Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines

Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines

by Nic Sheff

Hardcover(Signed Edition)

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The story that inspired the major motion picture Beautiful Boy featuring Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet.

This New York Times bestselling memoir of a young man’s addiction to methamphetamine tells a raw, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful tale of the road from relapse to recovery.

Nic Sheff was drunk for the first time at age eleven. In the years that followed, he would regularly smoke pot, do cocaine and Ecstasy, and develop addictions to crystal meth and heroin. Even so, he felt like he would always be able to quit and put his life together whenever he needed to. It took a violent relapse one summer in California to convince him otherwise. In a voice that is raw and honest, Nic spares no detail in telling us the compelling, heartbreaking, and true story of his relapse and the road to recovery. As we watch Nic plunge into the mental and physical depths of drug addiction, he paints a picture for us of a person at odds with his past, with his family, with his substances, and with himself. It's a harrowing portrait—but not one without hope.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781534440715
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date: 11/23/2018
Edition description: Signed Edition
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 76,073
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 15 - 17 Years

About the Author

Nic Sheff is the author of two memoirs about his struggles with addiction: the New York Times bestselling Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines and We All Fall Down: Living with Addiction. Nic lives in Los Angeles, California where he writes for film and television.

Read an Excerpt

Day 1

I'd heard rumors about what happened to Lauren. I mean, I never even knew her that well but we'd sort of hung out a few times in high school. Actually, I was sleeping with her for about two weeks. She had moved to San Francisco when I was a senior and we met somehow -- at a party or something. Back in high school it was just pot, maybe I'd do some acid and mushrooms on the weekend.

But I smoked pot every day. I was seventeen and had been accepted at prestigious universities across the country and Ifigured a little partying was due me. I'd worked hard those last three and a half years. Sure I'd had some problems smoking weed and drinking too much when I was younger, but that was all behind me. I was smart. I was on the swim team. My writing had been published in Newsweek. I was a great big brother. I got along with my dad and stepmom. I loved them. They were some of my best friends. So I just started smoking some pot and what harm could that do me anyway? Hell, my dad used to smoke pot. Most everyone in my family did. Our friends did -- it was totally accepted.

But with me things were different. In high school I was rolling blunts and smoking them in the car as I drove to school. Every break in classes had me driving off to get high. We'd go into the hills of Marin County, dropping acid or eating mushrooms -- walking through the dry grass and overgrown cypress trees,giggling and babbling incoherently. Plus I was drinking more and more, sometimes during the day. I almost always blacked out, so I could remember little to nothing of what'd happened. It just affected me in a way that didn't seem normal.

When I was eleven my family went snowboarding up in Tahoe, and a friend and I snuck into the liquor cabinet afterdinner. We poured a little bit from each bottle into a glass, filling it almost three- quarters of the way with the different-colored, sweet-smelling liquid. I was curious to know what it felt like to get good and proper drunk. The taste was awful. My friend drank a little bit and stopped, unable to take anymore. The thing was, I couldn't stop.

I drank some and then I just had to drink more until the whole glass was drained empty. I'm not sure why. Something was driving me that I couldn't identify and still don't comprehend. Some say it's in the genes. My grandfather drank himself to death before I was born. I'm told I resemble him more than anyone else -- a long face, with eyes like drops of water running down. Anyway, that night I threw up for probably an hour straight and then passed out on the bathroom floor.

I woke up with almost no memory of what I'd done. My excuse for the vomit everywhere was food poisoning. It scared me, honestly, and I didn't drink again like that for a long time.

Instead I started smoking pot. When I was twelve I was smoking pot every day -- sneaking off into the bushes during recess. And that pretty much continued through high school.

Lauren and I really never got very close back then. When I heard later that she'd been put in rehab for cocaine abuse and severe bulimia, I guess it wasn't that surprising. We'd both been really screwed up all the time and I had a history of dating, well, not the most balanced girls. I remember being ashamed to bring her to my house. I remember not wanting my parents to meet her. We'd come in late, late and leave early in the morning -- whispering so as not to wake up my little brother and sister. Maybe it was them I wanted to shield from Lauren the most. Or, not from Lauren so much as, well, the person I was becoming. I was ashamed of my behavior, but still I kept going forward. It was like being in a car with the gas pedal slammed down to the floor and nothing to do but hold on and pretend to have some semblance of control. But control was something I'd lost a long time ago.

Anyway, Lauren was not someone I thought about a whole lot. When she approaches me, I don't even recognize her at first. It's been five years. She yells my name:

"Nic Sheff."

I jump, turning around to look at her.

She is wearing big Jackie O sunglasses and her dyed black hair is pulled back tight. Her skin is pale, pale white and her features are petite and delicately carved. The San Francisco air is cold, even though the sun has broken through the fog, and she has a long black coat pulled around her.

So I think...think, think. Then I remember.

"L-Lauren, right?"

"Yeah, don't pretend like you don't remember me."

"No, I..."

"Whatever. What're you doing here?"

It's a good question.

I'd been sober exactly eighteen months on April 1st, just two days ago. I'd made so much progress. My life was suddenly working, you know? I had a steady job at a rehab in Malibu. I'd gotten back all these things I'd lost -- car, apartment, my relationship with my family. It'd seemed like, after countless rehabs and sober livings, I had finally beaten my drug problem And yet there I was, standing on Haight Street, drunk on Stoli and stoned out on Ambien, which I'd stolen from the med room at that rehab.

