Long, painful, repetitive. Living with an addict is all those things and so much more. Watching Beautiful Boy, a two-hour movie about living with an addict, is all those things and not a whole lot more. To be fair, the two-hour movie is not bad; however, it felt more like a twelve-hour movie to me. If you’ve not spent considerable time with an addict perhaps you won’t feel that way if you watch it. I can’t say because I’ve spent entirely too much time being raised by an addict and raising an addict.
The talented Steve Carell portrays David Sheff, a successful journalist. He has a beautiful home and family including Nic, his oldest son who is a drug addict/alcoholic. When David begins to understand the extent of Nic’s addiction, he says, “This is not who we are.”
THIS IS NOT WHO WE ARE. THIS IS NOT WHO WE ARE. THIS IS NOT WHO WE ARE. THIS IS NOT WHO WE ARE. THIS IS NOT WHO WE ARE. THIS IS NOT WHO WE ARE. THIS IS NOT WHO WE ARE. THIS IS NOT WHO WE ARE. THIS IS NOT WHO WE ARE. THIS IS NOT WHO WE ARE. THIS IS NOT WHO WE ARE.
Those words made me spill my popcorn because I said the exact same thing many times while raising my own Beautiful Boy in a family who attended church weekly. A family with a refrigerator full of fruit and vegetables. A family who participated in scouting and Little League and science fairs and spelling bees. A family who went to the library twice a week. A family with a swing set in the back yard and a basketball goal in the front yard. A family who vacationed every summer, building sand castles on the beach; riding roller coasters at Six Flags; exploring the Alamo; discovering New York City.
Whoa! Sorry, I got a little sidetracked reminiscing about the good ol’ days when I was a young, naive mother who truly thought I could keep harm from my family. David Sheff thought that too. We were both wrong.
David Sheff is a real person. In 2008, he wrote a New York Times Magazine article about his addicted son. The article became an award-winning memoir and that became the movie I just saw. I liked the book much better than the movie, but that’s not unusual. The book is much more comprehensive; however, if you are looking for concrete answers about why addicts become addicts, or how you can prevent a loved one from becoming an addict, or what you can do to help the addict you love, you are going to be disappointed.
Sure, go see the movie and/or read the book just don’t expect concrete answers because there are none. It’s just not that simple. It’s not black or white; it’s many shades of gray. It’s many tears. It’s many sleepless nights. It’s many dollars. It’s many promises. It’s many broken hearts. It’s many broken dreams.
The one thing it’s not is hopeless. You’ll learn that by the end of the long, painful, repetitive movie.
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