In this descriptive, narrative-driven account of addiction, the author challenges modern perceptions of addicts and offers a fresh approach to rehabilitation.
Groenewald describes himself as a “lesser spotted addict,” a person who has neither studied addiction at the collegiate level nor helped rehabilitate a family member or a friend. What he has done is create a theory about addiction based on personal experience and close scrutiny of others. Groenewald challenges the idea that an addict is powerless over his or her addiction, that substances could in fact rule over the human mind and body. His approach is controversial, as it undoes some of the major work of the past few decades in treating addiction as a disease requiring careful handling. Instead, Groenewald creates commandments, or statements that must be adopted by an addict willing to put in the work to recover. These include mantras such as, “We assert that we are not powerless,” and “We acknowledge that our behavior...has caused harm to others and ourselves.” It is only with these acceptances, Groenewald argues, that a person struggling with addiction can rise to take steps toward an addiction-free life. In one instance, the author presents an anecdote about overcoming a habit of using ChapStick. Though small-scale, the compulsion to reach for ChapStick each time lips become dry is a repetitive, comfort-seeking behavior—a description that might match other addictions, from food to heroin to cigarettes or shopping. The book is well-organized into “articles of association” that unfold the many layers of self-awareness an addict must develop. What’s more, each article is written in a pluralistic “we,” simultaneously indicating both the author and the reader, for a collective spirit that allows the message to feel less like an attack and more of a team rally or game plan. While each chapter does delve deeper into the themes of self-awareness and accountability, many of the associations are one and the same. For example, accepting that behaviors harm the self and others is quite similar to Article Eight, which states: “We acknowledge the existence of interconnectivity between all living things.” Nonetheless, strong messages like this merit repeating, and Groenewald has created an easily digestible swift kick for anyone tired of hiding behind powerlessness.
A sturdy, cleareyed view of addiction as controllable and ultimately surmountable.