Beautiful People

I was parking at the grocery store when words came up on my phone. “Did you see that there’s going to be a movie of Beautiful Boy?”

Tears threatened, “Not sure I can see it,” I wrote back to my friend. Cindy’s text, “Even the trailer made me cry.”

Beautiful Boy was published just before Ted went to treatment and I well remember reading the raw, upsetting and hopeful story. Here is the Amazon description:

What had happened to my beautiful boy? To our family? What did I do wrong? Those are the wrenching questions that haunted every moment of David Sheff ’s journey through his son Nic’s addiction to drugs and tentative steps toward recovery. Before Nic Sheff became addicted to crystal meth, he was a charming boy, joyous and funny, a varsity athlete and honor student adored by his two younger siblings. After meth, he was a trembling wraith who lied, stole, and lived on the streets. David Sheff traces the first subtle warning signs: the denial, the 3 A.M. phone calls (is it Nic? the police? the hospital?), the rehabs. His preoccupation with Nic became an addiction in itself, and the obsessive worry and stress took a tremendous toll. But as a journalist, he instinctively researched every avenue of treatment that might save his son and refused to give up on Nic.
Beautiful Boy is a fiercely candid memoir that brings immediacy to the emotional rollercoaster of loving a child who seems beyond help.

I’m glad this movie was made and yes, I saw it. As it mimics the book and real life, we empathize with the dad; his heartache and his shortcomings. We attach to his son, and absorb the desperation of powerlessness that a child’s drug addiction wreaks on parents, reducing them to control and obsess, despair and control. Control is a soothing mechanism when we are afraid. We parents are so, so, so afraid.

Part of what the movie offers is a glimpse into the beauty of recovery — Nic’s and his parents’. 23 million beautiful Americans are in recovery.

As God tends to do, He prompts those who have suffered to stand in the gap and David Sheff has gone on to write and speak, often with his son, on addiction, and action points for prevention and recovery. His book, CLEAN: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy is also on my shelf and a worthy read.

His biggest crusade it seems, is that addiction cannot be ignored by the offhand notion that bad people take drugs. If so, we have an overwhelming and rapidly increasing population of people going bad.  Michael Phelps, Keith Urban, Buzz Aldrin, the late Betty Ford — bad people.  The little boy across the street with whom your child played — bad. The athlete who had a sports injury and got addicted to painkillers — bad. I cringe when I hear the punctuation a parent uses in describing their addicted child, “but he’s really a good kid.” We are not talking goodness or badness — we are talking addiction.

Last year five people died and 200 were sickened in e coli affected romaine lettuce. Romaine was removed by order of the CDC from grocery stores everywhere immediately as is appropriate of course. There are other analogies.

In the U.S. we have the equivalent of two jam-packed 747 airliners going down with overdosed bad people every week. That’s twenty-four 9/11 deaths every year. One 9/11 death toll every other week. That’s almost two filled Miller Park Brewer Stadiums dying a year. We all know a beautiful someone — or someone who knows a beautiful someone. And those are just the people who died — every dose is an overdose.

See Beautiful Boy the movie on Amazon.