Tweak Characters
by Nic Sheff

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Tweak Characters

The main characters in Tweak include Nic Sheff, David Sheff, and Spencer.

  • Nic Sheff is the main figure in Tweak, as the memoir follows his personal journey through addiction. Unflinchingly honest in recounting his destructive and manipulative behavior while high on drugs, Nic paints a realistic and heartbreaking picture of the consequences of addiction.
  • David Sheff is Nic’s father. David struggles to navigate their once-close relationship as Nic’s personality becomes increasingly altered by drug use. 
  • Spencer is Nic’s sponsor in the 12-step program. A recovering addict himself, Spencer is very compassionate and supports Nic’s numerous attempts at sobriety without judgement.

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Nic Sheff

Nic is the key figure in Tweak, and he narrates the entire memoir in first-person present tense. Nic is a drug addict whose years spent battling addiction have left him with a raft of broken personal relationships. At the heart of Nic’s struggles with substance abuse are his underlying feeling of inadequacy. He cannot help but feel that his father, David, left him behind when he eventually remarried and had two children with Karen, making Nic feel like an outsider in his own family. Nic also struggles to fully process the impact of his mother’s departure for Los Angeles after she left his father. The emptiness and feelings of abandonment that Nic experienced after their divorce stayed with him as an adult, fueling his drug use and pushing him into toxic relationships with women who are distant, cold, and selfish.

Throughout the memoir, Nic’s honesty about his own shortcomings and personality flaws is absolute. He openly admits that he is sometimes jealous of his father’s new family and career, and he makes no secret of his tendency to be overly impressed by superficial things like money and fame. He even acknowledges his and negative and occasionally ungrateful feelings toward Spencer, his sponsor and general champion in becoming sober.  

David Sheff

David Sheff is Nic’s beloved father and a successful journalist, writing for The Washington Post and other prestigious publications. David gains custody of Nic after Nic’s mother relocates to Los Angeles, and the two develop a very close relationship. David is heartbroken by Nic’s downward spiral into addiction, and Nic’s repeated stealing and lying over the years take a toll on their relationship. Ultimately, David is forced to distance himself from Nic in order to preserve his own mental health and to protect his family: he cuts Nic off and insists that he will no longer give him money, but he will support his rehabilitation at Safe Passage Center. At the parents’ weekend at Safe Passage Center, David acknowledges that both he and his ex-wife had put Nic in the middle of their contentious divorce, an important step in helping Nic process and begin to heal from that trauma. David feels very contrite about his contributions to Nic’s emotional issues, but he also asks Nic to understand how his relapses hurt him, causing constant crises in his work and family life. David’s own memoir, Beautiful Boy, details his struggles as the parent of a child dealing with addiction.


Karen is Nic’s stepmother, and she and Nic’s father, David, go on to have two children after they married. Nic is in awe of his stepmother but also finds her intimidating on occasion. Karen is very kind to Nic when he is growing up, and as an adult, Nic appreciatively reflects on all the attention she paid to him as a child, teaching him about French and art. Despite his fondness for Karen, however, Nic can’t help but feel somewhat excluded from the new family she is building with his father. Their relationship becomes more distant and strained as Nic’s addiction worsens, and Karen is sometimes cold toward Nic in order to shield his half-siblings, Daisy and Jasper, from his drug use and its fallout.

Nic’s mother

Nic’s mother works at a magazine in Los Angeles. She and Nic aren’t as close as...

(The entire section is 1,233 words.)