Sviokla, Sylvester, III & Kerry Zukus. From Harvard to Hell…and Back: A Doctor’s Journey Through Addiction to Recovery. Central Recovery. 2013. 184p. ISBN 9781937612290. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781937612306. MEMOIR
Sviokla, a Harvard graduate, shares his story of how addiction to drugs caused his life of success to crash and burn. He describes his early childhood, his academic and athletic accomplishments in high school and later at Harvard College, which led to his admission to the Harvard Medical School. He notes the irony of women having difficulty getting accepted into university during the Sixties even though a female classmate of his had already had published one of his assigned textbooks. He shares how a freak home accident ended his hopes of becoming a surgeon and ignited the beginnings of alcohol and prescription pain medication abuse that lasted for years. He details his experience working as a doctor, including his fame as a “house” physician to rock stars, his entry into abusing hard drugs, and the resulting troubled relationships with his family. Ultimately, Sviokla’s rock bottom was successfully followed by his long journey into recovery, leading to the directorship of several methadone clinics, co-ownership of a substance abuse clinic in Rhode Island, certification by the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and verification as a diplomate of the American Board of Addiction Medicine.
Verdict Sviokla’s frank, refreshingly honest memoir is a valuable addition to the substance abuse genre. His status as a relatively affluent, successful physician proves that chemical substance addiction can happen to anyone in any class or income level. His direct, no-nonsense style adds poignancy to this work, which nicely complements the literature.—Dale Farris, Groves, TX