I understand why Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction is a #1 New York Times bestseller. It’s a very moving and insightful account of one father’s journey through his son’s addiction, a journey millions of parents have made. David (the author) does not hold back. His writing is powerful, emotional, lucid, and honest.
He loves his son Nic to the ends of the earth, there is no doubt about that. Nic is more than just a beautiful boy, he is everything to David. And why wouldn’t he be, he is his son, even when high on methamphetamine and other drugs. At times I laughed, other times I cried. I did not want to be reminded that as a parent there are limits to my ability to protect my son. But it is one of the gifts of the book.
It is often overwhelming reading David’s account of his son’s addiction, and his tireless pursuit to save him. At one point in the book he asks the question:
What would you do if a family member were addicted to this drug?
He receives many answers from addiction researchers, drug abuse counselors, interventionists, friends, teachers, and members of Al-anon. He leaves few stones unturned, and in the end, realizes that no one person has all the answers. He must decide for himself how to deal with his son’s addiction (and his own addiction to his son’s addiction).
I could not agree more. At the same time, I could not help but get frustrated by some of what he was told, and even more, by what he was not told.
Here is my answer to David’s question.
Help for David
1) I would utilize the Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) approach for dealing with Nic and his addiction. When compared to the two approaches most discussed in the book (Al-Anon and doing an Intervention), CRAFT has been shown in clinical trials to be significantly more effective.
In one trial, CRAFT resulted in 64.4Z% of addicts entering treatment compared to 22.5 for Interventions and 13.6% for Al-Anon. I would add that if it were me, I would likely skip Interventions, but utilize Al-Anon with CRAFT since there are many positive benefits to connecting with others who are going through similar challenges.
2) For family members and friends trying to help an addicted loved one, the end result is most often perpetual trauma. David at one point says,
I have been so traumatized by his addiction that the surreal and the real have become one and the same.
There are many references throughout the book that support the painful fact that trauma pervades not only Nic’s life as an addict, but his father, family, and likely some friends.
It is also a sad truth that good trauma therapy is hard to find, and rarely done to any significant degree in substance abuse treatment. For David, who clearly has engaged in a lot of therapy, I would want to explore the degree to which these therapies sufficiently addressed trauma.
I have explored this topic in a paper I wrote about treating trauma, as well as in a section about core issues. Understanding trauma and its treatments are as complex as addiction, if not more so.
One of my favorite trauma authors recently came out with a new book that I believe should be read by anyone who has experienced trauma, and in my book, that includes us all: 8 Keys to Safe Trauma Recovery.
This is tough work, not for the faint of heart. But something tells me that after what David has been through with his son, trauma work would be a walk in the park.
Help for Nic
1) David says towards the end of the book,
Rehab isn’t perfect, but it’s the best we have
I am not surprised he reached this conclusion given that when you go searching for help, it is really the only answer. Treatment works.
Research says it does, even if you have to go multiple times. And Nic is a testament to this outcome: he goes to many residential (and outpatient) programs and does well for sustained periods of time following treatment before he relapses. I too believe in treatment, but also believe strongly that current treatment practices fall short of what is possible and necessary for long-term success.
2) This entire website is dedicated to helping you understand the solution to addiction. My answer for Nic (and David) is summarized in the following blog posts: Understanding Addiction and the Long Term Solutions to addiction. David is right when he says in the book that there is no one right path for anyone, but there are specific things that can make a difference in whether a person continues to go through life cycling in and out of treatment, or progresses beyond their addiction.
3) For Nic, among the most significant factors that will likely influence his future outcomes is the degree to which his developmental deficits and constrictions are addressed. Among the best frameworks for understanding how to assess development is Stanley Greenspan’s six developmental levels (or stages) of the mind.
The deficits and constrictions resulting from early traumas, as well as drug abuse, can be healed over time utilizing developmentally-based psychotherapies. Although meth and other drugs of abuse can result is significant brain changes that impact emotional development, this type of therapy is really the best we have.
Unfortunately, in my experience, it is not taught in graduate schools, is completely unknown in residential treatment facilities (and even if it was known, the therapy is done over years, not months or 28 days), and requires significant skill in delivery.
It also is the right therapy following trauma resolution work. The good news is that there are some gifted therapists in most places that can do it, it just may require some effort finding them.
