Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff

Love, loss, despair, hope, and healing. These are the words that come to mind after reading this gorgeous memoir by journalist David Sheff. This book stands out as not only a great piece of writing, but also a realistic, comprehensive view of addiction in America today. 

Beautiful Boy is a deeply lyrical yet delightfully easy read, with an eclectic soundtrack: John Lennon, The Rolling Stones, Nirvana. There are also references readers might recognize from their own childhoods (or their children’s) from 1980s America: Nintendo games, Teddy Ruxpin, and milk cartons with missing children photos on them. 

David Sheff allows us to experience some of his most heart-wrenching moments of fear and doubt while raising his son, Nic. Alongside David, we relive Nic’s poignant childhood, when he was torn between an instinct to be close to his mother and the reality of spending most of his time far away from her, raised by the father he idolizes. With great skill, the author weaves ordinary moments between himself and Nic throughout the book. He also gives us glimpses of Nic’s loving relationship with his much younger half-siblings, David’s children from Nic’s step-mother, Karen. He shows us his son’s intelligence, curiosity, and quirky style. 

Little by little the behavioral aspects of Nic’s addiction to methamphetamine begin to surface. As a father, David fights relentlessly through sleepless nights, worry, and chaos in search of a cure for his son’s disease. As a writer, David Sheff moves us with his words of hope and love in a sea of despair.  

Belis Aladag, MD, MPH
Addiction Medicine
Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center
Southern California Permanente Medical Group

***If you or someone you love is struggling, please contact an Addiction Medicine Specialist, your local Physician Well-Being Committee, or the Physician and Employee Assistance Program.