Hard-bitten memoir of a young Englishman’s abusive childhood and quick descent into years of addiction and homelessness.
Growing up in a working-class household fraught with physical violence, drunkenness and chaotic behavior, the author was brutalized by what he beheld and wasted little time in indulging in more of the same. Johnson describes a father sick with drink who couldn’t touch his children without hitting them and a mother whose fanatical religious beliefs helped her ignore the fact that her husband beat her and the kids while driving them into poverty. Johnson’s broken home life marked him as easy prey for sexual predators outside the home, further shattering a skewed psyche. He was shoplifting and drinking by the time he was eight, doing hard drugs not long after. Adolescence and young adulthood were a whirl of increasingly dangerous behavior, from loutish banging about with the lads, petty thievery and short jail sentences to endless days of clubbing and drugging in rave-addicted 1990s England. His chaotic youthful behavior wasn’t so different from that of many contemporaries, but Johnson’s disastrous upbringing left him unable to downshift into adult society afterward. Nothing stopped the downward spiral—not even the 1996 birth of his son, addicted just like both parents. In the horrific final stretch before he cleaned up, Johnson was homeless on the streets of London, addicted to a witches’ brew of drugs and seemingly unable to stop his plunge toward death. Clean since July 2000, he is now a special advisor to Prince Charles.
Falls at times into the egotistical tone of the self-obsessed addict, but for the most part Johnson’s admirably direct prose provides a straightforward, honest account of what happens to a life when all the brakes come off.