4) David correctly writes that his son has a chronic, relapsing medical condition that will require long-term care. Yet sadly, it appears that Nic’s care has suffered from our treatment system being a patchwork of acute-based programs, where aftercare is self-help meetings and “working a program.”
Nic needs to stop going in and out of treatment, and instead engage in treatment for many years. The evidence is in the book. When he is in treatment and working his program he does very well, until he stops working his program and relapses. “Working a program” is a 12-step construct that does not include the work I believe is critical to long-term success (see previous bullet point).
Staying in treatment for years makes sense when you understand that it is outpatient (not residential), involves resolving underlying drivers of addiction like trauma, is adapted to changes in development over time, and includes the exploration of more than just pathology, like the idea of Me to We: Finding Meaning in a Material World.
If we are to successfully help people move beyond addiction, we must get outside the black box of traditional addiction treatment and utilize what we know from a variety of fields (e.g., systems science, positive psychology, ecopsychology, education). We can and we must do better, for Nic, and everyone else that suffers.
I want to add that Nic published his own book about his experiences abusing methamphetamine and other drugs, called Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines. I look forward to reading it in the near future, and hearing his side of the story.
One final comment is related to how David ends the book.
I believe we need an all-out war on addiction modeled on the war on cancer.
He goes on to suggest what such a campaign would look like, the funding it would require, and the benefits it could bring. He adds that a research network like that set-up for cancer could test out many promising addiction interventions, including new medications.
The good news is that it has been done, and has been bridging the gap between practice and research for many years now.
It is the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network. Check it out.
Well stated John. As the mother of a recovering addict, I can truly relate to David’s trials and your statement, “He must decide for himself how to deal with his son’s addiction (and his own addiction to his son’s addiction)”. Never have I experienced the helplessness, sadness, depression, and anxiety than the years my son was involved in drug abuse. Your “help” for both David and Nic is well grounded in science and provides a direction for parents of children involved in drug abuse as well as those individuals seeking answers for themselves…
Angela M Goetz says
I was really intrigued by this father and son story of struggle with addiction that I reserved the book Beautiful Boy as well as Nic’s book Tweaked at the Library and anxious to read both book. A father’s point of view as well as a son’s point of view. I have always viewed drug treatment as a quick fix but it is never quite fixed and sometimes the person needs to take themselves out of the environment that was literally killing them and not go back to that environment after treatment. Recently on a show “Drug Nation” a young man and his wife, newly sober, are visiting the graveside of a friend that died of an overdose and all he could think of was, “where did he get that dope, it must be some good dope if it killed him.” All he wanted to do was go to where this young man(6 feet under) had purchased the drug that took his life. That really touched me to hear it put that way.
Mike Stroud says
It is really exciting to think about how we are so close to bridging the gap between research and practice. I believe that is the best equation to conquering addiction, people need to collaborate to get the best results. I was also curious if Tweak is out yet. You said that you look forward to reading it soon and I was just curious when soon was? Your blog gave me a good perspective of the actions that are being taken to overpower addiction. Thanks so much
Zachary H. says
After reading your blog I am going to be picking up the book “tweak” for my personal reading. Looks like this book will be interesting at the least.
Amy Buglione says
Everyday many people struggle with addiction issues in their family and it often tears families apart. Addictions can influence every aspect of a human being and really change them as person. I have never read Beautiful Boy but by reading your blog, it sounds like an amazing story and is much like one I can relate to. My best friend had an addiction problem and I had to watch her family go through incredible measures to try and get her clean and after she relapsed once, she then made the decision her self to get clean. Like you said, the addict must want to become sober, and until then nothing will really make them stay clean. She just celebrated her 2 years sober 4 days ago and it is so amazing. I definitely agree with you that being sober is something that is long term, there is not a short term fix. Being in a facility for 28 days does not clean up an addict. I really appreciate your information and opinions on addiction. Thank you.
Felicia Bautista-Nelson says
I have started to read the book Beautiful Boy and I have already been touched by the message that this text brings to life. The personal account of addiction is not masked or cleaned up for the purpose of publication, but really gets into the real issues and struggles. I personally have dealt with a family member who was addicted to alcohol and prescription pain medication. The effects on my family have still not all surface, but the day to day struggle is enormous without optimism and hope. This book has already touched on something for me that is all too familiar.
