“This is the way that misery does love company: People are relieved to learn that they are not alone in their suffering, that they are part of something larger, in this case, a societal plague-an epidemic of children, an epidemic of families.”
I finished Beautiful Boy with a slow trickle of tears on my cheeks. Tears are closely associated with sorrow or elated joy. My tears, however, were a result of neither sensation. There is something about this story that touches emotions-ones that are so familiar, but rarely expressed, ones pressed and stuffed deep inside a person, hidden by layers of pretty wrapping paper, rarely seen by the naked eye. This story calls out to those emotions-giving them permission to step into the light. Whenever something is exposed, it is seen and known. While reading David Sheff’s memoir, these stuffed, stifled emotions within me were exposed and brought into the light. Within these pages, I felt known. Within these pages, I felt understood.
How strange it is that I’ve connected so deeply to a story about drug addiction, when I’ve never laid eyes on a joint or one about fatherhood, when I’m years away from being a parent. I can’t connect with wrestling an addiction to crystal meth, experiencing panic every time my phone rings wondering if it’s news of my beloved son overdosing or the betrayal of my son, whom I’ve given everything, robbing my home to pay for drugs that are slowly killing him. I can’t connect to those events, but I can connect to the emotions tied to them, woven within their complex fabric. I can connect to hope and the fear of hope being crushed, to the stifling of hope to protect oneself from pain, to the yearning children feel to make their parents proud and the shame when one fails to do so, to the confounding preciousness of a father’s relentless love for their child. To me, Beautiful Boy isn’t a story about drug addiction, but a story about humanity and the primary desires, fears and struggles of our kind. To me Beautiful Boy is a reminder that there is always the potential to connect with someone no matter how different they may seem, not because our life experiences are similar, but because we all grapple with the desire to be known, loved and significant. At the core of who we are, we want and feel the very same things even though our expressions have different outcomes. Read Beautiful Boy for the sake of sharing David and Nic’s grievances and feeling their emotions alongside of them so they may know they aren’t alone in their suffering and as we do that, may we find understanding, belonging and relief. May we find everything.