Beautiful Boy – David Sheff

“Fortunately I have a son, my beautiful boy. Unfortunately he is a drug addict. 

Fortunately he is in recovery. Unfortunately he relapses. 

Fortunately he is in recovery again. Unfortunately he relapses. 

Fortunately he is in recovery again. Unfortunately he relapses. 

Fortunately he is not dead.”

In Beautiful Boy, David Sheff recounts his son’s struggles with addiction. Nic’s drug of choice is Methamphetamine, well known for being one, if not the hardest drug to stay in recovery for. Sheff talks about his difficulty coping with his son’s addiction, rehab stays, and subsequent relapses. 

Sheff’s story is heartbreaking, and gut wrenching. He is very real about his emotions. From his shame of having an addict for a son to the happiness he feels from thinking about Nic before his addiction changed him. He speaks often about how he wants to feel hope that each trip to rehab will be the one that keeps him clean, but how it would be easier for him if he just gave up and save himself from the heart ache.

I appreciate that Sheff does not hide his emotions, nor does he hide his own drug use when he was younger. While some may leave out this fact he is frank about it, even adding in that at one point Nic asked if he wanted to smoke Marijuana with him and he agreed desperate to have something that he could use to connect with his son. He laments a few times that he wishes that he never did. While Sheff did drugs when he was younger he was blindsided when he found out Nic was also doing them. He says that parents tend to ignore the signs of addiction in their children, hoping that it’s not true and he and his wife are no exception to this.

He wishes that he could do more for his son. Nic is in and out of rehab. He worries constantly about his son’s well being. It is not just Nic who suffers, his family does as well. Sheff struggles with explaining Nics illness with his younger children, unsure of how much to tell them. This is something that I never thought about, how much do you tell small children when their older sibling has an addiction. I don’t know if Sheff handled this correctly but it seemed okay to me to explain that he is ill, but try to keep them away from the effects that the drugs have on him. His choice to lie by omission must have been a difficult choice for him to make.

Sheff’s honestly makes for a heartbreaking story. A great read, especially for those who know someone struggling with addiction. I am grateful for his ability to share his experiences without sounding disconnected and bland. I had fears of this but it did end up reading like the memoir it is.  

“Fortunately there is a beautiful boy. Unfortunately he has a terrible disease. 

Fortunately there is love and joy. Unfortunately there is pain and misery. 

Fortunately the story is not over.”

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