Mike, yes, the book Tweak is out and I plan to read it in the next few weeks. I have lots of air travel coming up so it may even happen sooner. It is rare that both a father and son are willing to share intimate details of their struggles, and are good writers.
I am interested to read both of these books from what you have noted, and slightly saddened by the fact that you say that the research and medications are out there yet this author of Beautiful Boy did not know about them, and publishes a book leading the public to believe unknowing. I hope that soon that can change.
I was recently caring for a patient in an acute hospital setting who had inflicted substantial harm to herself, again. She has a long history of abuse, and also has an extensive list of prescription pain killers, sedatives for various “ailments”. I found it frustrating that in our current non-connected medical system that this could be happening. This patient was soon to be transfered to an in patient treatment center for further psych evaluation. My frustration is partially related to the feeling of being in a catch 22 situation. the medical caregivers have become scarred of being sued for not covering someone’s pain, and the patients get sicker and sicker and the doctors just pass them off the the psych centers when they can’t solve the problem anymore.
Ember, to the author’s credit he did provide useful information to the public on a number of fronts, including mentioning research findings and discussing addiction medications. My blog post illustrated that even the best reporters (and fathers) can still miss things. Addiction is complex, there are many pieces to the puzzle that are constantly changing. As to your point about the intersection between pain management and addiction, it too is complex and requires significant coordination among care givers – something that often does not happen as you point out.
I am grateful as always to the insights and resources that you share in your blog. This entry brought tears to my eyes as I think of my sons and their addiction difficulties. Both of them have underlying feelings of low self-worth directly related to a life-changing car accident that the three of us were involved in fifteen years ago when my sons were 13 and 15.
The accident resulted in me breaking my neck and becoming quadriplegic while both my sons escaped major physical injury. However, each of them suffered mental and emotional injury that they carry with them to this day. One son feels guilty for asking to take that car ride on that day. The other son feels guilt that he may have caused more damage when he pulled me from the vehicle after it began to catch on fire. Although I have repeatedly spoken with them stating that all the actions were my choice and not theirs, they still hold on to the guilt from their teenage years.
I have ordered both books in order to help my sons and myself with better management of their addictions and with my own struggles as well. Thank you, John, for your ongoing efforts.
It is hard for me to imagine the pain and suffering you and your family have experienced as a result of the tragic accident. I am honored that you shared your story, and moved by your tenacity to continue to “work your stuff” and help others. Your son’s are lucky to have you as a father.
Angela M Goetz says
I have not been able to put the book Tweak down. I feel totally like I am Nic and living his nightmare. I have never shot up or done any illicit drugs but I find in reading Tweak when Nic is using I am almost nauseated and can feel him getting high. He is an amazing writer and is raw and holds nothing back on his thoughts and feelings. If you haven’t read this book I recommend reading Tweak. He is so raw and insightful that if you are recovering from addiction that you will feel the cravings from this book.
Angela, thanks much for the updated review, I will most definitely read it on my next flight! Words of caution to those in recovery: reading triggery material can cause cravings. Cravings can cause lapses. Lapses can cause relapses. Relapses can be dangerous.
I have just discovered this site and all the information on addiction. I am incredibly grateful. I have a son who has been in rehab twice, and, yes, I believed each time was a *fix*. It wasn’t. He went from both rehabs to 12-Step programs, which helped for a while. But as of this writing he is again suffering, shamed, and confused.
Thinking of addiction as a chronic condition rather than an acute condition has opened my eyes and given me more understanding of this terrible wasting condition. And much to think about.
I will look for both books reviewed above–and pray that each of them has a happy ending, either within their covers or outside of them–in the lives of their authors.
Glad you found the site, and sorry to hear about your son. Be sure to check out my child information and resources. Also, reading the Five Critical Things to Know about addiction will provide additional information about addiction being a chronic condition.
Long-term solutions necessitate identifying key leverage points for change that most often perpetuate ongoing addictive behavior. Most commonly, they include untreated traumas, and the fact that addiction treatment does not address developmental deficits and constrictions – issues that require ongoing therapy by a skilled clinician. If your son remains an emotional 10 year-old, then no treatment will have great long-term outcomes because it is hard to successfully be in initimate relationships, hold down a good job, parent, and deepen all that life has to offer with the emotional skills of a child.
