Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction. Home · Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction Author: David Sheff. and describe the devastation addiction leaves in its wake. David and Nic Sheff's parallel father and son memoirs,. Beautiful Boy and Tweak, fully illuminate the. In his memoir Beautiful Boy, author. David Sheff poignantly describes the in- sidious development of his son's addic- tion, from alcohol and marijuana to, later.
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Editorial Reviews. gonddetheppolad.ga Review. site Best of the Month, February From as early as grade school, the world seemed to be on Nic Sheff's string. The Library of Congress has cataloged the print edition as follows: Sheff, David. Beautiful boy: a father's journey through. his son's addiction / David Sheff. p. cm. David Sheff is the author of Beautiful Boy, published in The book was based on his article, “My Addicted Son,” which appeared in the New York Times.
A river of thick fog pours below us and wraps around the Marin Headlands. Jasper asks, Nic, are you coming to Step-Up? The kids are stepping up from second grade to third and kindergarten to first grade. Daisy asks, Nic, do you remember that girl Daniela?
She fell off the climbing structure and broke her toe. I can see the three of them in the rearview mirror. Jasper and Daisy have smooth olive complexions. Their eyes are brown and clear, whereas his are dark globes.
Nic, will you tell us a PJ story? Jasper begs. We head north on the freeway, exiting and turning west, meandering through a series of small towns, a wooded state park, and then hilly pastureland.
We stop in Point Reyes Station to retrieve the mail. Finally we drive off and follow the road along Papermill Creek to our left turn, where I head up the hill and pull into our driveway. Lugging his bags, Nic follows the kids into the house. The dogs charge him, barking and howling. Nic praises their artistry and then trudges into his bedroom to unpack. When Nic emerges, his arms are loaded with gifts.
They are prettily dressed in, respectively, an embroidered peasant blouse and serape and a green velvet jumper.
Jasper gets a pair of cannon-sized Super Soakers. We eat and then the boys fill up the squirt guns and hasten outside into the windy evening, running in opposite directions. Karen and I watch from the living room. Stalking each other, the boys lurk among the Italian cypress and oaks, duck under garden furniture, and creep behind hedges. When they get a clean shot, they squirt each other with thin streams of water. Hidden behind some potted hydrangeas, Daisy watches from near the house.
She drenches them. He sits on a miniature couch between their twin beds, his long legs stretched out on the floor.
He reads from The Witches, by Roald Dahl. We hear his voice—voices—from the next room: Children are foul and filthy! Children are dirty and stinky! At midnight, the storm that has been building finally hits. We rarely have electrical storms, but tonight the sky lights up like popping flashbulbs. Between thunderclaps, I hear the creaking of tree branches. This time, he went east to college and completed his freshman year. Given what we have been through, this feels miraculous.
By my count, he is coming up on his one hundred and fiftieth day without methamphetamine. In the morning the storm has passed, and the sun shimmers on the wet maple leaves. I dress and join Karen and the little kids in the kitchen. Nic, wearing flannel pajama bottoms, a fraying wool sweater, and x-ray specs, shuffles in. He hovers over the kitchen counter, fussing with the espresso maker, filling it with water and coffee and setting it on a flame, and then sits down to a bowl of cereal with Jasper and Daisy.
Daisy, he says. Watch your back. Soon after Daisy and Jasper leave for school, a half-dozen women arrive to help Karen make a going-away gift for a beloved teacher. They bejewel a concrete birdbath with seashells, polished stones, and handmade by students tiles.
As they work, they chat and sip tea. The women are taking a lunch break in the open kitchen. One of the mothers has brought Chinese chicken salad.
Nic, who had gone back to sleep, emerges from his bedroom, shaking of his grogginess and greeting the women. One comments on his good manners. Our teenage son sort of grunts. Otherwise he never gives us the time of day.
In a couple hours, Nic returns to a quiet house—the mosaicing mothers have gone home. He got the job. Tomorrow he goes in for training as a waiter at an Italian restaurant. Though he is aghast at the required uniform, including stiff black shoes and a burgundy vest, he was told that he will make piles of money in tips.
The following afternoon, after the training session, Nic practices on us, drawing his character from the waiter in one of his memorized videos, Lady and the Tramp. We are sitting down for dinner. After dinner, Nic asks if he can borrow the car to go to an AA meeting. After missed curfews and assorted other infractions, including banging up both of our cars efficiently doing it in one accident, driving one into the other , by last summer he had lost driving privileges, but this request seems reasonable—AA meetings are an essential component of his continued recovery—and so we agree.
