“I’ll be fine. I’ve stopped using.” That lie is told again and again in this memoir of a father’s heartbreaking struggle with his son’s addiction to methamphetamines.
The clearly charming and talented Nic first tried marijuana in high school and subsequently went through a decade of using, rehabilitation and relapse. Expanding on a 2005 article in the New York Times Magazine, journalist Sheff (China Dawn, 2002, etc.) takes readers along on the grim roller-coaster ride. While on drugs, Nic leads a life of self-destruction, deception and crime. He breaks into the family home to steal money; he lies about where he is and what he is doing; he asks for help but refuses the terms on which it is offered. The effect on Sheff’s family is devastating; trying to save his son and also protect his wife (not Nic’s mother) and their two young children, the author suffers a near-fatal brain hemorrhage. He applies his research skills to learn everything possible about methamphetamine, what it does to the brain and what treatments are available. The hard truth is that no one really knows what works best in dealing with meth addiction, or even what doesn’t work. He didn’t cause Nic’s addiction, Sheff comes to understand; he can’t control it and he can’t cure it. Eventually shifting his focus from Nic’s recovery to his own, the author goes into therapy to get past his obsession with his son’s problems. Whether Nic will recover remains an open question at the book’s end, which offers a glimmer of hope, but no promises and no easy answers.
A clear picture of what meth addiction does to a user and those who love him that may help other families better cope with this growing problem.