Good luck, hang in there, have hope…there is a solution to addiction: manage the chronic problems, resolve the underlying traumas and developmental issues, and access creativity – it is the forcefield of life.
I bought Tweak for my youngest son and Beautiful Boy for myself. Although I haven’t finished reading Beautiful Boy yet, my son zipped through Tweak (pun intended) and asked me to buy three more copies for his friends.
The writing style in Tweak reflects the pace of a meth lifestyle and made a real impact on my opioid/alcohol-using son because it mirrored the addiction behavior of so many other drugs.
I have still not read it yet, but all reviews so far have been very positive. Will read on my next plane ride in a few weeks.
Meghan Von Tersch says
I also read this book and thought it was amazing how he wrote with such honestly, however I couldn’t help but get frustrated with some of his ideas and opinions he recieved. I was confused when multiple people in his life kept suggesting “cut off all ties- don’t speak to him, don’t give him money, don’t help him in any way, don’t let him live in your house, etc..” That was crazy to me… I personaly feel like gicing up on him completely would further his addiction and he would most likely end up dead. I fully understand not giving him cash, which he would obviously use for drugs, but I agree with what David did when he only provided money for rehab. One other frustrating thing was how expensive rehab really is… never having experienced rehab myself or in my close family I had no idea how much it costs for treatment. The cost just seems like it will continue the negative cycle because no addict is able to affort it, and people who are cut off from their family aren’t able to afford it, so how will they ever get help?
Nice comment and I agree that some of the advice David received was not so good. Treatment is a good value when done on an outpatient basis, but evaluating the cost-benefit profile of residential treatment is more challenging. Many of the programs cost $1000 to $1500 per day, so after a month of care, the bill is the price of a very nice new car. My primary criticism of residential care is that it attempts to solve a chronic problem with an acute-based solution. I know that most programs will say that they provide the foundation for chronic care following inpatient treatment, and encourage outpatient and self-help meetings following discharge…but significant evidence points to outpatient being as effective as residential care in the longterm. What is the most important factor in outcomes? It goes back to “client-therapist” relationship. If money is no issue, residential treatment may be something to consider. But in cases where money is an issue, I am skeptical of the value of residential treatment compared to using the money in other productive ways (e.g., seeing a private-practice therapist threes per week and combining the sessions with medication therapy for example).
I am reading this book for my Drug Education class at PSU and I knew that I would have a hard time with it, before I even opened it. In the first chapter, it makes you feel hopefully and positive that he wants to change and has. But by the end of the chapter, you find out that it’s all a show and he’s just being sneaky to try not to let his parents down so bad. I will not know first-hand what it is like for parent to have these feeling about their son, but I do know what it is like to watch a love one fall. It’s interesting to hear different information/facts, such as in your lecture, to help us cope with an addiction ourselves, or with a loved one. There’s so much information out there and it’s hard know which one to believe or fit to your addict. I think the only way is to get inside their brains to see what really is causing this because so many treatment programs just do not work anymore. Slowly the addict and even their family will start giving up.
My brother is 26 and just got his 3rd DUI a couple months ago. He’s social, funny, a hard-worker, smart, but keeps going back to that completely blitzed phase that he loves so much. It’s so hard for my parents who just want the best for him and to keep seeing him screw up time after time. I could feel for David and his pain when he was so hopeful and counting the days he thought he was sober, only to be let down again and get his hopes completely shattered.
I want to read Nic’s book to see his point of view to see what the mind of an addict thinks like. We can all assume and pretend like we know, but it only comes down to them and their decision to change or not.
Gwen Cowan says
I have not read Beautiful Boy but I do have the book. My daughter read it and told me how good it was. I feel like I have lived the book because I have a son that is an addict. I have lived through 41 years of addiction. My son is a perfect example of this. He has been in and out of treatment many times. He quit drinking for ten years but never did deal with his problems. He had some extreme events happen to him in his childhood. He chose to only look at the good things in his life. I gave him permission to get as angry as he needed to with me so he could get out the truth of what happened to him. He refused. I begged him to go to therapy, a priest, a good friend or anyone that might he would trust to talk to but he just wanted to remember the good times. He relapsed and the sad story is too long to tell. I have read Tweek and really enjoyed this book. I am an alcoholic and I can see his tweeking by the way his mind flits from one subject to another. I have been sober 18 years and I have been to therapy for the entire time. I still have problems with relationships. I deal with my childhood problems on a daily basis even though I have done intensive therapy on what I felt the problems were. I think that I have missed something because I can not let go of my guilt and I relive a lot of my past in my dreams and how I deal with my life. I can only pray!
