Tales of addiction
I have been under the weather the last two days. The flu shot didn’t do it for me this year. To keep myself entertained, I read two books back to back. One is Beautiful Boy by David Sheff and the other is Tweak: Growing up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff, his son. I read Tweak first.
Tweak is Nic’s account of his own personal addition. His transparent writing really takes you through his ups and downs. At heart, he is a good kid and I found my emotions tangled up in his sober moments and his relapses. All along, saying to myself why? Why can’t he beat it, why can’t he see how his life has gone down a deep dark hole, why can’t he find the strength in himself to stay clean? He has a family that cares about him and he is super smart but even at age 11 he realizes that drugs affect him differently. It isn’t recreational, it is all or nothing.
Beautiful Boy is Nic’s father’s journey through his son’s addiction. The pain, the agony, the helplessness and the whys. It is absolutely worth reading both books because each gave me different insight into the world of addiction, through the addicts eyes and through the eyes of the people who care about the addict. An addict destroys everyone around them. David Sheff, who happens to be a writer, writes not only about his journey but the research he has done on addition particularly crystal meth which is a drug unto itself. It is a really well written book. Nic’s book is obviously written by a young person. Ramblings of a time and what occurred. A 50 year old father who has has two other children vs. a young person of 21 going through the same journey in many ways is very eye opening.
Addiction, being addicted to a particular substance can be something that you inherit. We have a very good friend who is in the business of helping addicts in rehab. He says that the majority of people in rehab have someone in their family who is also an addict. In Nic’s case, his mother’s father died of alcohol poisoning, he was a drunk. It is a disease. When someone gets cancer, everyone wants to help in some way but the disease of being an addict is different. The thought is that you are making the choice to partake or not partake. It just isn’t that easy.
We know two people in our life who were heroin addicts. One hit serious rock bottom. The family cut him off. Lucky for him, he saw the light, got himself into rehab and returned to life and he has now been sober for over 40 years. Although still he will tell you that everyday he is sober is a good day. Another friend has also been clean but somehow is able to drink and partake in other activities which is not the norm. We had a really good friend from college, one of the smartest guys I have ever met, he was a drunk. He went to Japan when we all graduated to work in the financial markets. He grew up in Japan although he was Irish, his father worked for the US military over there. He was an interesting character. Before your eyes was a big burly Irishman but in many ways he was Japanese. When he got back to Japan and took a job in the financial markets, he figured out new money markets for them, the entire time he was either coked up or drunk. Quite incredible based on the money he made, his success in the markets and that his name had become known through out the world. One day when he really had a breakdown, the bank tossed him on a plane back to the states to clean out. They don’t take kindly to abuse in Japan, it is a punishable offense. He got to NYC and called us and said he’d be back in touch when rehab was over. He got out and called. The second he got to our place he drank a glass of whiskey the size of my fist. Why? He went back to Japan and a year later, he was dead. I still think about him. I still see that silly grin and frizzy hair at 29 which is the year his life ended. We have a relative who’s mother was an alcoholic that caused quite a strain on his childhood. To this day, and he is 45, he has never touched a glass of alcohol for fear that he has the disease in his DNA. Another good friend in college, one of our very best, finally figured out he was an alcoholic after running up huge debts at the bar and almost burning down his apartment building after passing out. That day, he never drank a drop of alcohol again.
There are other stories that I can recall and the question is always the same, why? All bright people, all with endless possibilities ahead of them, all well aware of their addictions and some have been able to get straight while others have relapsed and others have never been able to make the cut. Reading the two books was interesting. Really puts some perspective on an addicts thoughts and lies about the life they are leading and the families constant pain and struggle with what could I have done differently…and yet the answer is nothing.
Worth reading but mostly worth reading back to back.