In the springtime, we wrote about a book-to-film adaptation many people in recovery and their family can relate to, being that addiction recovery is the focal point. The movie, which debuts one week from today is titled, “Beautiful Boy.” Some of our subscribers may be familiar with the story of journalist David Sheff’s arduous struggle to help his son Nic find recovery. David Sheff’s effort to get his boy help, and Nic’s resistance to receiving assistance (at first), is a story that millions of Americans are familiar with firsthand. The millions who’ve been witness to the power of a disease that does not go away without a fight, and certainly not quietly.
Nic Sheff’s use and abuse of a host of drugs during his teenage and young adult years brought him to his knees in despair. His addiction to heroin and methamphetamine showed a side of the Northern Californian that his family had never seen before; Nic’s loved ones watched powerlessly as substance use disorder transformed the young man into a stranger. They were witness to Nic’s lies, cheating, stealing, and worse to maintain his addiction; his multiple trips in and out of treatment; his relapses; and finally, his acceptance of his condition and dedication to living a life free from drugs and alcohol.
“Beautiful Boy,” the film, premieres around the country on October 12, 2018, and stars Oscar nominees Timothée Chalamet (Nic) and Steve Carrell (David). While the movie’s name comes from the title of David’s book, the screenplay is based on material from Nic Sheff’s memoir as well. Nic, like his father, is a successful writer with his focus being on addiction and recovery.
Two Memoirs On Addiction
The younger Sheff’s first book is titled Tweak. David’s memoir is essentially about where addiction took his son and the complicated nature of trying to help someone who isn’t ready to help themselves recover. Nic’s memoir covers his experience with addiction and subsequent mission(s) to embrace recovery. Like many young men, Nic’s recovery didn’t take root on his first attempts. Simply put, relapse is a part of the younger Sheff’s journey.
Nic Sheff’s Tweak: Growing Up On Meth was followed by another memoir We All Fall Down: Living With Addiction. Anyone who read Tweak may have sensed that its ending had a “to be continued feeling.” In Nic Sheff’s second read, he discusses treatment, relapse, and what it’s like to be a young man in recovery.
Hollywood doesn’t always get drug and alcohol use and addiction right. One could argue that it takes someone with a history of mental illness to portray such conditions accurately. That’s not to say that screenwriters and directors are never up to the task, just that a lot can go wrong when capturing the harrowing nature of addiction. In a recent interview with Sam Lansky for TIME Steve Carrell shares being reticent even to discuss the movie; he fears that the story is not his to relay. In the interview, both Chalamet and Carrell seem to grasp the importance to get right on screen something that is misunderstood by millions of Americans.
Talking about the movie is almost as daunting as doing the movie,” Carell says. “You don’t want to speak as if you’re an authority.”
Writers In Recovery
Beautiful Boy will likely be affecting for some people to watch, especially those in early recovery. From the reviews published already, one can expect some disturbing scenes. However, it is worth mentioning that while the subject matter in the film will be painful to watch at times, at this point, Nic is leading a life in recovery and has had success writing for and producing television—the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why.
The author of the interview discussed above, Sam Lansky, is in recovery. He understands that when it comes to talking about the disease in book, film, or otherwise it is hard to make sense of everything. Lansky could relate to what it must have been like for his father who, like David Sheff, had to get Sam into treatment on numerous occasions. Lanksy had to wrestle with the emotions that many in recovery who read David’s Beautiful Boy experience, a first-hand account of what one’s addiction does to the loved ones who are trying to help. Lansky says that when he finished the interview with Carrell and Chalamet, he called his father on the way home.
So of course it’s hard to talk about: because when you talk about addiction, there are, maddeningly, no satisfying answers. And even I, after many years clean and sober, never know exactly what to say about it. Which is both the challenge and the triumph of the film: it’s not a movie that claims, Hollywood ending and all, that the love of a parent is enough to save a sick kid. But it’s a powerful reminder that it’s worth trying.”
PACE Recovery Center is here to help men in the grips of addiction and co-occurring mental illness find recovery. Our gender-specific, extended care treatment center assists men in getting to the underlying issues that led to substance use and self-defeating behaviors, and learn tools and skills for leading a life in recovery. Please contact our team to learn more.