In the book, “Beautiful Boy” by David Sheff, he writes about his son’s drug problems and the desperate struggle to save his son’s life. It is a poignant story of a father’s love as he helplessly watches his beautiful son fall into the deathtrap of addiction. The story has many twists and turns and ups and downs, but the author has the advantage of writing the story in hindsight. As he writes, he can assess the significance of this episode or that moment in time and evaluate their importance to the overall story.
For example, at one point, Sheff writes about the first time he found pot in his son’s backpack. He is alarmed and shocked, but not sure how alarmed and shocked he should be. He worries that overreaction could be just as bad, or worse, than underreaction. In the end, he gives his son a stern talking to, takes him to a counselor, and takes away some privileges. But not wanting to believe that it could be anything more serious than a kid experimenting with a little pot, he basically dismisses it. Only later, when his son is deeply addicted to IV meth does he see the significance of that first little baggie of pot.
Addiction is insidious and extremely patient. The addict can be doing great one day only to crash and burn the next. This cycle can be extremely wearing on loved ones who just want the problem to go the hell away. Why can’t the addict just stop this nonsense and get on with life? Sadly, it doesn’t work this way. This is one reason that the disease concept of addiction can be helpful, especially for family members. Seeing that your loved one has a disease is more helpful to the addict than seeing that they are just a crappy person who isn’t trying hard enough. I know that the disease concept is not popular in Christian circles, but that doesn’t make it true or untrue. Unfortunately, what is true is that addicts, by their choice to use, have fundamentally altered their brain chemistry and brain function. They may have chosen to use in the first place, but at some point the issue of choice is not so cut and dried. It might be unpopular and unproven, but I do believe that addiction is a disease.
Sheff has several mountaintop experiences where he believes his son is cured, only to be dismayed later when his son steals from him and runs away to live on the streets of San Francisco. This is the nature of addiction and it takes Sheff several years, and I think 4 treatment centers, to realize that his son will not one day be magically cured and heading off to the Ivy League to live out his father’s fantasies. Sheff has to face the fact that the ride will never be over, and to save himself he has to learn how to love his son and yet not get caught up in his own addiction of his son’s addiction.