Twisted Wires: a book review

Twisted wires by Sarina Wheatman: an exploration of the many puzzling and complex aspects of addiction

Sarina Wheatman is a qualified addiction therapist and a person in long-term recovery. The “twisted wires” title of her book, refers to and explores the many puzzling and complex aspects of addiction – what lies behind the thinking of a person in active addiction, why would they behave the way they do when it is so destructive to them and those around them, risking their health and their lives … and why, oh why, do people so often relapse?

Society too has its wires twisted about addiction, in that we view the public addiction journeys of favoured celebrities with compassion - or at the very least, understanding - but we have no patience whatsoever with the person who steals from the local Co-op to finance their habit.

The book makes a plea for approaching addiction as a health issue and not something to be punished. It makes a case for the importance of good information and education about addiction for young people so that they can make informed choices.

With her insider’s knowledge, the author describes how she got in and then out of active addiction. With her therapist’s hat on, she writes about the essentiality of clinical treatment and medically assisted detoxes and the necessity for it to be accompanied by psychological assistance, either via individual counselling or in groups, and also for the person in treatment to be informed and to learn all they can about addiction.

In support of ongoing recovery, the author (as a professional and also from personal experience) provides a vote of confidence for the Twelve Step programme, because (she explains) post-rehab, the Anonymous meetings provide a safe space to learn more about oneself, addiction, and – in an unhurried manner sometimes over many years – to peel away the many complex layers of addictive behaviour in the company of others who have that shared experience. She believes that “any rehab worth its salt” will help people to navigate their way into their local Twelve Step meetings as part of after-care.

The book does not shy away from the more contentious aspects of the Twelve Step programme such as ”the God question” - in which chapter a brilliant quote is offered to set aside any objections for giving the programme a try: It is inappropriate to be concerned about mice when there are tigers abroad. It doesn’t say that people crossing the threshold of a Twelve Step meeting will miraculously be abstinent for ever more. Far from it. Time, resolve, and persistence is needed, as anyone who has ever encountered addiction will know.

We all need to “find our tribe”, where we feel at home, where we are valued and supported and it is clear from the book that the author has found hers, and having done so, she offers her personal and professional experience to help others who have “twisted wires”.

This slim, (92 pages) readable volume, with a foreword written by a doctor in recovery, is useful for anyone (including family members, professionals) who wants to find out more about addiction, and/or how to find ways to support recovery. Not least, it is a self-help book for people who are addicted to substances or behaviours, offering hope of a way out.

Elsa Browne, SMMGP Operational Lead