Honestly, I was as surprised by my own actions as anyone else. The morning of my relapse, I had no idea I was actually going to do it. Not that there weren't ominous signs. In the twelve-step program they tell you to get a sponsor. Mine was a man named Spencer. He was around forty, strong, with a square face and hair that stood on end. He had a wife and a three-year-old daughter. He spent hours talking with me about recovery. He helped me get into cycling and walked me through the twelve steps. We'd ride our bikes together along the Pacific Coast Highway, up Latigo Canyon, or wherever. He'd relate his own experience getting sober from chronic cocaine addiction. But I stopped calling him as often. Maybe I felt like I didn't need his help anymore. I seldom went to meetings, and when I did, my mind would talk to me the whole time about how much better I was than everyone else -- or how much worse I was, depending on the day. I'd stopped exercising as frequently. I'd stopped taking the psych meds they had me on -- a mixture of mood stabilizers and antidepressants. I'd started smoking again. Plus there was Zelda.

Zelda was a woman I thought I was madly in love with. She was fourteen years older than I was and, well, she was also engaged to marry another guy, a wealthy real-estate broker named Mike. When I started sleeping with her, I tried to justify it to myself. I figured it was her decision and I wasn't really doing anything wrong and it was just for fun and blah, blah, blah. Basically, I thought I could get away with it. I mean, I thought I could stay detached emotionally.

I couldn't.

She came to represent for me everything I thought would make my life perfect. After all, she'd been married to this famous actor and was an actress and grew up in Los Angeles, raised by her famous uncle who was also in the movie business. Everyone seems to know her in L.A. She's sort of a celebrity, you know? Being with her became my obsession.

Ultimately, however, she wouldn't leave her boyfriend for me and got pregnant with his child. I was crushed. I mean, I just couldn't handle it. So yesterday I relapsed, driving up the 5, drinking from a bottle of Jäger.

So now I'm standing on Haight Street and Lauren, this girl I haven't seen or thought about in five years, is here, in her long black coat, asking me what I'm doing.

I'd driven up from L.A. the night before and slept in my old, falling- apart Mazda, parked in a lot on the edge of the Presidio -- a great expanse of forest and abandoned army housing that stretches out to the cliffs overlooking the Pacific and the San Francisco Bay. A friend of mine, Akira, had once lived there. He occupied a basement apartment on the edge of the Presidio. I'd hoped to find him still living there, but after I wandered around the house some -- looking into the dust-smeared windows -- it was clear that the place was deserted. It was Akira who'd actually introduced me to crystal meth when I was eighteen. He was a friend of a friend. He did a lot of drugs and we immediately gravitated toward each other. Somehow that always seemed to happen -- we addicts can always find one another. There must be some strange addict radar or something.

Akira was like me, but more strung out at the time. He had dyed red, curling hair and dark, dark eyes. He was thin, emaciated, with hollowed- out features and narrow, dirty fingers. When he offered me that first line of meth, I didn't hesitate. Growing up I'd heard, you know, never to do heroin. Like, the warnings were everywhere and I was scared -- do heroin, get hooked. No one ever mentioned crystal to me. I'd done a little coke, Ecstasy, whatever -- I could take it or leave it. But early that morning, when I took those off-white crushed shards up that blue, cut plastic straw -- well, my whole world pretty much changed after that. There was a feeling like -- my God, this is what I've been missing my entire life. It completed me. I felt whole for the first time.

I guess I've pretty much spent the last four years chasing that first high. I wanted desperately to feel that wholeness again. It was like, I don't know, like everything else faded out. All my dreams, my hopes, ambitions, relationships -- they all fell away as I took more and more crystal up my nose. I dropped out of college twice, my parents kicked me out, and, basically, my life unraveled. I broke into their house -- I would steal checks from my father and write them out to myself to pay for my habit. When I had a job at a coffee shop, I stole hundreds of dollars from the register. Eventually I got arrested for a possession charge. My little brother and sister watched me get carted away in handcuffs. When my then seven-year-old brother tried to protect me, running to grab me from the armed policemen, they screamed for him to "get back." His small body crumpled on the asphalt and he burst into body-shaking tears, sobbing and gasping for breath.

Then there were the treatment centers, two in northernCalifornia, one in Manhattan, and one in Los Angeles. I've spent the last three years in and out of twelve-step programs. Throughout all of it, the underlying craving never really left me. And that was accompanied by the illusion that, the next time, things would be different -- I'd be able to handle it better. I didn't want to keep hurting people. I didn't want to keep hurting myself. A girlfriend of mine once said to me, "I don't understand, why don't you just stop?"

I couldn't think of an answer. The fact was, I couldn't just stop. That sounds like a cop-out, but it's the truth. It's like I'm being held captive by some insatiable monster that will not let me stop. All my values, all my beliefs, everything I care about, they all go away the moment I get high. There is a sort of insanity that takes over. I convince myself and believe very strongly that this time, this time, it will be different. I tell myself that, after such a long time clean, these last eighteen months, I can go back to casual use. So I walk down to the Haight and start talking to the first street kid who asks me for a cigarette.

This turns out to be Destiny. He is a boy around my age, twenty or twenty-one, with snarled dreads and striking blue eyes. He has the narrow face of a fox or coyote and he's hiding a can of beer indiscreetly in the sleeve of his oversize jacket. He is distracted and out of it as I'm talking to him. I keep trying to get him to focus on what I'm saying. Eventually, he agrees to introduce me to a friend of his who deals speed, so long as I buy him another beer.

"Dude," he says, his voice thick and strained, "I'm gonna tell you straight, man, I'm fo'realze. My boy's gonna hook you up fat, that's no joke. You ask anybody, homes, they'll tell you, Destiny is all right. Everyone's cool with me 'cause I be cool with everyone."

He rambles on like that, pausing only to high-five pretty girls as they pass. As for me, the vodka and sleeping pills have calmed me down enough to keep me breathing through all this -- though the blind hungering for the high that only meth can bring has me pretty anxious. There'd been times, in the past, where I got burned copping drugs on the street. On Mission Street I tried to buy some heroin once and came away with a balloon filled with a chunk of black soap.

I smoke cigarettes, one after the other, trying to keep Destiny on point -- getting the phone number of his connection. It was right before Lauren stopped me that Destiny told me to wait while he went and got his "boy's" number from a friend. He walked off down the street and then Lauren is standing there, asking me what I'm doing.

