Reviewer Dean Cowan:Dean is a freelance Business Consultant, specializing in training and development in more than one sector. He also works as a private writing tutor for youngsters struggling with essays and exams at school. He is married and lives in Manchester UK with his wife of 30 years and has a son, a daughter and one grandson. His particular interests include, education, writing, social sciences and politics.A struggling blogger, he has many on-line at the moment but due to a low boredom threshold losses patience with the technology.Prefers Facebook and Twitter because of the lack of effort needed.
Author: Thomas Gagliano
and Dr Abraham Twerski MD.
Publisher: Gentle Path Press
The very authorship of this book intrigued me from the outset, as an unusual collaborative effort between two authors who at least superficially have little in common.
The latter of the two whose works I am familiar with is Dr ( and Rabbi) Abraham Twerski, a preeminent psychiatrist in the field of addiction and one of the world’s most prolific and popular authors of incisive and accessible self-help books.
As a Rabbi too his works grace the bookshelves of thousands of orthodox Jewish homes with their combination of deep spirituality based on his exemplary knowledge of Jewish life and texts and his vast experience as a mental health practitioner. Aged over 80 he is the author of 60 plus books.
Thomas Gagliano is to me a lesser known quantity but is the main author and principle subject of the book. A successful business man from a middle-class Italian American family it was his struggle to overcome addiction which led him in mid-life to change careers, he has a Masters degree in Social Work, and to become a coach and mentor to men and women who are attempting to overcome their own addictions.
And this is where the collaboration between the two
authors makes sense. Thomas is a successful “graduate” of the
famous 12 Step program pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous in the
1960s. Dr Twerski has worked with patients using the 12 step
program and has integrated the methodology in several of his
The two authors met through and mutual acquaintance and on
seeing the draft of Thomas’s book the more experienced author left
a message on his answer phone which not only gave strong, and
Gagliano would say I am sure inspirational encouragement, but led to
The co-authorship is essential to the reading
of this book. Firstly because of the subject matter which is about
addiction and how to combat it. Secondly the methodology and ideas on
family dysfunction as the “parent” of addictive behaviour is the
crux of the book’s narrative as Thomas Gagliano spares us little
detail of his difficult family life as a child, an alcoholic father
who gambled his wealth away and had extramarital affairs and a
desperate suicidal mother. Both were inept as parents and functioning
adults who physically and emotionally abused each other and through
their neediness and self-absorption deprived their children of the
love and nurturing they needed. Gagliano spends the whole of the
first chapter describing his life with his parents; his lack of
positive role models, for example the only time he mentions a wider
family is a gambling alcoholic grandfather, and the almost inevitable
trajectory of his own self-abuse, drinking, gambling and womanizing
despite being a successful businessman.
Unlike his parents however
he had a stable enough marriage and sufficient insight to see how
this pattern of behaviour was destroying him and the people he loved
to set him on the road to recovery. It was during this period in his
life that he started to write the book and develop the main
The book is very good at describing some of the
behaviour traits of addictive personalities. Hence a sense of victim
hood, entitlement issues and the inability to trust are reoccurring
features of the addict’s daily experience; adding to this the
inability to break through these self-destructive patterns creates a
living hell for the sufferers and those close to them.
chapters are split into useful headings reflecting the problems they
describe and the strategies Gagliano develops in order to overcome
the processes which hold sufferers back.
These are for me two
features apart from the creative relationship between the authors
which make this book compelling. The concept of the “ Warden”
described as a mini-baseball coach swinging his bat whilst whispering
destructive and self-limiting ideas into your head is both funny and
familiar. Visualizing the “self-talk” in such a way is not new,
after all Winston Churchill among others described his depression as
“ the black dog” and by personalising the process you are able to
“see” it and in your imagination engage with it.
The other is
the use of the first person singular. Gagliano is his own best case
study and his remarkable honesty is laudable. But I have two
criticisms of this method. Firstly he is dispassionate about himself
and whereas this makes for interesting analysis it reads somewhat
like a social work report by the social worker about himself and is
somewhat artificial as a result. Secondly the whole book is devoid of
social context which for me is a serious omission.
For some this
may be both issues of style and politics in what is both a brilliant
and brave book.