Thursday, April 03, 2008

David Sheff and Nic Sheff and their Tales About Crystal Meth

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. Drugs suck. That was the overwhelming feeling I came away with last night after attending a reading by the best-selling writer, David Sheff and his son, Nic Sheff.

That observation may seem mundane, even obvious. But I came of age in the 1970s when teenagers regarded drugs as recreation, a way to change life’s tempos. Since I never developed a drug habit, I had little reason to reexamine my assumptions.

But as the Sheffs’ searing books make clear, using drugs is a form of Russian Roulette. You might smoke some pot and snort coke and never get that bullet in the chamber. On the other hand, the bullet can fire in the first round.

David and Nic Sheff spoke to more than 200 people at a benefit for Beyond Borders, a summer program at Marin Country Day School that brings together kids from every socioeconomic class. David served on the Beyond Borders Advisory Board. His two younger children also attend Marin Country Day School, so he was really talking to his community. It was clear that the evening was an emotional one for David. The people in the audience were his friends, those he relied on during the five year odyssey of Nic’s dependence on crystal meth.

The evening started out with an announcement by journalist Gary Pomerantz, who also served on the Beyond Borders Advisory Board, that David Sheff’s book Beautiful Boy will be #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list this week. The crowd roared and clapped at the news. Nic's young adult book, Tweak, is also selling briskly.

It’s not surprising to hear this. In the age of memoir, this one speaks to an enormous audience. Drug addiction pervades our society and the treatment options are poor. So hundreds of thousands of Americans are left to muddle through a hodge podge of rehabilitation centers, detox clinics, hospitals and the like.

Throughout the tour, audiences have shared their own stories about addiction and that was also the case last night. One woman stood up to ask if love would help her brother through his addiction. The sad answer was no. Nic Sheff said that while he was gripped by drugs, all he could think of was himself. He rarely pondered how his family was reacting to his drug use and he certainly wasn’t thinking about their best interests.

Other people with addicted sons, brothers, and husbands came to hear how the Sheff family worked their way through Nic’s addiction. Nic said he finally confronted the empty feeling inside of himself and realized he could no longer try to obliterate it by getting high. Surprisingly, Nic said, once he focused on his inner feelings of inadequacy, he didn’t find them too hard to overcome. It was the fear of those feelings that pushed him into drugs. That path ultimately proved more difficult than just coping with himself.

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Anonymous said...

I read Beautiful Boy a few weeks ago and found it gripping, SO moving, so sad and so poignant. I could not put it down.

I'm kind of scared to read Tweak.

Anonymous said...

I've just finished reading both books: Tweak firstly, then Beautiful Boy. Obviously to me, the father is a far more adept writer but I believe he's had a bit more experience!

There's no denying the absolute horror and trauma that both men have experienced, and I could not quite bear to absorb some of the pain to which Nic, in particular, had exposed himself due to his disease.

As both an addict (non-practising!) and primary parent, I found the telling of the stories brave; the content one of my worst fears. However, without trying to detract from the tragedy in the men's lives, I kept feeling that there is still a sense of a bit too much pride or even a lack of complete humility in the writings. I saw the same attitude in my mother when she realised her daughter was both addict and alcoholic (realisations made about 20 years apart - heroin going earlier on, grog continuing for the best part of 11 more years) - particularly when she made such comment as - (while leaving the rehab clinic with her desperate pathetic daughter, me) 'Work hard on this. Did you look around in there? You don't belong there'. I did belong there and should have spent much more time there!

Ordinarily, I guess a bit of pride may be considered reasonable and fine but where a recovering addict is concerned, personally that scares me a bit. There is no better 'class' of addict - all just the same struggling with a killer disease.

Anyway, fair play to both lads. They've both experienced more than enough torture for a life time. I pray that Nic sticks close to his program of recovery and that his father is able to forgive his son and himself. Nic is very fortunate to have a family with resources and who provided opportunities, and his family is very fortunate that the doors hadn't become too small for Nic to creep through.

Anonymous said...

i am reading beautiful boy and i cannot put it down,. it's a sad story but so interesting. i can't put it down and i don't want it to end next i'm going to read tweak. i think it's going to be something diffrent but i am sure it's going to be good i hope nic is doing better this is going to be his 3rd year that he's been sober in november.
and i think it's something amazing,i admire him for pulling through with all of this.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful Boy was a great book, which I read first. I could not put it down. I just finished reading Tweak and I found it to be very different from Beautiful Boy. Both books moved me very much so. I'm so proud that Nic kicked his addiction and is on the path to a better life.

Anonymous said...

I am reading the book Tweak now and it is by far the best book that i have ever read. Being only 17 I have had my own experiences with different hard core drugs and alcohol and by read this book It has made me realize that drugs isn't jus something that you do to have fun or to forget life but it is a murder that can take your life!