My first instinct, of course, is to lie. The wind is blowingthe street clear and Lauren takes off her sunglasses, revealing those transparent green eyes of hers. What I say is, "Actually, I just moved back here from L.A. where I'd been sober over a year, but now I'm doing the whole relapse thing and I'm just waiting to hook up some meth. I heard you had some trouble like that too. Is that true?"

If she's surprised, she doesn't show it.

"Yeah," she says, her voice light and soft. "How much are you getting?"

"A gram, I hope. What are you doing here?"

"I was going to get my tattoo filled in. But, well, now I guess I'm going with you, aren't I? You need any money?"

"Uh, no."

She puts her glasses back on. "What about a car?"

"Uh, yeah, we could use your car. Mine's over on Lake Street."

"All right, then."

What I said about the money is sort of true. I have three thousand dollars saved up and, for me, that is a lot of money. I'm sure that it'll be enough to get me started on a life working and using in San Francisco. The rehab I'd worked at in Malibu catered to wealthy, often celebrity, clients. They paid well and, sober, I had few expenses. I can afford a sixty-dollar gram. In the next couple days, I'll start looking for work. I mean, I've got it all figured out. Really.

We stand watching the people on the street, walking from shop to shop.

"What've you been doing?" I ask. "It's been a long time."

"Five years. But, like you said, I had some trouble. I'm working now, though -- for my mom. I have about four months clean."

"But you're over it."

"Hell, I've just been waiting for the right person to go out with."


"I don't know."

"You look good."

"Thank you. It's nice to see you, too."

"Yeah." I put a hand on her shoulder, feeling her body tense up. "Here he comes."

Destiny is sort of strutting or limping or something down the street. I introduce him to Lauren.

"Rockin'," he says. "We can go meet him in, like, half an hour. Here's his number." He hands me a crumpled piece of paper. "You gonna get me that beer, right?"

"Of course."

"I'll go get my car," says Lauren.

I walk into the liquor store on the corner and buy two 40s of Olde E and another pack of Export As. Lauren pulls her green Nissan around and we pile in -- me in front, Destiny in back. I pass him one of the 40s and drink a bunch of mine down. Lauren refuses to take it when I offer her some, but she pops a few Klonopins 'cause she says she's gonna freak out if she doesn't. She gives me one and I figure it won't do anything since I used to take so much of it, but I chew it up anyway, hoping it might take the edge off or something.

Destiny directs us out of the Haight, and lower Haight, down Market and up into the Tenderloin. The rows of Victorian houses give way to corporate high-rises and then the gritty, twisting streets of the San Francisco ghetto -- cheap monthly hotel rooms, panhandlers, small-time hustlers, dealers, and junkies. Neon signs, off during the day, advertise strip clubs and peep shows. The sky has blown completely blue, but the sun is blocked by the falling-down buildings, leaving everything cold and windswept and peeling.

We stop the car on the corner of Jones and Ellis, watching the scourge of walking dead as they drift down the street. One man -- a skinny white guy with no hair on his head, but a lot on his face -- stands in front of an ATM machine. He turns his head toward the sky every minute or so, screaming, "Please! Please!" Then he looks back at the ATM. Nothing comes out.

"Here they come," says Destiny, getting out of the car with the 40. "Thanks a lot, kids."

"Cool, man, thanks."

"Have fun," he says, nodding toward Lauren knowingly. She maybe blushes a little.

A young kid greets Destiny and then jumps into Lauren's backseat. He is accompanied by a tall, skinny white man with gray hair and a face that looks like a pile of pastry dough. The boy is thin, but strong, with a round nose and darting eyes. He wears a black bandanna tied around his head and ratty, baggy clothes.

"Yo, what's up? I'm Gack," he says.

The fat older man says nothing.

"Hey, I'm Nic. This is Lauren."

"Cool, cool. You wanna G, right?"

His voice comes out in quick, hoarse bursts. I just nod.

"Word," he says. "Yo, this is my dad, Mike."

Mike waves stupidly.

"Anyway," continues Gack, "you're gonna give me the money, and I'm gonna go get yo' shit. My dad'll wait here."

"Dude, there's no way. I'm not letting you walk outta here with my money."

"Come on, yo, there's no other way. My dad'll stay here and, look, here's my cell phone, and my wallet, and I'll leave my skateboard. Just wait two minutes, okay?"

I look at Lauren. She shakes her head, but I say, "Fuck, all right."

I hand him sixty bucks and he leaves. Part of me expects never to see him again, but he returns ten minutes later with our sack. He comes all out of breath.

"Yo, I'm hookin' you up so fat," he says, handing over a very not fat Baggie of white crystals.

"Dude," I say, "this is fucking pin as hell."

"No way, man."

I take out one of the pieces and put it in my mouth. The bitter, chemical sour makes me shudder, but it tastes familiar. "All right, fine," I say.


"You have any points?" asks Lauren.

I'm proud of her. I hadn't even thought about getting rigs and there she is, coming right out and saying it.

"Uh, yeah. You all don't mess around, huh?"

"No," we both say at the same time. Out of his pocket, Gack pulls a pack of maybe five syringes held together by a rubber band.

"Those are cleans?" I ask.


"All right," I say. "We'll take those and we're cool on the short sack."

"Dude, that sack is fat."


"All right, well, call if you need more."

"We will," I say.

And with that, Gack and his dad leave the car and Lauren and I drive off with fresh needles and about a gram of crystal methamphetamine.

• *
• *

I remember Lauren's dad's house from the time we'd beentogether back in high school -- but I also remembered it fromwhen I was much younger. The place is a European-style mansion in Sea Cliff. It is four or five stories high, sort of boxy, with giant bay windows bordered by faded green shutters. Vines climb the gray-washed walls and white roses grow along the sloping stairway. It looks out on the ocean -- rough and pounding, relentless. The top story, a bright, sun-drenched loft, used to be the playroom of my best friend and sort-of brother, Mischa.

