March 17, 2009

Book Of Mine Beautiful Boy

Just finished Beautiful Boy by David Sheff. His son has battled addiction to meth for years and this is an account of the experience. His son Nic also wrote a book Tweak about his life on drugs. I read some reviews on Amazon and a few of the readers thought Beautiful Boy was slow or boring. I have to assume they don't live lives that have been closely touched by addiction. Anne Lamott found it "harrowing, heartbreaking, fascinating...full of beautiful moments and hard-won wisdom." I'll add 'helpful'.

I guess David Sheff took some guff over the fact that he wrote so honestly and exposed his son and family's problems - and that he made money doing it. I disagree on both points. I think there is a desperate need for sharing about the problems we humans face in a candid way and I continue to be fairly surprised when others don't share this opinion. I'm not saying we need to vomit it all over the place, but I think a trust that sharing important experiences with others can help self and others is valuable. Seth is very open about what he's been/going through, strangely more open about rehab (60 days clean and sober tomorrow) and all that than the depression, anxiety and ADD that he wrestled with initially. It's not, it seems, that he doesn't want to talk about it but rather that he might not have the words. How would he, he's right in the midst of it and these can be formidable foes at any age, let alone adolescence. But the addiction and rehab, the chaos perhaps wrought by the former conditions, can seem more like a crazy complication and maybe more external? I don't know, really, I'm speculating. One day I asked if he'd like to come along with Sean and me to get a haircut. The boys have had the same barber for years, she knows us all well in a customer sort of way. As she cut Sean's hair she talked about the restaurant next door where Seth used to work. And the conversation went like this, "You still washing dishes there Seth?" "Ahh, no, actually." "No?" she was surprised, "How come?" "I was in rehab." Luckily, she didn't amputate Sean's ear with the clippers. She was shocked and fell silent. Later she told Stan how sad she was and how she went home and prayed for him. Everyone loves him, many have a similar story or compassionate word to share waiting just below the surface, plus you don't get as many prayers if you stay too private.

I guess my point is it feels good to talk about it for him too. David Sheff keeps reminding the reader you're only as sick as your secrets. After the "harrowing" (good word) experiences of the last few years, the idea of people judging, rejecting, coming to their own conclusions, whatever, is infinitely less scary. In a phrase: Who cares? What difference could it possibly make? It's a dichotomy, in some ways you tend to separate yourself from the tangle of opinions that may come slinging your way and in other ways you are absolutely enamored by the love that comes slinging your way too. Tends to clear up what's important real quick, struggling does.

Nic had mental illnesses, depression, bipolar, etc. When he tried meth for the first time - a drug, by the way, I can only pray never to have any real life experience with because it is evidently horrendous - Nic said that it was what he had been waiting for his whole life. And then it turned him into another person and stomped out any sign of his old life and his father had to back away from him too, even though it nearly killed him to do so. David Sheff had a near fatal brain hemorrhage, couldn't remember his name, the president, the year, but he laid in his hospital bed thinking, Nic, Nic, Nic - I have to talk to Nic. Is Nic alright? Could you call Nic for me?

Eventually, Nic's parents pulled completely away from him except for one condition: if he wanted to go to rehab, which he did 4 times, they would help. Otherwise, they couldn't answer the phone, they couldn't see him, they wouldn't give him anything - and it absolute broke the father's heart, because naturally that's all we want to do is give to our children. Nic loved his father too, through it all, and he had sorrow for hurting him too.

The story is like a love story and I guess that is what life's problems melt down to. Through everything-- what do you love, who do you love, are you loving, what's stopping you from loving others or yourself? At least that's how I see it. Because sometimes that's all you have to stand on because life is hard, people fall, we pick them up because we love. It's weird, I have to say that even though we've been through some really tough times the last few years and often I feel sour and dried up on the outside, inside I feel like love just continually blooms and gets deeper and more real, somehow. Nic and his father are/were atheists and yet they prayed to something they weren't sure of. That Something is where I believe the love originates and grows and it begins to replace the worldly things, even the really bad worldly things.

Today I got a new pair of glasses. I am very nearsighted and my lenses have to be the real expensive kind if I don't want to look totally coke-bottle goofy. There is a real good lady there who knows her stuff and she always picks out the best frame for my face and lense requirement. As I was sitting there, pretty in my new stylish glasses, seeing details all around me once again, I was strangely overcome with appreciation for this office that charges me $500+ for my glasses each time, these people who do what they do so I can see clearer as my eyesight continues to worsen. I love how God has people in every realm of life who help us to see things a little clearer, who comfort us in our shortcomings. That's a little like how I felt about this book. David Sheff shared his horrible story so that others could benefit from it. No one shares the exact same story, but sincerely sharing in any way spreads the love and love heals. Maybe not in the exact manner we want, but deep down where it counts.


rosemary said...

I read an excerpt from David's book and a blip about Nic's. Sadly very real. I have never been secretive about my children's struggles with drugs/alcohol.....two alcoholic sons, a meth addicted step-daughter, my father was an alcoholic and husbands x 2. Sharing lightens the burden and I think prayer does too.....other folks praying for my family that is.

kristen said...

I remember listening to both David and Nic on NPR's Fresh Air (I love that show). I kept driving so I could listen to the whole thing. It was very much as you described it - a love story. I was very touched just by listening to them talking about what they'd both gone through.
How wonderful that Seth will be 60 days clean and sober tomorrow. Addiction is not an easy thing for any family (or friend) to go through. I will send light and strength to you all. I'm not expressing myself very well here. But you touched me deeply (as you often do).