Tweak: Growing Up On Methamphetamines (Review)

April 4, 2011

Book cover for "Tweak" by Nic Sheff.Title: Tweak: Growing Up On Methamphetamines

Author: Nic Sheff

Narrator: Paul Michael Garcia

Publication Year: 2007

Pages: 352 (audio length: 12 hours 16 minutes)

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir

Source: Audiobook purchased from Audible.com

From the cover:

Nic Sheff was drunk for the first time at age 11. In the years that followed, he would regularly smoke pot, do cocaine and ecstasy, and develop addictions to crystal meth and heroin. Even so, he felt like he would always be able to quit and put his life together whenever he needed to. It took a violent relapse one summer in California to convince him otherwise. In writing that is raw and honest, Nic spares no detail in telling us the compelling, heartbreaking, and true story of his relapse and the road to recovery. As we watch Nic plunge the mental and physical depths of drug addiction, he paints a picture of a person at odds with his past, with his family, with his substances, and with himself.

Last year, I reviewed David Sheff’s memoir, Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s AddictionAt the time when I downloaded that audiobook, I didn’t realize that his son, Nic, had written his own memoir about the experience as well. So when I was finished reading Beautiful Boy, I told myself that one day, I would read Nic’s story. And now, finally, I have.

As intense as David Sheff’s story was, Nic’s blows that out of the water. He tells his drug use like it really is, not just glazing over the terrifying parts. The life story that he depicts in Tweak is not just scary – it’s often horrifying. I remember being completely squeamish a few times when Nic is describing his use early on in the book. While I knew, from reading Beautiful Boy, that Nic was addicted to meth, I had no idea previously that he had also extensively used heroin and cocaine. So when Sheff started talking about his drug binges that included a mix of these drugs, I was totally floored.

Nor had I known much about his other activities outside of the actual drug use. That includes all of the things that he did to procure money for drugs; in this book, Sheff really gets into that in places, describing not only the times that he stole money or objects from his family (including actual break-and-enters in certain situations), but also referencing the time that he spent as a sex worker to support his habit. It’s funny – well, not “funny”, but you know what I mean – we always talk about how women fall into prostitution to pay for drugs or alcohol or other things, but it’s very rare that we talk about men who fall into this lifetyle. Sheff definitely told his story in a way that made that part of his life a grim reality to the reader.

When the part of the book came where Nic finally realizes that his relapse has gone far enough, and that he needs to get sober … I could’ve honestly jumped for joy for him. Watching him get better was probably one of the best parts of Tweak, for me. What can I say – I have a soft spot for stories of redemption.

I’m not going to say much more about the actual content of the book, because I don’t want to give too much away. What I will say, though, is that Sheff’s memoir is incredibly intense, and definitely worth the read if you really want to understand what it’s like for a heavy drug user (and no, I’m not talking about the kind who can hold down a job and a family). Tweak is a no-holds-barred look at the life of someone in the throes of crisis and addiction, the kind of experiences that most of us can’t even imagine. I think that’s what made the story so poignant for me – it was a window into someone’s circumstances and struggles that I never want to have to experience myself.

Read this book. It will teach you so much about people who aren’t like you. And after all, isn’t that a lot of what reading is supposed to be about?

Rating:

5 Comments

  • Helen Murdoch April 4, 2011 at 9:59 am

    The four copies we have of this in my school library are never on the shelves and there is always a wait list for it. The students just can’t get enough of it

    • Carina May 24, 2011 at 10:39 am

      That’s great! I think the kids at my school would even read this, though we don’t have a library. 🙁

  • Meg April 4, 2011 at 11:47 am

    I read David Sheff’s book last year. I definitely want to read this memoir. I didn’t realize that Nic had written this memoir either!

    • Carina May 24, 2011 at 10:39 am

      I loved it – and the new one that he just came out with as well. They’re much different, but equally good.

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