See, the divorce went down like this: My dad had an affair with a woman, Flicka, then left my mom for her. Mischa was her son. We all moved in together when I was five. Mischa was my age, with long, white-blond hair, blue eyes, and a famous actor father. He threw tantrums and would bite me, but we were also very close. His father was the one who had lived where Lauren's father lives now. I would go over there and play video games with Mischa, or build Lego spaceships, or draw, or whatever.

Walking in the door with Lauren -- backpack full of drugs, drunk and stumbling -- I can't help but feel a tightness in mystomach, thinking back to the child that I had been. I remember going on walks with my dad out to Fort Point, a jetty that stretches out underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. I remember eating sushi and tempura in Japantown, playing on the ships docked off Hyde Street, riding my bike through Golden Gate Park, being taken to the old Castro movie theater, where a man played the organ before every show. I remember my championship Little League team in Sausalito, birthday parties at the San Francisco Zoo, going to art galleries and museums. I'd been so small that my dad would shelter me from the cold by hiding me in his sweater. Our heads would stick out of the stretched-out wool neckline together. I remember the smell of him -- that indescribable smell of dad. He was so there for me always -- especially when my mom moved down south. Sober and living in L.A., I'd talked on the phone with him almost every day. We talked about everything -- from movies, to art, to girls, to nothing at all. I wonder how long it will be before the calls start coming in -- how long before he knows I've gone out, relapsed, thrown it all away.

Lauren's room is in the basement -- basically just a large canopy bed and TV and not much else. There are books and clothes and things all over the place. The shades are drawn over the windows, and Lauren plugs in a string of Christmas lights above the built-in shelves along the wall. She puts a CD in the player, something I've never heard before.

"Come on, let's hurry up," she says. "My parents will be home soon and I wanna get out of here before they come."

"Cool. You know, my parents' weekend house in Point Reyes will be empty tonight. We can go stay out there."

"I gotta work tomorrow morning," says Lauren.

"That's fine. We'll get you back."

"My parents are gonna freak out if I don't come home tonight."

"Make something up."

"Yeah, fuck, all right."

"Can I use this?" I ask, holding up a blown-glass jar, maybe an inch high, swirled with streaks of white and green.

"Sure, whatever."

"You gotta Q-tip?"

"Fuck, yeah, but let's go."

"All right, chill."

She rummages around and gets me the Q-tip. I rip off the cotton from one end. I go to the sink in her bathroom and fill the jar with a thin layer of water. I pour in a bunch of the crystal and crush it up with the back of a Bic lighter I have in my pocket. I hold the flame to the base of the jar until the liquid starts to smoke and bubble. I drop in the cotton and then pull it all up into two of the syringes. I pass the one with less over to Lauren and set about making a fist with my right hand, watching the veins swell easily. My body is so clean, so powerful -- over a year needle-free and my veins reveal themselves instantly. I think back to how difficult it'd once been to hit -- when the veins all began collapsing, hiding under the skin. But now the veins jump up right away. I pull back the plunger, watch the blood rush up into the mixture, and then slam it all home.

I cough.

The chemical lets off this gas as it reaches your heart, or brain, or whatever and it rushes up your throat, choking you.

I cough, choking like that.

My eyes water -- my head pounding like maybe I'll pass out, my breathing going so fast.

"Goddamn, goddamn," I say, the lights dimming out and really, I mean, there's no feeling like it. The high is perfection.

I turn and see Lauren push off and as it hits her I kiss her without saying anything and she kisses back and it is all so effortless, not like being sober and consumed by worry and fear and inhibitions. I kiss her harder, but she pushes me back, saying, "Come on, let's go to the beach."

We get outta there fast and then we are walking in the sunlight, back toward Lauren's car. It is a different world, man, heightened, exciting. I light a cigarette and my fingers move spasmodically and I start talking, talking, talking. The waves of the drug keep sweeping through me and my palms turn sweaty and I grit my teeth. I tell Lauren about the book I've written and the job I want to get at this magazine in L.A. and suddenly it doesn't seem like these are impossible dreams anymore. I feel like it is all happening -- that my book is getting published and I can get any job I want and I'm gonna take Lauren along with me in my new life. Nothing, I mean nothing, can stop me.

"You know," says Lauren, "my parents are going out of town next week, so you should stay with me in my house, unless you have somewhere else to go."

"No, no," I say, everything fitting together perfectly in my world, in my mind, in destiny, and fate and blah, blah, blah. "That'll be great."

"They're gone for two weeks."

I laugh.

Baker Beach is mostly empty. We pull into the parking lot and look out at the pounding shore break, sucking up the brown, coarse sand and dashing it to pieces against the slick, jagged rocks. The Golden Gate Bridge looms up to the right, and across the channel are the Marin Headlands -- lush, green, rolling hills dotted with eucalyptus and oak, the red earth cliffs dropping down to the swirling water below. We get out of the car and I take Lauren's cold little soft hand in mine. We walk down along the dunes and the wind is blowing sand in my face, and suddenly I stop and strip off all my clothes down to my boxer briefs and run, headlong, into the surf. I hear Lauren giggling behind me, then nothing but the roar of the ocean and the cold, cold, cold.

The current is strong and I'm immediately struggling against it, ducking the swells and feeling the pull out the mouth of the bay. But I'm a good swimmer. I navigate past the rocks and begin paddling into the waves as they break along the beach. Growing up I'd surfed all along this coastline. My friends and I would stay out sometimes five or six hours. In the end I'd gotten very comfortable in the water, able to ride the big waves off Ocean Beach or down in Santa Cruz. I'd watch the pelicans riding the updrafts of the swells, or sea otters eating crabs, floating on their backs. I'd wake up early, heading out before the sun rose to get the morning glass. But as I got deeper and deeper into my using, my surfboards went untouched on their racks in the garage. I lost interest. There's something devastating about that, though I try not to think about it.

