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Tweak by Nic Sheff

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With the release of Beautiful Boy, starring Timothée Chalamet and Steve Carell, I had to read Tweak, the memoir written by Nic Sheff, a former methamphetamine addict. His father, David Sheff wrote his own memoir, Beautiful Boy, about dealing with Nic’s addiction.

While the movie focuses on the father-son relationship, using Nic’s cycle of rehab and relapse as a vehicle to show how far a father will go to help his son while setting boundaries to protect the rest of their family, Tweak recounts Nic’s addiction and how it has affected his relationships—familial, romantic, and platonic.

Nic started using in high school and has abused many different substances, mostly heroine and crystal meth. Tweak starts when Nic is 18 months sober but quickly follows Nic as he couch surfs between friends’ and girlfriends’ homes after leaving his own, where he is unable to use drugs. Very quickly, Nic gets caught up in using and selling drugs—rather, using the drugs more than selling them. He and a friend, Gack, work together in the business, learning the shady tactics used against them by other sellers in the area. This forces them to move to other territories, where they can be trusted suppliers, though this always seems to fall through, whether because they are so short on cash or because they use all of their supplies.

The boys are so hooked on crystal that they skip meals to afford their addiction. However, when Nic realizes he has run out of money and has no place to stay, he considers going back home, knowing he will have to go back into rehab. His girlfriend, Lauren, offers to go into rehab with him if he will only stay with her. Nic knows he will relapse with Lauren around, so he gives in and moves back to his dad’s place.

Rehab. Runs back to LA. Relapse. No, Nic doesn’t relapse this time. He connects with his sponsor, Spencer, who has a wife and kids. They take in Nic like a family member, making Nic feel a part of something so wonderful. He is set up with a job as a receptionist at a salon. Nic constantly reflects on how grateful he is for this life. And when Spencer experiences a medical emergency, Nic is struck by how fragile life is.

Over a year of sobriety. Relapse. Another girlfriend named Zelda. Uses. Sells. Uses. Disappointment. Dread.

Tweak is no sugarcoated memoir. Nic was a drug addict. His story is rough and raw and hits rock bottom multiple times. While the movie, Beautiful Boy, focuses on the father-son strain, Tweak is all about the inner workings of Nic’s thoughts, depression, love, lust, and addiction. The reader steps into the mind of an addict, where thoughts are scattered and cyclical and harnessed by the need to use. There is no beauty in addiction. But there is hope, grace, forgiveness, and love.

Find Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines here.