If it were for real you’d probably have gotten instructions. You might have even had a chance to study. Sorry. Quiz time.
What would you do if you discovered that your child was a drug addict?
a) Never stop trying to fix the problem
b) Blame yourself for causing it
c) Grab the bait of hope again and again
d) Worry yourself into a brain aneurysm
If you’re David Sheff, author of Beautiful Boy – a father’s journey through his son’s addiction, you’d answer e) all of the above.
As Sheff meticulously chronicles his nightmare the truth is unavoidable – his son Nic’s addiction ravaged them both. While Nic uses – which he does with great regularity except for when in treatment – fear, worry, and guilt overwhelm Dad. He lives a shadow life. Unable to fully enjoy his relationship with his loving and supportive second wife and their cute little kids. Not for lack of trying. The problem: “A parent is only as happy as his unhappiest child.” Nic Sheff, is an addict. There are no happy addicts.
This is no easy read – which is why I’m blogging about it rather than reviewing it for my Parent Forum Bookshelf. Unlike those others, this book doesn’t have much in the way of parenting tips. Not that Sheff didn’t do his homework. My God did he ever! It’s just that when it comes to addiction science and treatment there’s so much that’s unknown. And the bits that are known often conflict with other bits. Anyone seeking help for a loved one is bound to be confused, overwhelmed, and wondering what the hell they’re supposed to do.
I didn’t enjoy this book, but I couldn’t stop reading it. Like, Dad, I was hanging in there for the happy ending. Spoiler ahead!
There isn’t one. Only Sheff’s epiphany: “My children will live with or without me. It is a staggering realization for a parent, but one that ultimately frees us to let our children grow up.”
It also allows us to create a life separate from theirs. Our love for them and yes, for ourselves, demands it.