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Wasted by Mark Johnson

Wasted was book of the month at my book club. It is the autobiography of Mark Johnson who suffered a poor and violent childhood. He first took heroin at the age of 11. His was a childhood of an abused, emotionally neglected, thieving street-running boy. He grew into a man who turned his life into a drug fuelled party. Little surprise he went on to become a heroin addict sleeping in doorways.


Now his life is transformed. He beat the habit and is now on the board of the National Probation Service and enjoys the personal backing of King Charles when he was Prince of Wales.

The Blurb


Mark Johnson's father had LOVE tattooed across his left hand, but that didn't stop the beatings. The Johnson children would turn up to school with broken fingers and chipped teeth, but no one ever thought of investigating their home life. Mark just slipped through the cracks, and kept on falling. For years.


Constantly in trouble at school, he began stealing at the age of seven, was drinking by the age of eight, and took his first hit of heroin at age 11. Art college beckoned the sensitive and intelligent boy, but he ended up in Portland prison instead.


With searing honesty, Wasted documents Mark's descent into the very depths of addiction and criminality. Homeless and hooked on heroin and crack, no one, least of all Mark, believed he would survive. And yet he somehow found the strength to pull through, and now runs his own thriving tree-surgery business, employing and helping other recovering addicts.

Both shocking and inspirational, this is a heartbreaking and compelling account of one man's struggle to save himself, and help save others in the process.

The Review


Wasted is his memoir, where Johnson candidly recounts his life as an addict. It is well written and in the present tense, which gives the vivid and often strikingly original descriptive passages real immediacy. There is an astounding amount of often gruesome detail that either indicates this is a man whose long-term memory has made it through drug abuse unscathed, or that he has a incredible ability to place himself in past scenarios.


Wasted is a gripping page turner but some of the cruel strokes of humanity he records in it are enough to scar anyone for life.


After years of what seems to be a “manageable” habit that he continuously justifies to himself, he fathers a child. When he overdoses and wakes to find the needle still in his arm, his two-year-old son crying hysterically with a dirty diaper falling off and the mother banging on the locked door, Johnson still did not admit he had a problem. Even then, he still did not feel he had hit rock bottom. Some half-hearted attempts at detox and rehab later, he winds up roaming the streets of London, homeless, living a life of crime solely focused on supporting his crack and heroin addiction.


Much of Mark’s story is disturbing, and in the book he does not try to paint himself as any sort of victim. It is easy to dislike him at times. I could not help but feel completely frustrated or appalled at his behaviour sometimes. However, in its complete and utter honesty, his story gives an insight into the mind of a severe addict. This stopped me from judging him so harshly.


His story explains how easily and quickly a man can end up as something he never wanted to be, and how vicious the cycle of drug addiction is, once one finds himself caught in its web.

Through luck and perseverance, Mark was eventually able to clean himself up and live a life that speaks to the humanity in all of us: through helping others we most help ourselves, and through understanding, we make this world a better place.


I found it fascinating and read it very quickly. I would always be careful to whom I recommended this book. It is very difficult to read at points because of the graphic descriptions of violence and addiction. If you can cope with that, it is well worth reading.







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