I found this an uncomfortable book to read: addiction memoirs usually are. But I’m glad I persisted.
‘Accepting yourself is difficult. Changing yourself impossible.’
This is Jack Sutherland’s memoir, as told to his father John Sutherland. It’s a story of dependence, addiction, and recovery. Okay, so what is new under the sun? Is this particular story of addiction and recovery worth reading, and why?
I suspect that some of us will pick this book up because Jack Sutherland worked as a PA and bodyguard to R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, Ru Paul and Mickey Rourke. And, yes, there are anecdotes about Jack’s life as a PA. But the point of those anecdotes is to give a sense of the environment in which Jack worked rather than the lives of the people he worked for. It also gives a sense of the pressures and unreality of that particular world. It’s not hard to see how addictions can take hold. In part, Jack Sutherland’s memoir reads like a confession. The things he did, the drugs he ingested, the stimulus he needed, and the self-loathing he felt. How very difficult it must have been for his father to write this down and try to make sense of it.
There were times when I felt I’d had enough. I really didn’t need to read about any more drug-fuelled events, or chemically enhanced sexual encounters. I had the picture: Jack Sutherland was doing his best to annihilate himself. But each time I came close to stopping and putting the book aside, I thought of his father. How difficult it must be, as a parent, to hear the details of such incredibly self-destructive behaviour. How difficult to see your child in the addict, how grateful that he has survived. I kept reading.
‘Life goes on, even if you hate yourself.’
There are aspects of the presentation of this memoir that irked me: the footnotes at the end of each chapter sometimes irritated rather than informed. I sometimes found the detail overwhelming. But, by the end, I was pleased that Jack had survived and that he and his father were able to write this memoir together.
Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Faber and Faber Ltd for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.