I’m Cheering for You Nic Sheff.
I don’t even know you and you’re breaking my heart. I’m not your mother, or your friend, or your mother’s friend. I don’t live in the same town or the same state; I didn’t go to the same schools; I don’t have any experience with drug addiction. We’re not even close in age – you weren’t born until the year I started high school. There’s really no reason for me to feel connected to you, other than the fact that I have sons. But I do. I do feel connected. And my heart is breaking, all over again.
About a year ago, I read David Sheff’s book, beautiful boy. In it, he describes the joy he and his wife felt at having their son.
“We are among the first generation of self-conscious parents. Before us, people had kids. We parent. We seek out the best for our children – the best stroller and car seat recommended by Consumer Reports – and fret over every decision about their toys, diapers, clothes, meals, medicine, teething rings, inoculations, and just about everything else.”
He goes on to describe Nic as a toddler:
“Nic is a natural architect and builder, constructing sprawling block, Duplo, and Lego Lilliputs…He scoots around the house on a big-wheeled tricycle and, on the red-brick front patio, in a plastic sky-blue convertible, a gift from my parents, which he powers like a Flintstones car with high-top sneakered feet.”
David Sheff describes reading books to his son over and over again – so often that he memorizes them. He describes a trip to Yosemite and playing board games, and all of the other parent-child interactions we fit into our lives, all of those things, big and little, that we do to help our children grow up into strong and secure adults.
Except Nic didn’t.
David Sheff continues:
“I tried everything I could to prevent my son’s fall into meth addiction. It would have been no easier to have seen him strung out on heroin or cocaine, but as every parent of a meth addict comes to learn, this drug has a unique, horrific quality…Nic claimed that he was searching for meth his entire life. ‘When I tried it for the first time,’ he said, ‘that was that’.”
As you can imagine, I am sobbing before I get through Chapter 1. Sheff does a beautiful job of describing his beautiful boy, and in his description, I see not only Nic, but all boys. I break down in a river of tears, thinking of all of the life and energy and love I have poured into my own three boys. I am reading the now blurry words and wondering if this could happen to one of my sweet babies, too.
got clean, for awhile, and also wrote a book, in which he tells the story from his point of view. I read Tweak
shortly after I finished beautiful boy. In Tweak, Nic describes a childhood spent careening towards addiction, starting with this incident when he was a year younger than my oldest son.
“When I was eleven my family went snowboarding up in Tahoe, and a friend and I snuck into the liquor cabinet after dinner. We poured a little bit from each bottle into a glass, filling it almost three-quarters of the way with the different-colored, sweet-smelling liquid. I was curious to know what it felt like to get good and proper drunk. The taste was awful. My friend drank a little bit and stopped, unable to take anymore. The thing was, I couldn’t stop.
I drank some and then I just had to drink more until the whole glass was drained empty. I’m not sure why. Something was driving me that I couldn’t identify and still don’t comprehend.”
He goes on to vividly describe his fall into the dark underbelly of San Francisco, a city I love like no other
. Listening to him struggle, listening to him describe the pain, and ecstasy, of his experience—his life—with such raw emotion, made me weep all over again.
Long after I turned their final pages, these books have stayed with me, haunted me, almost. I have thought about David and Nic and their lives and their struggles; I’ve thought about the whys and the hows and the what ifs; I’ve thought about choices and genetics and fate; I’ve wondered if he’ll ever really be clean.
And today I read this
. Nic relapsed last May, and again in December. These are not, by far, his first two, or his worst two, relapses. But the news is discouraging and disheartening. Still. Still relapsing. The whys re-emerge, they grab me and force me to look at my boys with fresh eyes. I am vigilant, fighting for my boys, watching and praying and hoping that they remain unscathed by this horrific mess called meth.
And I’m still cheering for you Nic. Still cheering.