Beautiful Boy is well written, but offers little in the way of long-term solutions to addiction. I am sorry to hear about your son and his struggles. Even though relapse can be painful for loved ones, the upside is that it has the potential to motivate action in a positive direction. The key is making sure your son knows what to do when the window of motivation to change opens. He likely would benefit from the same thing you feel you have missed in therapy. If you continue to relive the past (flashbacks/dreams), cannot let go of guilt (and/or shame), and continue to struggle in relationships, then you likely require specific therapies designed to heal trauma, catch you up developmentally so relationships can flourish, and release you from shame and guilt. I would surmise your son would benefit from the same thing. I would suggest starting with some great reads: 1) The Body Remembers and 2) 8 Keys to Safe Trauma Recovery – both by Babette Rothschild. They will provide a solid foundation for understanding how the past links with the present, and how to deal with the untreated issues in a very safe, slow, and predictable way. It may also be useful to seek out a therapist who is an expert in treating trauma. Congradulations on 18 years of sobriety, that is a significant accomplishment! Keep praying, and keeping working it.
Emily Pierce says
I’m reading Tweak right now, and plan on reading Beautiful Boy in the near future. Have you read Tweak since your post in January?
I can’t agree enough that treating addiction as an acute problem is merely a band-aid to the real issue. Before last Wednesday, however, I would not have viewed it as a chronic problem either. “Chronic” to me has always meant back pain or arthritis… because after all, addiction can be avoided through lifestyle choices and behavior change, right? From reading Tweak and your professional viewpoint, I see that I was wrong.
My question for you, is once the illness has been addressed and the root causes have been identified, then what?? It’s hard for me to imagine that talking about a traumatic childhood (for example) will kick the addiction.
Thanks for the words of encouragement,
Emily, thanks for feedback and question. I think many are now understanding that addiction is a “chronic” condition, but we should realize that just like most things in life, there are many shades of gray to chronic. I continue to believe that both the fields of addiction and chronic medical illness can benefit from each other by combining wisdom from their respective fields.
I am sorry to say that since my post in January I have not read Tweak, but I still plan to in the near future – thanks for the reminder. As to your question, what comes after management of addiction and resolving the root causes? Create. You are absolutely right that only working on the pathological side of the equation is not enough. To solve the problem of addiction, people need to go beyond management and resolution work and figure out what they want to create in life. The forces of creation are powerful, and if people do not engage in life in a meaningful way and find purpose (and nurturing relationships), then long-term success from addiction is challenging.
Katie Lynett says
I think that it is interesting that David had the insight to realize that addiction is a chronic condition that requires long-term treatment/support. I guess I always knew that addiction was something that never really “went away” but before starting class, I never really thought of it as a chronic illness that needed to be managed like diabetes.
Also as I read this I could not help but think of the complexity of addiction because it seems that there are numerous systems within systems. Not only are there the various factors that influenced the individual to develop addiction, but then there is the affect that there is on the family/treatment they will need. Then there is the addiction treatment system. All these exist within the macrosystem of society which influences and interacts wit all of these. This amounts to a very messy and complex situation.
I am a student at PSU and chose to read Beautiful Boy for my Drug Education class.
I do not have any direct experience with substance abuse and feel that my knowledge is limited. However, after reading the book I think that David did everything he could to nurture his child. I am sad that Nic’s mother chose to relocate far away from her son: I am sure Nic was negatively impacted by his mother’s decision. While some children of divorced parents end up using drugs, divorce per se is not a gateway to drugs. I feel that Nic is very fortunate to have a father who had the financial ability to afford all the treatment programs that Nic attended. However, treatments are reactive strategies to a chronic condition that includes lapses and relapses along the way. Drug addiction is without a doubt a complex issue and factors such as peer pressure, genetics, personality traits, or the environment play a role in one’s route to addiction. However, I also believe in willpower and one’s determination to change. My sons’ kung fu instructor is the perfect example: he changed his life around. Is he the exception to the rule?