I mean, here I am, bodysurfing the breakers at Baker Beach, feeling my breath catch in my lungs from the frigid water. The muscle memory is all there, in my arms and chest. I look back at Lauren, stripped and lying in the warm sand. I take another wave in, then run up to her, kissing the white of her stomach and listening to her laugh and shiver. Then I run on, up and down the beach. Fast, freezing, but not feeling it, really. I look at everything, the trees, and shells, and tall sea grass. It all seems so new and exciting. My little sister, Daisy, never failed to point out the delicate flowers or intricately shaped stones as we went on walks together. She was so present and filled with wonder. Meth gives me that childlike exuberance. It allows me to see, to really see. The world appears miraculous and I laugh and run down the beach until I'm gasping for air -- then back to Lauren.

She smiles at me and I kiss her some more.

That night I drive her car through the winding back roads out to our house in Point Reyes. The drive is so familiar. I know every turn. It's the same route I'd used to get back from school every afternoon. We pass the little towns of San Anselmo and Fairfax, curving beneath the redwood forest of Samuel P. Taylor State Park. Then we come out on the green pastureland, obscured by the darkness and fog. We turn up our street, steep, steep,bordered by dense woods on either side. The car sputters some, but makes it -- taking me home.

My parents' house isn't huge or anything, but it is designed by some famous architect. It's sort of very Japanese and minimalist, with mirrors and windows all over the place. It looks out on maybe half an acre of garden -- wild, tangled vines, hedges, oaks, poplars. Gravel paths twist through the brush and in the spring and summer there are flowers everywhere.

Seeing that the driveway is empty and the lights are out, I creep along to the different doors and windows and things. It's all locked. I climb the faded wooden gate, wander over to the back doors until I find one that isn't dead-bolted solid. I yank it open, breaking the base of the door where it has been secured to the floor. Turning on as few lights as possible, I go through the house to the front and let Lauren in.

"Jesus," she says. "I remember these paintings."

My stepmother is an artist. The walls of our house are covered with giant, swirling canvases. The oil images are dark yet organic -- eyes, organs, branches, shapes repeated over and over.

"They're beautiful," I say. "So haunting, right?"


We go up to the living room and I put music on the stereo -- some electronic stuff I left the last time I'd been home. I open a bottle of sake I find in the closet and pour a glass. Lauren looks at all the art books and things on the shelves. I look at the photographs of my little brother and sister on the windowsill. There is one of Jasper in his lacrosse uniform, smiling. There is Daisy, who's just two years younger than Jasper, dressed as an elf, with a fake beard and her tangled hair pulled back. And there is the whole family together, my stepmom, her parents, brother, sister, my dad, my aunt and uncle, my brother, sister, cousins, and, on the far right, me. Walking through the house, I feel dirty -- like I'm this charcoal stain polluting everything I touch. I can't even look at the goddamn photographs -- it hurts too much. I drink the sake down.

"Let's go take a shower," I say.

"Yeah. You wanna fix some more first?"


We shoot up and take a shower. We have sex in my old bed until my knees are rubbed raw. After that, I smoke cigarettes and look for stuff to steal. I take a guitar and a couple jackets, but nothing bigger than that. Oh, and I need a notebook, so I grab this black thing with Powerpuff Girls stickers on the cover. It turns out to be my sister's diary. Copyright © 2007 by Nicholas Sheff

Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions
What are some of the reasons that Nic gives for turning to drugs? What are his insecurities? In what ways do the drugs help him to escape these?
Is Nic happy when he is on drugs? Does he enjoy his life at these times? What does he mean when he calls his addiction a "horrible vicious cycle"?
When Nic relapses in LA in the second part of the book, what is his reason for using again? Were the other people in his life surprised that he relapsed? Was he? Did you see the relapse coming? Why or why not?
What does Nic want from his father? Why does his father react to Nic the way he does? How much do you think Nic's childhood relationship with his father contributed to his addiction?
What does it mean for Nic to give himself over to a higher power? Why is it so difficult for him to do this?
A number of the people in the book come close to dying — Lauren ODs on heroin, Spencer gets meningitis, and Nic suffers through various overdoses and infections. How do these brushes with death affect Nic's outlook on life? Does he ever believe that any of these people are actually going to die? How does Nic react when Jordan really does die?
Discuss Nic's relationship with Zelda. Why is he so drawn to her? Why does everyone in Nic's life caution him against becoming involved with her? How does she contribute to his addiction? Is there anything healthy about their relationship?
What causes Nic to get help each time he relapsed? What does hitting bottom look like for him? Why is his stay at Safe Passage more effective than his other attempts at rehab? Do you think it's because of what they do there, or what led up to his going there...or both?
Nic's addiction — and attempts at rehab — make him part of a specific subculture, one with its own language, values, and network of people. Why does this aspect of the drug culture appeal to him? Would you consider the friends that he makes while using to be good friends?
Nic mentions many times that he feels worthless, and that his addiction has caused him to irreparably damage his relationships with others. Do the actions of his friends and family back this up? Do they treat him as though he has no worth? Does anyone give him unconditional love?
Nic finds strength to stay sober in his family, his writing and other aspects of his life. Identify the people, hobbies and beliefs in your own life that you rely on for strength when going through a tough time.
Tweak covers less than two years of Nic's life, yet offers a lot of insight into him as a person. Write your own memoir, choosing a period of your life that you feel represents who you truly are.
Learning CPR ends up being an important skill for Nic. Find a CPR or first aid class in your community and sign up to get certified.
Exercise is very helpful to Nic when he is sober — it burns excess energy and helps him feel focused. Dust off your bike, join a gym, go for a hike, or run around the block. Find a form of exercise that helps you to feel focused and strong.
Nic's body goes through a lot when he is in detox. Research what happens to the body when drugs are being used, and the physiology of detoxification.
Spencer believes very strongly that helping others is an important part of sobriety, as it distracts you from your own problems and desires. Look around your community and decide how you can lend a hand. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, raise money for a cause that you believe in, or even help your parents around the house.
Evaluate your beliefs about drug and alcohol use and reflect on your own experiences or those of friends. Visit to connect with other teens and share stories about the impact of drugs and alcohol.

