Beautiful Boy Summary

Beautiful Boy, published in 2008, is a memoir by David Sheff that details his son's battle against drug addiction.

  • Nic Sheff is born to David and Vicki Sheff in 1982. Though his parents eventually divorce, Nic has a happy and normal childhood.
  • Nic begins casually using drugs at a young age. By the time he graduates high school, he is experimenting with increasingly dangerous substances—including methamphetamine, which he eventually becomes addicted to.
  • Nic's addiction slowly changes his personality and damages his relationship with his family. After supporting Nic through years of treatment and multiple relapses, David is optimistic that Nic can maintain sobriety


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Last Updated on September 9, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 679


Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction is a 2008 memoir by journalist David Sheff that follows his experience trying to help his son, Nic, through drug addiction. The memoir was inspired by a 2005 article Sheff wrote for The New York Times titled "My Addicted Son," which outlined the struggles of watching his son's battle with addiction. In 2007, Nic Sheff published his own memoir, Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines, which tells the story of his addiction from his point of view. In Beautiful Boy, Sheff shares his and his family's deeply personal story in an effort to dispel the notion that addiction is simply a moral failure on the part of the addicted individual and to help people better understand drug addiction as a medical condition.

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Beautiful Boy comprehensively addresses many parts of Nic's life, from the destructive behaviors that foreshadowed his drug problems to his attempts to recover. The story unfolds chronologically, beginning with Nic's birth in 1982. David and Vicki, Nic's mother, divorce when Nic is only a few years old. David goes on to marry Karen, and they have two children together—Jasper and Daisy. Nic begins to dabble in drug use at an early age and is caught smoking weed when he is only twelve. His serious issues with drugs evolve later, however, when he begins using methamphetamine at age eighteen. Though Nic is enrolled in college, he is forced to drop out before completing his first year due to his worsening methamphetamine addiction. Over time, Nic's addiction strains his relationship with his family, and Nic takes money from his siblings and uses it to buy drugs. After Nic is arrested for drug possession right in front of his family, David installs a security device in their home to preempt any break-ins.

Though Nic initially denies his addiction, it soon becomes obvious that he is spiraling out of control. Desperate to help, David helps Nic enter treatment and recovery programs many times—only to see Nic relapse again. As his addiction persists, Nic becomes increasingly estranged from his family, and David is stunned and heartbroken to see the son he loves dearly transform into someone almost unrecognizable. Throughout the memoir, Nic's struggle is colored by his father's grief and anxiety as David wonders how much his actions as a parent may have contributed to his son's addiction. In seeking to help his son, David...

(The entire section contains 679 words.)

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