Beautiful Child

Posted on February 6, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Parent of an Addict, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

David Sheff and his son, Nic, will be speaking in Seattle on March 4th at Town Hall.  I’ve got a ticket to attend this talk – and am excited to see David and Nic in person.  I have been a fan of David Sheff and his book, beautiful boy, since reading it last summer.

beautiful boy: a father’s journey through his son’s addiction, by David Sheff

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.

This book is a fiercely candid memoir that brings immediacy to the emotional roller-coaster of loving a child who seems beyond help. It contains a lot of good information about meth addiction and brain chemistry, treatment programs, and the parent/addicted child relationship.  The personal story of David Sheff and his son, Nic, is touching and heartbreaking.  Nic has ultimately written a book of his own, Tweak.  I also heard that he has relapsed multiple times, even after the success of his book.  This, the sad reality of drug addiction’s powerful pull.  However,  Nic’s story is also one of hope, in that I’ve come to realize that relapse is actually a part of recovery, and does not have to be considered a failure in the addict’s journey towards long term sobriety.

Here are some excerpts from that book regarding addiction:

•”There’s evidence that people who become addicted, once they begin using, have a type of compulsion that cannot be easily stopped or controlled.  They cannot just stop on their own or they would.  No one wants to be an addict.  The drug takes a person over.  The drug, not a person’s rational mind, is in control”.  p. 150

•”with practice, addicts become flawlessly gifted liars, and this coincides with parents’ increasing susceptibility to their lies”.

•”A using addict cannot trust his own brain – it lies, it says, ‘You can have one drink, a joint, a single line, just one.’” p.261

•”Only Satan himself could have deigned a disease that has self-deception as a symptom, so that its victims deny they are afflicted, and will not seek treatment, and will vilify those on the outside who see what’s happening.” p.263

•” . . . thankful that of all the fatal disease my (son) might have gotten, he got one for which there is this little sliver of hope that if he surrenders, he’ll survive.”  Thomas Lynch  p.272

•” . . . in mortal combat with addiction, a parent wishes for a catastrophe to befall his (child).  I wish for a catastrophe, but one that is contained.  It must be harsh enough to bring him to his knees, to humble him, but mild enough so that he can, with heroic effort and the good that I know is inside him, recover, because anything short of that will not be enough for him to save himself.”  P.274

•(Nic):”I had to hit bottom when there was no one and nothing and I had lost everything and everyone.  That’s what it takes.  You have to be alone, broke, desolate, and desperate.” P.279

•” . . . recovery, like addiction itself, is a long and complex process. Families should never give up hope for recovery – for recovery can and does happen every day.  Nor should they stop living their own lives while they wait for that miracle of recovery to occur.”

Here are 8 pages of pearls from that book that spoke to me in some way.  They are categorized under:  Parents of Addicts, Addiction, Recovery, Treatment Programs/info.   There’s a good list of  addiction resources referenced in this book and detailed by David Sheff on his website.

In re-reading my notes from beautiful boy, I was inspired to try to call my daughter and “break the ice” of her shame/guilt-driven “ice-olation”.  I haven’t seen or spoken to her since last August.  We’ve texted just twice since then.  And, even though a professional drug counselor advised me to cut off all contact with Hayley, so she could feel the full consequences of her choices, I’ve reached my saturation point.  I need to hear my daughter’s voice.  My “ex-druggie” contact, Eric, advised that I call her from a phone # she won’t recognize, and maybe she would answer. She seems to just have access to a certain cell phone # once in a while. If I speak to her, I’m merely going to tell her I love her and  . . . and, what?  That’s the big question.  I need a script to keep my boundaries in tact. I know I can’t slip in any kind of directive or ultimatum in to the conversation.  Essentially, I want to connect with Hayley, in a non-judgmental way, to remind her of us – her family – and that we are missing her and waiting for her to once again be part of our lives.  She needs to have a reason to even want to try to re-enter society, our lives, the real world.