Customer Reviews

Tweak 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 336 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed tweak. It was my first time reading a memoir based book and I thought it was very well written. Almost like you were right there by Nic sides experiencing everything he was experiencing. In was first was introduced to this in book in my Popular Literature class. I was drawn into, because it seemed like one of those books you had to read. One of those books that was juicy and just plain bad. I don¿t mean bad because of the way it was written but bad because it was about drugs and the party lifestyle. Come on what high school kid doesn¿t want to know about drugs and there influences. But when I started reading the book I realized there was more to it then just meth. It was about Nic recovery and his constant battle with crystal meth. How hard it was for him to live his life like a normal twenty one year old and how his past reflected upon his future. I mean how he grew up so fast and instead of confronting his problems he turned to drug abuse. I mean putting anything into his body that he could. It made me realize how hard it is to just stop using drugs and moving on. Like they say once you have tried the drug and experience the high it offers you will be craving for it for the rest of your life. Personally I really enjoyed this book and it opened my eyes to how bad it could be, if you chose drugs instead of a normal life. It was interesting reading this book because it was written uniquely and shared every aspect of Nic life. I really could not put the book down till I finish. Defiantly, one of those tear jerking books without the sappy love story behind it. There is a little bit of something for every type of reader.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In the novel ¿Tweak: Growing up on methamphetamines¿ the author, Nic Sheff, takes the reader on a journey through an addiction to crystal meth, heroin, cocaine and a number of many other substances. Throughout Nic¿s whole childhood and years as a young adult, Nic always felt he could quit whenever he felt he wanted too. Though after a violent relapse in California, Nic shortly realized that it wasn¿t the case, and that help was most defiantly needed. The message the reader is supposed get from this book is that drugs are extremely scary and dangerous. Any substance can ruin the relationship between family and friends, and Nic does a good job showing the reader just what can happen to a relationship. Some of the pros on the novel are that it can give all non- drug users a reason not to use, and it can scare a drug user and convince a person not to smoke, drink, or shoot up. Throughout the whole novel the reader is watching Nic try and beat the physical and mental depths of an addiction; an extremely heartbreaking thing to watch, scaring the reader with a mental picture that is quite difficult to imagine. The cons about ¿Tweak¿, is that after awhile it is no surprise that Nic has relapsed, or that Nic has lost yet another job. It is simply just a life story about Nic¿s addiction, meaning, whenever a new conflict comes up, there is no surprise on how it is resolved. This novel is very informational, and shows the reader just what life is like as a homeless, drug addict, and a struggling young adult trying desperately to get back on track. Also, if the book ¿Tweak¿ was appealing, try the Novel ¿Beautiful Boy¿, a novel about addiction through a parent¿s eye. Overall, out of five, ¿Tweak¿ deserves four and a half ¿hits¿.
JoniF More than 1 year ago
An incredible story of addiction, healing and relapse. Tweak is painfully graphic, taking the reader through the darkest back alleys of drug addiction. This book should raise awareness that addiction is a powerful disease, and that addicts who fight it are brave, brave souls.
Guest More than 1 year ago
if you read his dad's book, then you have to read this!! i truly enjoyed this it just filled in the peices perfectly to 'a beautiful boy'
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book really did change my life. I read it when i was a sophomore in high school and was starting down this path. Reading what i could turn into and what was in store for me really made me turn my life around. I reccomend this book to ANYONE, even my grandparents. He paints such a vivid picture that everyone should experience.
hollymarie1 More than 1 year ago
This book focuses on the life of Nic Sheff who has experimented with many drugs throughout his life and his road to recovery. He started abusing alcohol and smoking weed when he was just eleven years old. His use soon moved on to drugs like cocaine and ecstasy. Later in his life he becomes a heavy user of heroin and crystal meth. He has this thought in his head that his life is better when using and he can get clean to get more money for drugs whenever he wants. One summer he has his worst relapse ever and almost ends up dead. He gets to the point where even very large doses of meth mixed with heroin won't get him high anymore. One morning he wakes up sick, sweaty, shaking, and puking on the floor of his girlfriends parent's house. He calls up and old friend and seeks help. This time things are different and he managed to stay clean and follow through with his twelve step program and keep a job. Drug abuse is obviously a major theme in this book and Nic talks about all the bad experiences he had while on meth and heroin. His message is to show the world the truth about the life of a tweaker and also that it is possible to recover and start a better life although it is extremely hard. I think this is a great book to read if you're interested in learning about the life of a heavy drug user. He doesn't hold back on anything and is very blunt an honest about the things that happened to him and the horrible things he would do just to get high. He talks about everything from selling drugs himself to prostituting himself to other men in exchange for drugs. I love his style of writing -- slightly like a diary, easy to read, and very in depth and honest. There is not one part of the book that I didn't like. If you like this book then I would recommend Crank or any other book by Ellen Hopkins. Although Her books are fiction and Nic's story is non-fiction, they both write about similar topics and similar styles.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am completely serious when I say that. This book is so real and powerful and heartwrenching. I started crying when I was reading it. This book is so moving and good. I recommend it to everyon. Guys and Girls.
People need to be aware of how bad drugs are and how they affect your life negatively and perminately in most cases.

