The first I ever heard of this book was when the film arrived in my Amazon Prime recommendations. I watched it, loved it, and pondered about it after. I had a few questions about addiction that the 120 minute film did not go in depth with. So luckily, someone heard my thoughts and a copy of “Beautiful Boy” by David Sheff was on the book shelf of my favorite thrift shop.
“Beautiful Boy” is an addiction memoir published in 2008 that is exceptional in shedding light of how the loved ones surrounding an addict are affected. Written by David Sheff, he writes about his grappling and repetitive cycle of his addicted son, Nic Sheff. Nic Sheff also wrote a book about his journey to overcoming addiction titled, “Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines.”
David Sheff shares his story beginning with how Nic grew up. Sheff describes Nic’s childhood and depicts a decent life together even with custody agreements and summers away from home. Nonetheless, Nic had his father at the ready for whatever he needed.
Nic grew up to be an intellectual boy with a charismatic personality that everyone around him loved. In Nic’s book, “Tweak,” he shares how he always found underground prolific writers like Charles Buckowski and Jack Kerouac appealing while in his father’s memoir, David outlines how these outsider writers hold such an influence to a public that may be unaware of the dire consequences if not taken seriously.
David really shows his journalistic skills when he educates us about what happens inside in addict’s brain when they are desperate to find their destructive muse or how brain tissues grow back when they go to rehab. While he brings us into the world of an addict, he carefully blends this with his experience with his son as he pleads with him to go to rehab multiple times. “An alcoholic will steal your wallet and lie to you. A drug addict will steal your wallet and then help you look for it.”
David gets personal during the continuous battle between him and his son. From Nic running away from rehabs and stealing from David and his wife, to David’s many sleepless nights and a detrimental trip to the hospital. Reading from the father’s point of view was engrossing as I felt David’s agony within each line. I can’t imagine what it would be like to not know where your child was every night.
There’s several heartbreaking moments, several trips around San Francisco to see if they find Nic, several phone calls to the hospital, a lot of harsh realities and misery. In his book he writes, “I’m not sure if I know any ‘functional’ families, if functional means a family without difficult times and members who don’t have a full range of problems.”
Apart from the misery this addiction entails, there are also beautiful moments, if you will. David’s articles have been based on prolific musicians so he correlates some of his moments with lyrics to songs from John Lennon to Kurt Cobain. Sheff adds cherished shared moments with his son of when they’d go surfing along the coasts of California’s Bay Area. One of my favorite attributes from the memoir is that he describes several locations around Northern California to perfection. It’s even better when you’ve been to the places he’s describing and agree with his written illustrations.
“Beautiful Boy” is an enticing memoir about a father and son battling through the hardships of drugs and addiction. David explains in the most coherent way how addiction tears everyone around the addict. “Anyone who has lived through it, or those who are now living through it, knows that caring about an addict is as complex and fraught and debilitating as addiction itself,” Sheff writes in his memoir.