Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tweak by Nic Sheff

tweak1.jpgI know it's not fantasy, but I had to finish this one before I dove into the Once Upon a Time Challenge. Tweak by Nic Sheff is a memoir...but not your typical memoir. Sheff is a recovering addict, and Tweak looks back at two years in his life as he repeatedly used various drugs (mostly intravenously), lost everything, sought treatment and did it all over again. It's an extremely powerful book, highly disturbing at times...so much so that I found myself looking away at the book as if I was watching something gory on screen, and you sometimes forget that you're reading non fiction. But the truth is, this book is one example of something that thousands of struggling addicts are going through every day. Sheff is a great writer. He manages to portray his emotions clearly and precisely through his words. We feel his highs, we feel his devastations, we feel the loss, the cold sweats, the helplessness, the complete sadness, the euphoria, and the emptiness...and we feel the hope. Throughout all the loss that he describes, beyond all the needles, the heroin, meth, coke, crack, various pills, we see a guy who really wants to make it, and it brought tears to my eyes at times. He also teaches us empathy for addicts. It's not always just about having fun or getting high. It is at first, but it becomes a desperation. People become slaves to this stuff. We see this with Nick as he becomes homeless multiple times, sells everything that he owns, becomes estranged from his entire family and loses all of his friends, becomes a male prostitute, loses literally everything he has...and then after getting it all back, after getting a second chance, still goes back to it. I've worked with teens with substance abuse issues and I've seen some of the same issues that Sheff talked about and their stories were always so touching to me, but so frustrating at the same time. When someone relapses it just makes you so angry, but that's how powerful of a hold these drugs take and Sheff describes that so well. It's not always just the addiction, it's what's underneath the addiction. Nic's father also wrote a book called Beautiful Boy and I bought that one as well. I'm really looking forward to that one. It tells the same story from a father's point of view...what it's like to see your child go through a meth addiction. Tweak can be found in the Young Adult section, but let me remind you that it's recommended for ages 15 and up. It has (obviously) lots of drugs in it including graphic scenes of shooting up, lots of sex, and lots of cursing...but I think it's definitely something for teens to read. I can't imagine anyone wanting to start using drugs after reading this and if someone has just started using, this would be a good reason to get off. In the epilogue, he describes his reason for writing this book:
"For myself, I've come to discover that holding on to secrets about who I am and where I come from is toxic. My secrets will kill me. If I don't get honest about my life, I cannot have recovery. I've learned that from the twelve steps and I've learned that from my own experience. I need to admit to what I've done, who I've been. That is how I have been able to survive."
Throughout the book, he continues to describe that while he was using he kept saying that he was going to be a writer and he was going to write a book...that was one of his recover goals. He was going to get sober and write a book...congratulations Mr. Sheff!

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