Read this!
It is worth every bit of your time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is incredible. I am a twenty year old recovering addict who always sees failure of sobriety. Finally someone leys it all make sense and how you can fight the disease. I want every addict to read this and understand that there is more to life than getting high
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had no idea what to expect from this book, but I never was able to put it down. Following Nic in his struggles and journeys was utterly fascinating and strengthening. I found myself addicted to Nic Sheff and his words.
Anwar Kharral More than 1 year ago
this book is mostly told in a conversational tone, but it is very well written and he gets the point across. i loved it. he has another book coming out sometime in april '11, We All Fall Down. i am looking forward to reading that a lot!
AndreaRedling More than 1 year ago
The book 'Tweak' takes you on Nic Sheff's journey through addiction, recovery, and relapses. Nic started doing drugs at a pretty young age which led him to his crystal meth addiction later on. By the end of the book Nick came to the realization that no matter what, his addiction would always be a struggle. He finally understands who he is and feels like he is a new person once he became clean again, hopefully for the last time. This book was full of his personal stories and was a hard book to put down. It was very engaging. It painted a vivid picture of addiction through the eyes of the addict. One thing I didn't like about the book was how it jumped around. It seemed like he told the story as he remembered it but not always in the order it occurred. Also the ending of the book seemed to be abrupt. He had such an impactful story, and it seemed he could have given more time to his final conclusion. I would recommend this book to 'young adults' because it gives you the image of what an addiction really looks like.There are several people who said the book helped them get through their addiction. Nick Sheff's dad wrote a book called 'Beautiful Boy' which is the story of his dad's journey through his son's addiction. I haven't read it but it has great reviews and is said to be a good book to read before reading 'Tweak'. Overall, I think this book was great!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In this gut wrenching memoir Nick Sheff, a young confused boy tells with brutal honesty the very dark journey of his methamphetamine addiction. After drinking for the first time when he was a child, Nick knew there was something different about him. This story tells about the dramatic lengths Nick went to, to support this addiction and his almost impossible road to recovery. This is one of the better books I've read for many reasons one being the way Nick is a very relatable person. Nick grew up the way many of us do with divorced parents, but parents who really loved and cared for him. His constant need for approval from his family and friends show his lack of self esteem and how that was the main cause of his downfall. From prostitution, to stealing from his own younger siblings Nick tells about the harsh reality of being a drug addict. Nick gives a great insight to what it's like to be homeless and hopeless to the point where you have nowhere else to go but up. I believe this book could help anyone through a tough time drugs or no drugs.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book. I thought he did a good job of detailing his life as a meth junkie. I also his dad's book after this one and it was interesting to see the different perspectives of the same events. His dad's book contains not only his struggle, but a lot of information about meth. I learned a lot and also felt an array of emotion. It is a good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book and thought of other memoirs that exaggerated the facts completely If all that were true he would have been dead long ago unrealistic as the lifespan of heavy tweakers is very short Lot of self love behind all those tears he weeps
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very sad truth. But at the same time, it shows us that there is Hope.
LorrieThomson More than 1 year ago
In the companion memoir to beautiful boy, Nic Sheff brings us deep into the mind of an addict. Hard to read, but realistic, Nic is as helpless in the face of his addiction as those who love him. Which explains a lot about the hard-to-understand behavior of an addict.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I feel like I understand more now of what may be in my own child's head. I appreciate the insight.
bplteen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Review by: Otis F What Nic Sheff shows through this book are the horrors and hardships, and truths in the world of drugs through his own experience. He gets sober, then he relapses, then he goes through rehab, and relapses. Nic relapses a grand total of three times in the course of the book. Every time he relapses his whole life collapses. His parents stop helping him, his friends stop being friends with him, his car gets repossessed, he gets kicked out of his apartment, all for a syrupy solution in the bottom of a syringe. In Tweak, Sheff reveals himself to be a good cook, great surfer, excellent writer, and good with little children. Why would someone with so much going for them trash it all with drugs? Sheff doesn't answer that in this book. No one has ever really answered that. I believe no one ever will, but this book was a great effort to answer that question, and an even greater story.
DuncanMoron on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Having just finished ¿Beautiful Boy¿ recently I had to move on to ¿Tweak¿ and close the chapter of Nic and his father and their experiences with drug addiction. Tweak is written by Nic Sheff who is the son of David Sheff. David wrote ¿Beautiful Boy which I talked about a couple of weeks ago.Tweak takes a slice of the time period from ¿Beautiful Boy¿ and tells his perspective as the drug addict giving a depiction of his experiences firsthand. The two books together give you an interesting dual viewpoint of a time period as you understand the turmoil that the father encounters and now the conflicting feelings that Nic felt as he experienced life as a drug addict.Finding himself in a downward spiral with nothing to grab to stop his fall, Nic experiments at a young age quickly moving to hard drugs and at one point is willing to inject or ingest anything that is within reach. He loses ties with all his family members and friends as he steals and lies his way through several rehabs only to relapse back into the seedy world of addicts. Having no money and nowhere to live at points in his life he resorts to prostitution to pay for his habit doing whatever it takes to scrape together enough money for the next day¿s high.As in most cases (I am guessing) Nic has to find out that while addiction is a disease he must also deal with his personal feelings and reasons behind why he became addicted in the first place. His self image and lack of self worth play such a role in needing the drugs to keep him feeling like he is capable of dealing with normal life situations. His parents have to deal with the roles that they played in setting the foundation of Nic¿s psychological foundation and struggle with second guessing what they could have done differently to build a healthier environment.In the end it is Nic¿s life and no matter what happened in his childhood he is the one that has to deal with where he is and make the decision to like himself enough to pull out of the world he has become so accustom. The story is again a difficult one to read but it is such a must for anyone who has children nearing their teen years and beyond. Drugs are so prevalent in our society and I personally feel until we realize this and embrace dealing with the temptations head on we will continue to struggle with our children¿s temptations.I am making my fifteen year old daughter read this and would strongly encourage anyone with children who has not read these two books to do so. ¿Tweak¿ is a little choppy at times in the writing style but the emotion that the book is written with is so abundantly genuine that it reads adequately enough to bring the story across. You find yourself rooting for Nic while at the same time loathing who he is and what he has become. Like all parents I would find it difficult to let go and push my child out of my life but in the world of drug addiction there is only one person that can decide on changing and that is the addict themselves.Hopefully Nic finds his way and the family can heal. I would rate this book as a must read.
