Join Together sits down with Nic Sheff, author of the new memoir We All Fall Down, to discuss his personal journey of recovery from substance abuse. Nic’s 2008 bestselling memoir, Tweak, chronicles his battle with crystal meth and heroin. In 2008, while on a highly publicized book tour with his journalist father, David Sheff, author of the bestselling Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction, Nic relapsed again. We All Fall Down explores Nic’s recent relapses and presents a young man struggling to find his own personal path to sobriety.
Join Together: “Treatment” means different things to different people. So does “recovery.” What do these words mean to you?
Nic: Well, I guess I’m not totally sure. When I say “treatment” I pretty much mean either inpatient or outpatient rehab. And in terms of “recovery,” well, being in recovery for me means the life long process of living completely free of drugs and alcohol—and, again, for me specifically, I’d say recovery means being in ongoing therapy and being on medication—and monitoring that medication with a doctor.
Join Together: What were your greatest challenges during early recovery? What advice would you give to individuals in early recovery?
Nic: I don’t know, early recovery is hell; really, I don’t think there’s any way around that. Basically I felt like I had totally ruined my life and I was never going to ever know even the tiniest bit of happiness again. I’m really not exaggerating either. I truly felt like my whole life was over—that the only happiness I had ever known was getting high and so I couldn’t possibly ever be happy again ever. So I guess the best advice I could give is that, well, it will get better. I mean, it will. Eventually your brain will heal itself. Your serotonin and dopamine levels will get back to normal. The world will start opening up to you. As long as you keep holding on and staying sober, anything is possible. And, from my experience, good things really will start to happen. You’ll get a job and then a better job. You’ll get a girlfriend or boyfriend. Your life will start to be truly beautiful—maybe for the first time ever. It’s true, when you stay sober—the longer you stay sober—the more the universe keeps opening up to you.
Join Together: You have had a tremendous impact on kids. What message or messages have you found they gravitate to the most? Why do you think that is? Do you feel like you’re speaking more to the students who are already experimenting or to those who haven’t yet tried drugs or alcohol?
Nic: Wow, that’s a really tough question. When I was in high school I always felt like everyone else seemed so confident and together—like they’d all been given some manual for how to live life that I’d just missed somewhere along the way. I always felt like such a total alien. And I was so insecure and full of self-hatred. But, what I didn’t know then, was that so many kids that age feel exactly the same way. It’s just that nobody talks about it. So I think it’s really cool to be able to get up in front of a bunch of high school kids and tell ‘em, “you know, I’m scared and, uh, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.” Because, at least for me, it feels like such a relief to be able to just admit it—and to know that I’m not the only one going through this. And I know there was always a part of me that felt like I could never admit to what I was afraid of, because to admit to my fears would be to make them real, or something. If I admitted I was afraid, I would have to face my fears—and that was my biggest fear of all. But, of course, the fear of the fear is always way worse than whatever it is I’m afraid of in the first place. And when I run away from my fears, everything just gets bigger and bigger and worse and worse. So admitting it and facing it really is hugely powerful. And I think that’s a message that transcends drug abuse. I think that’s a message that a lot of young people can relate to, whether they’re using drugs or not.
To find out what other insights Nic Sheff shared with Join Together, view Part 1 of his interview.
Visit Amazon.com to read an excerpt and purchase a copy of We All Fall Down: Living with Addiction.