here to buy your copy in hardcover or on Kindle.