Book Review: “Mayhem”, by Sigrid Rausing


The author’s father started several successful companies; by most accounts, he amassed over a billion in assets. Sigrid Rausing, one of his daughters, is a successful woman herself, currently the owner and editor of Granta magazine and publisher of Granta books.

In this memoir, she writes of her brother and sister-in-law’s addiction to drugs and alcohol. Her brother, Hans married Eva—they are wealthy too, and their story reinforces the maxim that addiction doesn’t discriminate by race, creed or wealth.

Both Eve and Hans ran the gambit in treatment protocol –however, by the time of their last relapse, they “had stopped going to 12-step meetings. They let go of solidarity with other addicts; they became funders of addiction causes instead, flattered and praised, like all philanthropists.”

Rausing often focuses on the supportive family, themselves abusers of mind-altering chemicals at times—while trying to help, they were at times “walking on eggshells, setting new boundaries that were broken again and again.” The family’s good deeds were sometimes a “cover-up” for their “distress.” (“I covered up how distressed I was and hid my panic attacks – time and time again I thought I was dying, my mouth numb, my mind faint with anxiety.”)

Rausing discusses the complexities of addiction. Is addiction genetic or environmental? But, this is not a self-help book, rather the author exposes the pain and suffering she (and other family members) endured as they watched loved ones digress into the abyss of addiction—not from afar, but up close.

Her writing skills are evident and heartfelt—she knows that trust between the addict and helper is critical for recovery (“a definition of hell is a lack of trust,”) and has learned there are limitations and necessary boundaries between the two. Rausing writes a compelling memoir that is truthful, sad, and important.

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