KrissZane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is about a guy named Nic Sheff; he has had drug problems ever since he was eleven years old. He has relapsed several times in the past few years. He ran away from his family and anybody who tried to help him. This is without a doubt one of the best books that I have ever read. I have read it several times. It's hard to explain, a lot of my friends had drug problems but after they read this book they stopped. This is a very powerful book. I think everyone should read this book. Everyone could learn something from it. It helped me with problems I had and it could help you.
GaylDasherSmith on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nic is brutally honest as he describes his roller coaster ride from drug highs to rehab lows and up and down again and again.
CarolynSchroeder on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a very horrific story about a Nic Sheff's journey with addiction. Although it's titled "growing up on methamphetamines," this kid uses every drug available to him. I am somewhat stunned this book was in the "young adult" section at the book store as it's very much NOT for younger teenagers. I would say 17 and up maybe. There is predetory gay prostitution, violence and one very horrid scene where Nic and his friend shoot up a young girl (who looks 12 and might even be) and she has to go to school the next day. She completely freaks out and I just shuddered at what they did to that child. That, along with some other terrible events, are very hard to shake from the head. It all seemed so pointless and cruel. In any event, the writing is truly mediocre, even bad in many places, but it reads like an addict's journal, so I suppose that is part of it. It's incredibly hard to sympathize with Nic, who has every opportunity available to him and has many people who truly love him and sacrifice for him. I also had the disquieting feeling that this was a "drunkalog" full of Hollywood name dropping (although the actual names are hidden, it's no great stretch to figure some of them out), so it was almost glorifying the drug use in some parts. This is a very interesting companion piece to David Sheff's book, but a very sad one. David rarely had one clue what Nic was up to and I cannot even fathom what he felt when he read this (although in Beautiful Boy he does comment on it). The only parts that had any real redeeming qualities were Nic's rare attempts at sobriety. It suddenly then becomes interesting. But since addiction and relapse are most of the book, the drug scenes actually got boring, repetitive and pathetic a quarter of the way in. Ultimately, it's VERY hard to like Nic, maybe because he never seems to like himself, but I sure tried. What a monster meth is, makes people truly unhuman. Tepidly recommended but for adult readers (or older teenagers) with an interest in addiction research and meth in particular.
shawnd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was radical. I wasn't expecting much, perhaps a copycat of A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. This was much better. It was much more authentic, both in the vignettes of hardcore drug use, life on the street, and in drug rehab. It's kind of like Jay McInerney's Less than Zero meets Trainspotting. I loved hearing the gory details about arm abcesses and psychotic breaks and washing in broken glass and all kinds of related items. The pace increases nicely as the book progresses. A bonfire of broken relationships, self-absorption, crime, sex--all driven by drug use where the progression is fast and obvious.
mandavid on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Author last name, first name. Title. Year. Publisher: City.Scheff, Nick. Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines. 2008. Simon and Schuster: New YorkGenre: Young Adult Non-FictionThemes: Popularity, Family Issues, Drug UseAge / Grade Appropriateness: 15 and older, 10th Grade and upAwards: ALA Outstanding Books for the College Bound 2009 (from Issues: language, sexual situations, excessive descriptions of drug usePlot Summary (Summarize the plot in 250 words or less): In this autobiographical memoir, Nic Scheff recounts his addiction to numerous drugs and alcohol. Nick¿s first taste of forbidden fruit came at the age of 11 when he snuck into the alcohol cabinet with a friend while his parents were on vacation. While he says he didn¿t like the taste of alcohol, he simply could not stop until he finished the glass. Perhaps this was the red flag of addiction waving its warning. While he is telling this story, his addiction takes various forms. First he smokes marijuana not only daily, but several times a day, then he moves to mushrooms, then to various forms of opiates and methamphetamines. Nick tells heartbreaking stories of actions he took while he was on drugs, even stealing money from his little brother. While stealing from one¿s family is extremely sad, perhaps the most troubling account is when Nick tells about the extreme hold drugs have on some people, even to the point that they are willing to sell items for much less than they are worth, simply to have the money to get high. The book, while extremely troubling, ends on a hopeful note. Nick admits that he has not completely kicked his addiction, but is taking ¿one day at a time¿ (yea¿pun intended).Critique (Consider if the book fits the bill of a YA book as we have discussed /read. Include your opinion of the book here as well): This book definitely ¿fits the bill of a YA book.¿ Nick takes responsibility for his own actions and does not rely on others to fix his problems. This is a brutally honest look at drug use, rather than a glorified view of it. This book is an excellent resource for adolescents, since they often hear that drug use is fun and ¿cool¿ as it is portrayed in Hollywood. While it is not optimistic in the entirety of the book, the end is hopeful and a little optimistic. The reader genuinely roots for Nick and hopes he is successful in kicking his addiction. While he is not the traditional ¿hero¿ of Young Adult literature, if one takes a different approach, the protagonist, Nick, could be seen as a hero for first admitting his problem, and second, having the guts to share it with the world.Curriculum Uses (Possible uses in the classroom / school library / public library): This book, while it has some pretty bad language and situations, could be used in the health and biology class to discuss the effects of specific drugs on the human body. The public library definitely should have this title and could create a public service campaign based on it. The back of the book gives ideas on how to use Nick¿s story in a positive way.
sbenne3 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An engaging read - I read this right after A Beautiful Boy because I wanted to hear more of the story. I am glad I read it, but the actual writing is not very good and you have to endure many paragraphs that explain a very similar situation. I understand the impact of knowing that this is a disease that is difficult to overcome, but it made for an exhausting read at times.