Books of Interest
Book Reviews

Oct 14, 2008, 19:14

A Father's Journey through his Son's Addiction
by David Sheff
Houghton Mifflin Co.
ISBN-10: 0618683356

Growing Up on Methamphetamines
by Nic Sheff
Ginee Seo Books, February 19, 1008
ISBN-10: 1416913627

Reviewed by Judith E. Bessette, EdD

The Partnership for a Drug-Free America defines methamphetamine - also known as meth, crystal meth, crank or speed - as an addictive central nervous system stimulant that can be smoked, snorted or injected. Its use is at epidemic levels in the US -- with the highest percentage of users falling between the ages of 16 and 25.

David Sheff, a brilliant writer best known for works that have appeared in various newspapers and magazines including the New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Fortune, has written a remarkable book, Beautiful Boy, that traces his journey through his son's addiction to crystal meth.

A companion book, Tweak, was written by Sheff's son, Nic. It is a memoir that reflects the young author's recollections of growing up on methamphetamines which is the subtitle of the book. A twenty-something who battles daily to stay clean and sober, Nic is also a writer with articles published in Newsweek, The San Francisco Chronicle and Nerve, an on-line publication.

These two books paint a powerful, albeit painful, picture of addiction -- its effects on the user and on the entire family. Reviewers have described the books as honest, harrowing and heartbreaking...but not without hope.

David Sheff decided to write his book after the enormous success and public acclaim he received for an article he wrote in 2005 for the Sunday New York Times Magazine entitled My Addicted Son. The article won an award from The American Psychological Association for Outstanding Contribution to Advancing the Understanding of Addiction.

Beautiful Boy tells the story of the charming, funny young man -- a varsity athlete and an honor student -- who becomes addicted to meth. It chronicles how a father attempts to intervene, time and time again, and help his son get clean and sober.

Much of the book is focused on David's obsession with Nic's addiction -- almost an addiction in itself. At the end of the book, as David is learning to let go, he shares some of the wisdom he gained on his journey.

The book is beautifully written and offers both truth and healing. At the very least, the book lets other parents in similar situations know they are not alone. Hopefully, it will also save lives.

Nic's book is raw and often disturbing. He describes the first time he got drunk (at age eleven) and takes the reader through treatment, recovery and relapse. The book is peppered with gritty details about his day-to-day existence...dumpster-diving for food...stealing from his parents, their friends and even his eight-year old his eventual prostitution to support his out-of-control need for meth.

While often brutal, Nic's story ends on a hopeful note -- his understanding of the need for truth and authenticity in his life. The need for truth and authenticity in all of our lives is one of the great lessons from this book.

Asked for some words of advice in a recent interview that appeared in US News & World Report, David said, "There are many things I wish I could redo as a parent. Talk to your children about drugs. Have an open conversation with them. You need to prepare them for what will probably happen." (Read more at

Nic added, "If I could just tell young people, if you feel insecure and scared, that's ok. It's a burden, but nothing that you ever look for outside of yourself is ever, ever, ever going to fill that hole." (And...

For those of you who prefer to listen rather than read...two short podcasts featuring the authors are available at and a more in-depth interview is available from radio KQED's Forum (3/13/08) on

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