He heads out in the station wagon, still dented from the earlier mishap. The next day he requests the car again, this time so he can meet the sponsor for lunch. Of course I let him. I am impressed by his assiduousness and his adherence to the rules we have set down.
He arrives when he promises he will. Once again, he is gone for a brief couple hours. The following late afternoon a fire burns in the living room fireplace.
Sitting on the twin couches, Karen, Nic, and I read while nearby, on the faded rug, Jasper and Daisy play with Lego people. Looking up from a gnome, Daisy tells Nic about a meany potato head boy who pushed her friend Alana.
Nic says that he will come to school and make him a mashed meany potatohead. I am surprised to hear Nic quietly snoring a while later, but at a quarter to seven, he awakens with a start. Checking his watch, he jumps up and says, I almost missed the meeting, and once again asks if he can borrow the car.
There are a million harmless explanations. Often, groups of people at AA meetings go out afterward for coffee. Or he could be talking with his new sponsor. By now I know that worry is useless, but it shoots in and takes over my body at the touch of a hair trigger.
I stare into the dark, my anxiety mounting. It is a pathetically familiar state. I have been waiting for Nic for years. At last—Nic. The shutting car door, footsteps, the front door opening with a click.
You are here:
Sheff, we have your son. Whenever he was late or failed to call, I assumed catastrophe. He was dead. Always dead. But then Nic would arrive home, creeping up the hallway stairs, his hand sliding along the banister. Or the telephone would ring. I fell asleep. I love you. I would be furious and relieved, both, because I had already buried him. Late this night, with no sign of him, I finally fall into a miserable half-sleep.
Beautiful boy : a father's journey through his son's addiction
Just after one, Karen wakes me. She hears him sneaking in. A garden light, equipped with a motion detector, flashes on, casting its white beam across the backyard. Clad in my pajamas, I slip on a pair of shoes and go out the back door to catch him. I turn the corner and come head-to-head with an enormous startled buck, who quickly lopes away up into the garden, effortlessly leaping over the deer fence. I confront Nic in the kitchen and he mumbles an excuse. I tell him that he can no longer use the car.
What the fuck? He looks down. At breakfast, I stare hard at Nic. The giveaway is his body, vibrating like an idling car. His jaw gyrates and his eyes are darting opals. He makes plans with Jasper and Daisy for after school and gives them gentle hugs, but his voice has a prickly edge.
He hurries to his bedroom. Closes the door. He comes out wearing a Sonic Youth T-shirt and black jeans. One hand is thrust in his pocket, his head is down, his backpack is slung on one shoulder. In his other hand he holds his electric guitar by the neck. He pushes past me.
I was using the whole semester. He leaves the house, slamming the door behind him. I run outside and call after him, but he is gone.
After a few stunned moments, I go inside again and enter his bedroom, sitting on his unmade bed. I retrieve a crumpled-up piece of paper under the desk.
Nic wrote:. It would have been no easier to have seen him strung out on heroin or cocaine, but as every parent of a meth addict comes to learn, this drug has a unique, horrific quality. In an interview, Stephan Jenkins, the singer in Third Eye Blind, said that meth makes you feel bright and shiny. It also makes you paranoid, delusional, destructive, and self -destructive. Then you will do unconscionable things in order to feel bright and shiny again.
Nic had been a sensitive, sagacious, exceptionally smart and joyful child, but on meth he became unrecognizable. He was a trailblazer with meth, too, addicted years before politicians denounced the drug as the worst yet to hit the nation. In the United States, at least twelve million people have tried meth, and it is estimated that more than one and a half million are addicted to it. Worldwide, there are more than thirty-five million users; it is the most abused hard drug, more than heroin and cocaine combined.
Nic claimed that he was searching for meth his entire life.
When I tried it for the first time, he said, that was that. I learned how similar we all are when I first went to Al-Anon meetings. I resisted going for a long time, but these gatherings, though they often made me weep, strengthened me and assuaged my sense of isolation.
I felt slightly less beleaguered. They were no panacea, but I was grateful for even the most modest relief and any guidance whatsoever. I was frantic to try to help Nic, to stop his descent, to save my son. This, mixed with my guilt and worry, consumed me. I obsessively researched this drug, addiction, and treatments. I am not the first writer for whom this work became a bludgeon with which to battle a terrible enemy, as well as an expurgation, a grasping for something anything fathomable amid calamity, and an agonizing process by which the brain organizes and regulates experience and emotion that overwhelms it.
