Excerpts from David Sheff’s book, “beautiful boy”, regarding parents of addicts

Posted on October 21, 2009. Filed under: AlAnon, Parent of an Addict, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

David Sheff is a writer whose books include Game Over, China Dawn, and All We Are Saying. His many articles and interviews have appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Playboy, Wired, Fortune and elsewhere.  His piece for the New York Times Magazine, “”My Addicted Son,” won many awards and led to the writing of this book.

View this brief video featuring David Sheff and his addict son, Nic.  Then, read excerpts below that I selected from Sheff’s book, beautiful boya father’s journey through his son’s addiction regarding the constant pain, anxiety, and vulnerability of  the addict’s family.


•Whatever the parental failings may be, it is almost inevitable that the addicts will recognize these vulnerable spots and take advantage of the parents.

“Addicts may have many complaints, including major and minor grievances from years past.  Some of their accusations may, in fact, have truth in them.  Families may well have caused pain for the addicts.  They may well have failed the addicts in some significant way.  (After all, what human relationship is perfect?)  But addicts bring up these problems not to clear the air or with the hope of healing old wounds.  They bring them up solely to induce guilt, a took with which they manipulate others in pursuit of their continued addiction.” p. 146  Beverly Conyers, Addict in the Family

•therapists say that parents of children on drugs often get a form of post-traumatic stress syndrome made worse by the recurring nature of addiction.  We pretend that everything is all right.  But we live with a time bomb.  It is debilitating to be dependent on another’s moods and decisions and actions – codependent on her well-being for ours.  p.228

•”Some of the times when Nic wasn’t all right it got so bad that I wanted to wipe out and delete and expunge every trace of him from my brain so that I would not have to worry about him anymore and I would not have to be disappointed by him and hurt by him and I would not have to blame myself and blame him and I would not longer have the relentless and haunting slide show of images of my lovely son, drugged, in the most sordid, horrible scenes imaginable.” p.241

•we are connected to our children, no matter what. . . the perpetual angst and humming anxiety and intermittent depression that comes with (Nic’s) addiction.  I don’t remember me before this.  I am accustomed to the way that joy can be fleeting and I can sometimes fall into a dark pit.  p.249

• . . . some of us come to a place where the good news is that our children are in jail. P.176

•Al-Anon’s 3 Cs:  “You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, you can’t cure it.”

•. . . it’s futile.  You cannot control an addict.  Family members’ moods become dependent on how the addict is doing.  People become obsessed.  There is no joy left in their life. p. 153

•(Nic) is absent, only his shell remains . . . I have lost him. . . I have been grieving for him since the drugs took over – grieving for the part of him that is missing. P.269

•” . . . people told me to give up on him, but I didn’t.  How does a mother give up on her son?  If I had, he wouldn’t be here now.  That’s a guarantee.  He would have died.  I called just to tell you this story.  Do not give up hope and do not give up on him.” P.276

• . . . it feels too risky to wait for him to “bottom out”. p.276

•”. . . I am not naïve enough to believe that any expert has the answer to our family’s problem.  Nor am I arrogant enough to think that I know the answer.  I will not blindly follow anyone’s advice, but I gather information and will weigh it and decide what, if anything, to do.  I know that no one know the answer to what is right for (Nic) or any other addict.  No one knows what will work.  No one know how many times. p.277

•Every call fed my growing obsession with the promise of reassurance that (Nic) was all aright or confirmation that her was not.  My addiction to his addiction has not served (Nic) or me or anyone around me.  (Nic’s) addiction became far more compelling than the rest of my life. p.305

•Parents of addicts learn to temper our hope even as we never completely lose hope.  However, we are terrified of optimism, fearful that it will be punished.  It is safer to shut down.  p. 305

•This realization impelled me to do whatever I could to get past my obsessive worry about (Nic).  I could not change (Nic), only me.  And so instead of focusing on (Nic’s) recovery, since then I have focused on mine.  (Al-Anon)  I learned that at some point, focusing on (Nic’s) perpetual crises became safer territory than focusing on myself.; p. 309

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One Response to “Excerpts from David Sheff’s book, “beautiful boy”, regarding parents of addicts”

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This book has been recommended to me but I just am not ready to delve back into all of that! Am I hiding again or am I just taking a healthy break. Perhaps we never really know… (p.s. I think my son is doing well, but coming to grips with the idea that I might not know until it’s too late?)


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