I’m internally hounded by the fact that shame is a huge barrier that can keep addicts using and isolated in their own world.  So, I want to try to diffuse that impediment, as best I can.  I know that by calling Hayley,  I’m opening the door for communication that I may not even want. I’m trying to sort out what I want to do vs what I feel I should do.  It’s not all that simple.  Yes, I want to hear from my daughter periodically, that she’s alive.  No, I don’t want her in my life until she takes some steps, on her own, towards help and recovery.  Is that conditional love, or just taking care of myself and protecting myself from Hayley’s manipulation and “I’m gonna” talk?  In the end, however, Hayley will  always be my beautiful child.  And so, I will never give up.


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6 Responses to “Beautiful Child”

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I’ve been thinking about posting this for awhile, Peggy. When I heard it again recently, I decided that I wanted to share it. I am a longtime fan of Emmylou Harris. This is a song she wrote and performed on her album “Red Dirt Girl”. I don’t know what she had in mind, but I think of my daughter every time I hear it. First, a quick disclaimer: I’m not suggesting that all of the lyrics apply to our situations or our daughters. In fact, I feel that some don’t apply at all, but they sure touch a nerve for me. Emmylou sings it beautifully and, if you haven’t heard it, you might want to listen on Pandora or Emmylou’s website. The song is rather long, but here are most of the lyrics to “My Baby Needs a Shepherd”.

My baby needs a shepherd
She’s lost out on the hill
Too late I tried to call her
When the night was cold and still
And I tell myself I’ll find her
But I know I never will
My baby needs a shepherd
She’s lost out on the hill

My baby needs an angel
She never learned to fly
She’ll not reach sanctuary
Just by looking to the sky
I guess I could have carried her
But I didn’t even try
My baby needs an angel
She never learned to fly

My baby needs a pilot
She has no magic wand
To help her part the troubled waters
Of the Rubicon
But in my soul I know she’ll
Have to go this one alone
After all that is the only way she’s ever known

But there is no lamp in all this dark
That could chase away her shadow
From the corners of my heart

I pray she rides a dolphin
But she’s swimming with the shark
Out where none can save her
Not even Noah and his ark

My baby needs a mother
To love her til the end
Up every rugged mountain
And down every road that bends
Sometimes I hear her crying
But I guess it’s just the wind
My baby needs a mother
To love her til the end

With thoughts of our babies.
Love, Donna

This is a very insightful post. I get way to emotional and obsessed when I look at the baby pictures of my daughter. I think we should stay away from those baby pictures!

It’s a myth that people have to “hit bottom” before they can achieve recovery.

Notice that Nic says that he hit bottom, yet he is still experiencing periods of use.

Keep in mind, that just because you experience addiction, doesn’t mean you understand it.

Also, many people are struggling to make some sense of their addiction and the bad things that have happened to them by fitting it into a narrative.

The truth is, “hitting bottom” is not enough to “make” somebody stop using.

And “hitting bottom” is not necessary to achieve recovery.

I think the hitting bottom concept is destructive, for reasons I explained in a recent post at my blog.

The concept is very much a part of recovery mythology at this point. But I think it is worth questioning.

P.S. What an ADORABLE little girl!!!!

I read “Beautiful Boy” when it first came out, before my son was using. It seemed like a world I would never be able to relate to 😦

I’ve seen Nic on several talk shows and it seems that he relapses off and on, I will be very interested to see if he talks about that when you get to hear him, I hope he’s able to say he’s not relapsed in a long, long time.

I understand you wanting to talk to your daughter. I hope she answers the phone. I hope its a positive conversation and that it brings you some peace gives her what she needs (whatever that may be). Thinking about you!

Love it. It’s good to enter cautiously. We all love our kids so much. But, then there’s Nic’s comment above about hitting bottom. “•(Nic):”I had to hit bottom when there was no one and nothing and I had lost everything and everyone. That’s what it takes. You have to be alone, broke, desolate, and desperate.” P.279 The world of addiction is filled with conflicting information and feelings. My brother is no longer hopelessly addicted. He would agree with Nic. He said he could not stop until every single door was shut. But, shutting a door doesn’t make a parent feel nice. I hope you’ll write about what you learn from listening to David and Nic speak. In the end, you have to find your own life too. It’s easy to get sucked into the vortex of experts telling us what to do.

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