In the end, my efforts could not rescue Nic. Nor could writing heal me, though it helped. I read it dozens of times, each time crying a little. With his child passed out on the couch, after arrests and drunk tanks and hospitalizations, Lynch, the undertaker and poet and essayist, looked at his dear addicted son with sad but lucid resignation, and he wrote: Thomas Lynch showed me that it is possible to love a child who is lost, possibly forever.
I was terrified to invite people into our nightmare, but was compelled to do so. I felt that telling our story would be worthwhile if I could help anyone in the way that Lynch and other writers helped me. I discussed it with Nic and the rest of our family.
Though encouraged by them, I was nonetheless nervous about exposing our family to public scrutiny and judgment. But the reaction to the article heartened me and, according to Nic, emboldened him.
Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction
A book editor contacted him and asked if he was interested in writing a memoir about his experience, one that might inspire other young people struggling with addiction. Nic was eager to tell his story. More significantly, he said that he walked into AA meetings and when friends—or even strangers—made the connection between him and the boy in the article, they offered warm embraces and told him how proud they were of him.
He said that it was a powerful affirmation of his hard work in recovery. I also heard from addicts and their families—their brothers and sisters, children, and other relatives, and, most of all, parents—hundreds of them. A few respondents were critical.
One accused me of exploiting Nic for my own purposes. Another, outraged at my description of a period when Nic briefly wore his clothes backward, attacked, You let him wear backward clothes? No wonder he became an addict. But the great majority of letters were outpourings of compassion, consolation, counsel, and shared grief. Many people seemed to feel that finally someone understood what they were going through.
This is the way that misery does love company: People are relieved to learn that they are not alone in their suffering, that they are part of something larger, in this case, a societal plague—an epidemic of children, an epidemic of families. They felt that I would understand, and I did.
I am sitting here crying with shaking hands, a man wrote. Your article was handed to me yesterday at my weekly breakfast of fathers who have lost their children. The man who handed it to me lost his sixteen-year-old son to drugs three years ago.
Our story is your story, wrote another father. Different drugs, different cities, different rehabs, but the same story. It isn't a party favorite. It's manufactured in filthy garages by deranged addicts-turned-dealers, a trip of last resort for people who simply must go the downward route. It turns its users into raging animals, then passive wraiths, enhancing their sexual peaks and darkening their lowest fevered valleys. David grew up in a generation that embraced the use of drugs pot smoking, in the Berkeley hills where he raised Nic and his two half-siblings, was completely acceptable.
Not using drugs would have been abnormal. So the good, liberal dad anticipated that Nic might have contact with drugs and might need some guidance. He saw his son turn into a skeletal stranger, but he chose to believe it was just a little pot, just a little alcohol, just something that could be dealt with easily by counseling or, at the most, a period of a few weeks in standard rehab.
For both father and son, it took years agonizing, tragic, lost years to understand that Nic was not going to emerge one day as a normal guy, finish college and settle down. Nic was unmoored. David learned that addiction begins with a predilection lurking way back in the genetic code. But what happens next are acts of will. The addict knows that he or she must break the addictive cycle, go into rehab and stay with the program.
But over and over again, addicts like Nic refuse and reject that avenue of salvation.
They are in a dance with evil, and often, for reasons no one else can understand, they want to die. David and his wife despaired when Nic would sneak in and steal their belongings or write bad checks on their accounts.
They were exhausted by trying to care and yet be tough, forced to use every encounter with Nic as a confrontation to convince him to do something he didn't want to do.
David lived through all the guilt trips it was his fault for divorcing when Nic was young, for not figuring things out soon enough, for not doing something that could have saved Nic.
But what?We rarely have electrical storms, but tonight the sky lights up like popping flashbulbs. Most meth is cooked in clandestine labs, but it should be fairly simple to stop that part of this epidemic caused by pharmaceutical meth. Passing his initial drug use off as experimentation or curiosity, he neglected to fully educate and punish Nic for disobedience. I hear crunching brush. When I transformed my random and raw words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into chapters, a semblance of order and sanity appeared where there had been only chaos and insanity.
Nic laughs. The continuum of use is built upon social, environmental, and genetic predispositions. Given what we have been through, this feels miraculous.
This, mixed with my guilt and worry, consumed me.
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