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!


21 Responses

  1. Heavy book! Certainly not fantasy, more like a nightmare. Not something I would be reading…I get too much of it at work every day, but it sounds interesting nonetheless.

  2. Carl, It was quite a heavy book…really depressing at times and right when it would get uplifting it would crash again. But it ended with some hope! Definitely don’t think it’s something that you’d want to read…like you said…you get enough of it at work!

  3. Congratulations indeed! Sounds like a heartbreaking book that ends with hope. May he truly make it out from his living hell this time. What’s that saying, “There but for the grace of God go I.” I am so grateful that meth was not there for the taking twenty-five years ago.

    I might have to keep this in mind for the Non-Fiction challenge. Though it doesn’t sound like an “easy” read. Thanks for the review, Chris!

    Now go enjoy some fantasy!

  4. Like a real son… sometimes you are nice to me and read a book that will not go on my wish list!.. danke son!

  5. It sounds like a very powerful book. Drug addiction is such a complicated matter, and one that I imagine most people have no clue how to deal with. Which is why books like this are so important, really. There’s no one better to help others handle it than those who have been through it themselves.

  6. Wow! I don’t know when this meth thing became so powerful. It was as if I was looking at the world, then glanced away, then returned to looking at the world and this evil drug had just blossomed and taken over.

    I’m so glad he had the vision of becoming a writer. A vision strong enough can keep us from perishing. Also hope that kids will read his book and not even be tempted to even look at a drug. -C

  7. Deslily, Yeah, doesn’t sound like one for you, huh? lol…

    Nymeth, It was quite powerful. That’s the tricky thing with drug addiction. I imagine that there’s no one right way to deal with it…it really varies for everyone. I totally agree that books like this are very important because other people can relate so well to this experience and say “I’ve been there, don’t wnat to go back”

    Carole, Same here…meth sort of just took over the world it seems. It’s being used more and more these days as a recreational drug and I’m hoping that this book will show people what the results of it can be! I think that the vision of him being a writer definitely helped him out of it. He had written before and had published some reviews and had some reviews published in between relapses…but he always had that dream of writing a book…and it’s great that he finally did it!

  8. Wow, Chris – this sounds like an important book. I will make sure my library has a copy if we don’t already! it will be good to have something a bit more genuine than Go Ask Alice. Thanks for the review.

  9. I’ve never had to struggle with an addiction or been forced to watch someone I love struggle with one. But, I’ve often thought about what a devastating hold an addiction can have on someone’s life. I have a tremendous admiration for anyone who wins a battle like that! I agree that this could be useful reading for older teens. Nothing like a little reality check.

  10. You know I have Beautiful Boy on my Reading List for the Non-Fiction Challenge. I couldn’t decide which point of view I wanted. I opted for the Dad’s, but I think I may just go back and read this one too.

    Thanks for the review!!

  11. Darla, Same way I feel about it…it’s certainly more genuine than Go Ask Alice which is also a powerful book in itself. But this one really gets to the heart of the issues and presents a true to life account of addiction at its worst. It would be great to have it in the library.

    Lisa, Totally agree. I’ve seen friends struggle with addictions, but nothing like what Nic mentions in his book. It’s definitely a tough road to get clean, but when you see what he presents, it’s such a better life once one achieves that.

    Steph, I had to opt for both :p I’m too much of a spender when it comes to books and I’m really looking forward to the dad’s point of view now as well. I’m guessing that will be a pretty intense and emotional book as well. I’m also guessing that they’ll go together pretty well. Hope you read this one!

  12. Debi, I think this would be a great book to read during the non fiction challenge. It is a heartbreaking book at times and it’s a frustrating book at times…but in a very odd way, it’s uplifting. There’s still hope for this guy and I think he’ll be ok…I really do. I think his father’s book would be a great read too for the non-fic challenge.

  13. thanks for recommending this one. I took a class back in college about addictions, and boy did it open my eyes to how destructive the drugs are in people’s lives. Someone is always making a profit off of other people’s misery. It is a sad situation.

  14. I don’t know if I could read such a book. But I feel it would be important to do so.

  15. Kim, Same here…It’s not like I haven’t been around drugs before, but I’ve never been around them to this extent and it’s horrible how much of a control they can take on one’s life. And you’re right…it’s disgusting how people make a profit off of ruining other people’s lives. Very sad.

    Jeane, It was a tough read at part, but satisfying in a way. I think it’s important for some people to read…for others, it’s just an interesting read and a great recovery story. You’d probably enjoy it more than you think!

  16. This book was an incredible, eye opener. It made me realize what it’s like and why people go through things like this. Nic has a lot of passion towards this book and it really shows. It was a different style of writing and I really enjoyed it. Some parts were extremely detailed, but why hide it from reality? It’s the truth and some people need to realize that.

    I also couldn’t believe that, the world is actually like this, I mean, I grew up on drugs, but not the hard drugs like crystal meth and heroin.

    It just really opened up my eyes, and I thank Nic Sheff, for this wonderful book.

  17. Paige, I completely agree. I loved the style of Nic’s writing too. Very realistic and honest and I love the way that he told his story for what it truly was. I think it will be a saving grace for many out there.

  18. good book… heavy but at some poins i felt as though it was a little over exagerated. i mean im not dissing the book at all it was well written but i have been where he has and some of it was blown out of porportion

  19. another great book about addiction is Leaving Dirty Jersey you should all read it!

  20. This book was quite interesting, it caught my attention right away. Nic sure has overcome quite alot to be the upstanding person he is today. I read this book for an 11th grade English book report I had to stand up and tell everyone my thoughts and feelings on this novel, and sure enough, then next semester, two people in my class began reading the book. His words are compelling, and touching. In the good and bad ways. I found myself not wanting to stop reading about people who need help, and are or once were addicted to drugs.
    Crank, and Glass are two very good books if your looking for more!

  21. hello,
    this is all so random but i need a way to get ahold of nic some how..
    how is that possibel?

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