Beautiful Boy by David Sheff Book Review

Nowadays, addiction becomes one of the main problems of young adults and their parents. The substance abuse causes dependence from drugs that force a person to do the same actions over and over. The outcome of such addiction is obvious, but drug addicts do not think about consequences. The addict very often becomes insane and starts to behave helplessly in search of new dose of the drug. Beautiful Boy by David Sheff is a representation of father’s struggle and attempt to understand and help his talented son who suffers from methamphetamine addiction. The emotional journey of the writer makes readers feel pain and despair of alarmed father who fights for his son. Therefore, Beautiful Boy is a nonfictional story about the most accurate additional insights that spoil not only addict’s health and life, but also the life of his or her family.

From the beginning of Beautiful Boy, David Sheff blames himself for son’s degradation and passion to the drug crystal meth. The writer in the book returns to Nic’s childhood and analyzes all things, events and actions, which have depended on his upbringing of the son. David Sheff is tortured by questions and missed opportunities to change something that could prevent son’s addiction. The writer wondered how he could protect his son from the road to methamphetamine addiction. The whole book is permeated by the father’s guilt and self-reproach that he has not saved his brilliant young boy from a deathful syringe. Beautiful Boy represents the struggle of both men who have similar emotional traumas, which have been caused by different reasons. Furthermore, the book is a great example the how a varsity athlete and intelligent student can turn into addict and alcoholic who exchanges his cozy home for stilling money and life on the streets. Despite total despair, Sheff also demonstrated care and support of the family to its addicted member.

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David Sheff, in his book, described all the advantages, values and skills of his brilliant and intelligent son Nic. The boy is represented as a very smart person with a great imagination. However, the ideal family atmosphere and careless life of Nic Sheff was interrupted by parents’ divorce. The fact that the boy has to choose between mother and father and also spend time with both of them undermines his psyche and perception of the outworld. Therefore, the mother’s removal to Los Angeles and distance made the situation more complicated. Thus, the first steps to future addiction were made in Nic’s childhood, and they gradually led him to a fatal mistake. Sheff  (2008) very often asks himself, “How can Nic, the loving and considerate and generous one, and the self-obsessed and self-destructive one, be the same person?” (62). The despair of Nic’s father and the feeling of guilt raises various thoughts about reasons of addiction. Very often addiction can be caused by traumas and harmful impact of various events that have happened in the childhood. Thus, Beautiful Boy proves that this statement is not baseless. The author analyzed his divorce proceedings from different points and concluded that the main victim of it was his son Nic. Therefore, the divorce of parents left the strong trace on Nic’s perception of the world and his infancy. The strain on Nic was obvious, but the father’s overdue reaction could not his son’s present problem.

Meth is one of the most dangerous drugs in the United States that damages the brain and spoils human health. Thus, David Sheff explored various types of drugs; especially crystal meth, and searched the different ways to help his son – from treatments to rehab centers. However, the writer should think and care more of his son while he was a child. An adult man had to know that visiting of Nirvana concert by a preteen boy could negatively affect the child. David Sheff as a father should have been more attentive condemning of the musician addicted to heroin. Sheff (2008) stated, “Here’s a note to the parents of addicted children: Choose your music carefully…There are millions of treacherous moments” (45). Furthermore, lately, Sheff shared with Nic his own stories about drug use in high school and college. It is ill-considered action, because children may imitate parent’s behavior and try harmful things that badly reflect on their lives. The author of Beautiful Boy, instead of preventing his son of terrible consequences of substance abuse, conversely provides the desire to feel of drug intoxication. Thus, Nic’s frequent flights from spoiled substances during studying in high school seem not strange.


In addition, the main part of the book occupies Sheff’s waiting at home for his son. Nic’s family waited for his phone call to know that he is alive and save. The overview of son’s entire dependence of drug forced father to plead Nic to go to rehab. The whole family supported Nic and his treatment; they never stopped to love him and dream about his recovery. However, the family’s support is not enough for the addict who usually returns for the drug’s using. Sheff stayed supportive to his son when he started to use again, and parental determination to help his son had not changed or became less. Beautiful Boy represents some sense of the agony that pursues father who sees his child’s degradation and destruction. Father’s fear to learn that his son is dead from an overdose forces readers to sympathize The despair and worry about such family situation.

Family’s attempts to maintain warm, loving and supportive relationship with an addict is one of the hardest aspects of addiction represented in the book. It is not easy to read about Nic’s self-destructive behavior and lie that seriously hurt all his family members, especially his father. David Sheff often states in the book that addiction is a disease, and that is why the addict cannot be responsible for his or her behavior. However, parents are always responsible for their children and consequences of their bringing up. Sheff’s patient and hope toward his son inspires readers to be strong even if there are no little reasons for it. According to Sheff (2008), “Anyone who has lived through it, or those who are now living through it, knows that caring about an addict is as complex and fraught and debilitating as addiction itself” (112). Indeed, anger or frustration is rarely showed in Beautiful Boy because the author wants to show his great endurance and strength in a difficult life situation. However, plenty of fear and worry are felt within the book that transfers the whole spectrum of the father’s feelings. It is hard to imagine how Sheff can tell his story without negative emotions and condemnations of son’s actions, but it deserves respect.

To sum up, Beautiful Boy is not only a book about father’s sufferings, despair, support and hope, but also about the horrible and dangerous world of addiction that spoils and hurts both addict’s and family’s lives. David Sheff is an example of a strong person who does not give up in difficult life trial. Many readers should notice that children and their childhood have to be the main occupation of the parents because childhood trauma can seriously affect a child’s future. The book causes the strong desire to support and help the father to protect his addict son from mortal danger of drugs. Therefore, the writer shows how love, patience, care and hope can make a miracle and save even an ardent addict.

References:

  1. Sheff, D. (2008). Beautiful boy: A father’s journey through his son’s addiction. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

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