About two years ago, I read and enjoyed both “Beautiful Boy” and “Tweak,” but for very different reasons. I first read “Beautiful Boy” and then went immediately into “Tweak.” It was a little overwhelming going from one straight into the other, but I wanted to read “Tweak” while “Beautiful Boy” was fresh in my mind.
The books were very different stylistically (the cover and interior designs, and even the font choices, represented the authors’ different voices, points of view, and goals). What was difficult for me was that the Nic in my mind was the Nic that David Sheff paints for us in “Beautiful Boy.” Even though he feels immensely frustrated with, hurt by, and at times hopeless about his son, David always preserves some notion of Nic as that beautiful boy that he loves. And that’s who he was in my mind, too. But when I began to read “Tweak,” I was blindsided by the way Nic sees himself: not at all the beautiful son his father sees. It was frustrating, confusing, and created a lot of cognitive dissonance for me as the reader. In a way, I wish I’d read Nic’s story first. But even though it was challenging to process this sharp contrast, maybe it was useful to see.
In terms of what I valued about each book, I appreciated David’s macro-level approach, so that he was using his own personal story as a jumping off point to address the national and even global issue of methamphetamine addiction and the systems that attempt to address it. I saw him using the medium of journalism in a socially responsible way, and I know a lot of families have found great comfort and community in his story and in his research.
Nic’s book was much more about his own experience. It was an extremely self-centered piece of writing, which makes sense based on his addiction. This was frustrating for me at times; but ultimately, I came to value it because he gives us a raw, honest look into the inner life of an addict—a perspective that, if not for his writing, many of us would never see.
Ultimately, I see each as needing and validating the other. David’s larger, sometimes societal-level perspective broadens the scope and lets us see the issue in a systems way. Nic’s story gives us the perspective of the person who is at the center of the system. From family members to counselors to the neuroscientists who study the addict’s brain, we are all orbiting around this person and can learn something from seeing the world through his lens.
I have just finished reading Beautiful Boy last night; I picked up the book at the local library after I read Tweak for one of my classes as I really wanted to hear Nic’s fathers side of the story.
Both books saddened and even angered me in some parts. I really feel for Nic and his struggle, but David’s too – I can not even start to imagine what it would be like to go through that, hope that every time would be his last time using, live in fear that the next phone call would tell you that your child is dead. I am really glad than Nic has been sober for a while now!
I loved Beautiful Boy because of David’s perspective, because we not only learned about Nic’s journey through addiction, but also about his childhood. I loved that David not only wrote about Nic, their history and struggle, but also offered some information about the drug and some research.
One point in particular has made me mad, though. Nic’s been battling this “disease” for a while, David writes how big of a heartache it has been, but yet, he accepts a joint from Nic and they smoke together. It made me want to scream.
My advice to anyone reading this book is to pick up Nic’s book as well. The two books perfectly complete each other.
In response to having read Nic Sheff’s book, TWEAK, myself, I support your theories of overcoming addictions and see the examples clearly in his story. First off, Nic never seemed to have a healthy relationship with his parents. His mother and father divorced when he was a relatively young age which was the first step to the unstable parenting he was exposed to. While David tried to be the best father to his son by also being his best friend, this in contrast seemed to force Nic to become more responsible and independent than his age and he claims in his book how he never truly had the chance to just be a kid. Turning away from the parental relationships he had, Nic found drugs to be a way to escape to a state of child-like behavior where he felt free of pressures and able to not care about his status around his fathers friends. Obviously, this lead to the break down of Nic and Davids relationship, strengthening the connection to drugs by each use.
The fourth of five steps in your plan of actions to overcome all addictions was also observed towards the end of Nic’s book when he checked into his last rehab. At this rehab, they had sesseions for Nic to reexperience the hurt he went through in the past that had been surpressed. He had to resolve his adverse childhood experiences instead of dislocate himself from the pain and troubles. After each of these sessions, Nic seemed to have a better understanding of what lead him to improper use of drugs and a greater appriciation for the sober way of living and the positives in his current life.
Melissa, thanks for the feedback and insights from Tweak. I have yet to read it, but it remains on my list!
Todd Pierce says
I truly found value in your insight of beautiful boy. Can’t for the life of me figure why you haven’t read Tweak yet. We’re all busy, but this is our lives, and the story is required reading.
