by Lonny Shavelson
New Press, 2001
Review by Fred Ashmore on Feb 19th 2002
I found Hooked fascinating and rewarding to
read. Lonny Shavelson follows five
citizens of San Francisco through treatment, relapse, courts and lifes events over
a period of two years. These are
biographies of real people, and Shavelson brings them to life with careful
observation, narrative, explanation and many fine photographs. The time and care that he took, both
observing his subjects and sharing life events, are reflected in the quality of
He watches Mike struggle with heroin, go through
treatment under the rigorous and oppressive regime of Walden House, emerge into
new life and relapse. Mike has plenty
to offer, but his head takes over. At
the end of the book he has finally hit the end-stops of the system and is
released on probation to keep trying. I
really want to know whether he has finally reached stability, self-acceptance
and contentment, but this isnt a novel, its better than that because the
people are real.
Darlene seems to be weird beyond the imagination of
standard citizens. Methamphetamine
takes her into places where I cant follow, but Shavelson can and does. Even as reported, I found it really hard to
understand what drives her. By the end
of the book, I was longing to hear a story of complete success. I didnt. I had to settle for the beginnings
of transformation, and hope.
Crystal transforms herself, learning to trust and
tell the truth on her way to quitting crack.
I found the account of how the Drug Courts deal with her gripping and
Glenda is tiny, she looks twice her age, and she has
huge talent as a singer and a personality that engages everyone she meets. Locked in drinking, physically wrecked and
apparently hopeless, she is kidnapped into treatment. She makes good progress, graduates and relapses. She doesnt make it. She may be a victim of her habits, but I
felt the waste of her life acutely.
What about Darrell?
Darrell doesnt really come through with the same force as the
others. Probably this is because he
seems to achieve stable recovery relatively early, and continues to make steady
progress. We follow him, but his doings
dont grip me. Success like this is
great, but uneventful!
Shavelson is such a good reporter and writer that he
brings these people to life, showing in particular how the systems in San
Francisco succeeded and where they failed in support. During the period when he was collecting his case data, the city
moved through great changes in approach.
Shavelson shows us how they worked or didnt work. He closes the book with an aftermath
section in which he expounds his ideas on organising efforts to help people out
of addiction. Every element in his list
of ideas is borne out by the examples he has shown in the stories.
So who is this book for? I think its for anyone who is touched by problems of addictive behavior
with drink or drugs, for people involved in treatment of any kind, for people
whose taxes contribute to public spending on treatment. Does that seem to include 98% of the
population? Try it, friends, I think
this book will help you get in the skin of an addict. It may help you think
sensibly about what works for addicts and alcoholics, and what doesnt seem to
This isnt a deep technical book and its light on
statistics, though the ones Shavelson uses are worth knowing. I dont know whether it would teach the
professionals much that they dont already know, but the examples, arguments
and discussion of approaches might help clarify thinking.
Very little. I wish the
photographs had been better printed.
They survive printing with what looks like a geriatric inkjet, but I
doubt they do justice to the originals.
And although I read the book cover to cover, I would really have liked
an index or table to show which subject did what, when.
Thanks, Dr Shavelson. Youve written a fine and valuable book.
© 2002 Fred
Fred Ashmore is a member of the
public with a strong interest in drugs, drink and addiction and how people
recover from them. He is active as a
meeting host for the SMART Recovery®
program, which offers help for people who seek to modify harmful and