Beautiful Boy: a Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction, by David Scheff

As I was browsing online looking for something different to read, this cover caught my eye. I couldn’t contain my excitement. As soon as I saw Timothée Chalamet on the cover of this book, I was sold. Chalamet starred in the movie adaptation of Call Me by Your Name and truly succeeded in capturing the essence of Elio in a moving performance. So… I bought the book. I did read the synopsis beforehand, and I must say I was intrigued. Beautiful Boy is a true story, written by the journalist David Scheff. It’s the story of his son, Nic, and of his addiction to crystal meth. Nic Scheff has also published his side of the story, but I thought reading the point of view of a father was a unique way of looking at this reality.

“A world of contradictions, wherein everything is gray and almost nothing is black and white.”

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With the recent fentanyl crisis, drug addiction is a current issue that doesn’t get enough attention in my opinion. I was both curious and apprehensive when I started reading this novel. But from the very first chapter, I was overwhelmed by the love and affection that radiated from the pages. The book is about addiction, of course. But, above all, it’s about fatherly love. Witnessing this unconditional love and knowing that this is a true story helped me get into the book and feel involved. As Nic goes to rehab and relapses, you feel so much for him, but also for his dad. You really do see how addiction affects so much more people than just the person using drugs.

“Fortunately I have a son, my beautiful boy.
Unfortunately he is a drug addict.
Fortunately he is in recovery.
Unfortunately he relapses.
Fortunately he is in recovery again.
Unfortunately he relapses.
Fortunately he is not dead.”

The first chapters do an amazing job of humanizing Nic and making him lovable, which makes the addiction even more heartbreaking. Nic is an active kid, with a good education. He is witty, outgoing and loved by his family and his friends. He sounds like the perfect little boy, so clever and destined for success. His addiction comes as a surprise to his father who is helpless in this situation. And, to be honest, I felt just as helpless as he did. I can’t imagine watching someone you love go through hell and having to let go of them in order to help them. Because even if David wants to help Nic, drugs turn him into a manipulative boy, who lies to people and disappoints his family in order to get his fix. His father can’t help him and that pill is hard to swallow.

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“We deny the severity of our loved one’s problem not because we are naive, but because we can’t know.”

I have seen a lot of people criticizing the fact that the story takes place in a white middle-class family and that it doesn’t show the real face of drug abuse. While I agree that minorities are not heard enough on matters like this one and that publishers, producers, etc. need to give them the space they deserve to express themselves, we, as an audience, also need to go and look for their stories. As for Beautiful Boy, I think it does an excellent job of showing that this is an issue that affects everyone. Addiction is a disease that does not care about your age, gender, or class. If you think your money or your background immunise you or your entourage from addiction, you’re fooling yourself. Even more interesting, I feel like someone who has read this book can only become more empathetic and understanding when meeting people who are going through this. It’ll make you less judgmental and more open minded.

Side note, I saw the movie yesterday and it’s a great companion to the books. If you’ve only read Beautiful Boy, the movie will show you Nic’s side. If you’ve only read Tweak, you’ll learn about David’s point of view. The scenario stays close to the initial story and Timothée Chalamet and Steve Carell are incredibly moving. Their performances are touching, they’re not doing too much, just enough to convey the pain and anxiety of their characters. I highly recommend it.


Pictures by L.


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