Thanks for the feedback and encouragement to read Tweak – I will get to it :)
Josh Singleton says
Thank you so much for addressing the trauma that family members and friends face as a result from observing a loved one struggle through addiction. Many times these people are overlooked with all of the attention being focused on the person suffering from the addiction. Family and friends can be the concealed victims and may face more trauma than the person struggling through the addiction issues. For me personally it is often more difficult to watch a loved one go through pain and have that helpless feeling of wishing you could take the pain from them instead. I’m sure many other people feel the same. Recognizing the trauma loved ones endure is a really important topic and it was inspirational to hear you recognize this and offer explanations to address these concerns.
Amanda L says
I picked up Beautiful Boy for my class, but also because my brother dabbled in drug use for about a year and a half. So I wanted to see from the family’s perspective if my brother had any similarities or experiences with David’s family. However, my brother never became addicted to anything except cigarettes and Coke Zero.
I think I became frustrated with David’s addiction to Nic’s addiction. I think it’s a good point when you explained despite the numerous professionals and non-professionals that gave David advice; he still didn’t receive the best resources available (E.g. CRAFT). It is very interesting. Though, it seems that throughout the book the data suffered from confirmation bias, such as the one study he cited of divorced children. This cited study is contrary to what I learned about divorce statistics during my upper division college course on marriage. So potentially David sought out and included information he thought was relevant to his story.
In terms of prevention, in addition to fighting cancer like addiction, at the end of the book, David says to talk to your children early about drug use. Yet, this didn’t seem to affect Nic as David used this course of action on Nic.
Amanda Lee says
I couldn’t agree with you more, Dr. Fitzgerald, it makes sense that the 12-step-based rehab system is flawed, it didn’t work for Nic and creates and perpetuates a cycle of relapse. In the book, Nic describes various experiences at 12-step and his attitude is very nonchalant and even dismissive. He paints a picture of a group of addicts like himself who cycle in and out. This is apparent in his “running in to” and recognizing faces at various rehab programs. It sounds like he, and the others, were just jumping through the hoops to appease society or their friends or families. I know from experiences with my father in and out of rehab for alcohol dependency, he was in cycle to either get a job back or his drivers license, if he just made it through the 28-days or 12-steps he could go back to his life, and continue to feed his addiction. The system has become a way for our society to quantify progress and assumed change out of addiction, but as Spencer, Nic’s friend and mentor in Tweak, points out, that can only come from within.
Jennifer Walker says
I just finished reading this book for a drug education course that I am taking and thought that it was a great book. David did a good job at showing the battle that one goes through when there is an addict in their life that they love. The strength that a parent has is definitely tested when addiction comes into play. It is sad that there is so much pain in addiction for everyone involved. I like what you said about treatment programs and how it is a flawed system that doesn’t always work. A coworker of mine suffers from a variety of phobias and is struggling getting control of some of them. Together we were reading up on Cognitive Behavioral Treatment that treats not only addictions, but it is supposed to help with phobias. What do you think about this type of treatment? I am also interested to know if you read the book “Tweak” and what you thought of it.
Thanks for the comment Jennifer. CBT works great for aspects of addiction and particularly phobias. No, I have not read Tweak, on my list though :)
Elizabeth Alvarado says
Beautiful Boy, is probably a book I wouldn’t have picked up to read on my own. But, as an assigned reading for Drug/Health Class I am taking through PSU, it definitely opened my eyes to the constant battles faced by both parent and addict with dealing with an addiction. I too, found myself crying and laughing throughout the book, and hoping that Nic, would not relapse. But, now after reading this book and your blog, I understand addiction is a “chronic relapsing medical illness” which has to be “manage properly throughout a lifespan”. This is what I believe both Nic and David failed to recognize, that addiction is not a quick fix, but rather a life time of treatment management. I agree, that the key point to trying to end his addiction is, “obtaining and accurate understanding of addiction” as noted in “Top five things you should know about addiction.” I firmly believe that in order to treat any kind of addiction, the root of the problem must be addressed first in order to have any kind of success. And, working with youth, it has given me a different perspective on how to approach families seeking addiction guidance. And I have gained two valuable resources to share, the book and your website. Thank you!
Shelbi Miyashiro says
Dr. Fitzgerald, your advice to both David and Nic Sheff are very insightful and useful. I am currently in a Drug Education class at Portland State University and am required to read Beautiful Boy. From reading the book, I found it to be so interesting that I want to read about Nic’s side of the story. I think it’s awesome that you gave information for families to do if their loved one is dealing with a drug addiction problem. A lot of families don’t know what to do with dealing with their drug-addicted family members, and by reading what you said for David, it can definitely help those in that type of situation. I’m glad that Nic and David were able to share their stories of what they’ve been through, because it lets others know what goes on and what could be done to help the situation. Thank you for your point of view on Beautiful Boy and your post on your blog helped me understand the book more!
Tanya Ciara Dela Cruz says
Hey Dr. Fitzgerald, I just wanted to let you know that the support and advice you have given to David Sheff and his son Nic Sheff. Along with reading Beautiful Boy, you have helped me gain the knowledge and understanding for those who are going through and have gone through a situation like the Sheffs. I think it’s an incredible help to society that you have created this website, researching and figuring out ways to help find solutions focusing on addiction. Such information can go a long way! Also, thank you again for taking the time to talk to my Drug Education class at PSU with our instructor, Debbie. Best wishes to you!
Thanks Tanya for taking the time to comment and support the site, much appreciated!
Andrea Polley says
I really enjoyed reading your blog after finishing Beautiful Boy. I first read Tweak and then read the fathers journey, both books are heart wrenching and paints a true picture of what it is like to be an addict and what it’s like to have a family member that is an addict. I am all to familiar with how addiction can destroy a family, a person. A close family friend died of an heroin overdose three years ago. He was living in California with family and was flying to Portland to seek treatment. Treatment that he had tried many times but heroin had won it’s battle. He had a lay over in San Francisco and decided to get high one more time, one more time because it caused him to have an overdose, it was to potent and he had done the same amount he had done in the past. So reading these books, allowed me to gain a new perspective on truly understanding how powerful addiction is. Treatment needs to be an ongoing process.
John Fitzgerald says
Andrea, thanks for the comment. Overdose after some time away from using is all too common. Sorry for your loss and agree we need to do more for those who suffer.
Jackie Jones says
I am currently taking a Drug Education Class at PSU. I also recently saw you in my class that I am taking there and really appreciated your insight. I just got done reading Beautiful Boy and found it a difficult read. This story was so eerily similar to my own story the difference being my son died from his addiction right after his 18th birthday from prescription drugs. The fathers journey was so painful to read. I remember my own journey and when I look back I see so much denial and how I wish I had more information as a parent. Having a son in rehab and therapy and have them still die is very frustrating and full of guilt. I do agree that we need to involve the family in the treatment so we have an idea of the best way to support them and how to help ourselves as well.
John Fitzgerald says
Jackie, very sorry to hear about your son, I can imagine reading the book would be very hard. Check out my last photo. While painful, one lesson of life is that we cannot control the fate of another’s no matter how much we love and care about them.
Alexis Applebee says
I read this book and LOVED it! I totally agree with the fact that David needs to try something else other then trauma therapy. Like you stated, it is very difficult to find and CRAFT would be a good alternative. CRAFT also has a good success rate and it is at least worth a try and very good to have options. As far as Nic, he does need to stay in treatment for much longer then he usually does. Going in and out of treatment is going to help him but actually make it worse. The second he leaves treatment he goes out and does drugs again and thinks that if he does it one more time he can stop completely when in fact that isn’t the case. I think his brain is so fried he feels that he can’t step out of it and that he is just too far gone. When he can step out of it and can get better, he just is choosing not too. I think in the back of his head he wants to change for his family and especially his father, but the drug has overcome him and now controls him, and that is the sad part about it. Do you think drug treatment centers need to have individual styles of treating drug addicts? Would it be better if drug treatment centers made a consent form so drug addicts had to stay in that treatment for at least a year?
Babetta Bogia says
After reading this book I really appreciate your thoughts and feedback, I value your advice and breaking down the steps for those going through David’s and Nic’s situation. I really like how you kept things real and raw throughout the blog. I like how you show support and compassion for them and others going through a similar situation. I think that treatment centers work to a certain extent, I think that the person walking in to the facility needs to accept the help that they are going to be given and walk through the steps themselves and not feeling forced. I like how you mention they may go a couple of times before getting the assistance they need but it is mainly up to the person in the rehab facility to come out of the addiction.