Nic Sheff’s reflections on his recovery

imagesSome of you may remember my blog in which I recommended the books by Nic and David Sheff (father and son) which centered around Nic’s drug addiction and recovery.

Nic recently wrote a blog Michael Hastings, Addiction and Me which made reference to his recovery, including the relapses that occurred after his book was released. (Nic has been clean for five years now.) The blog contains some pretty powerful recovery writing, which I have included here:

‘And there certainly was a lot of pressure on me. Writing Tweak and traveling around the country, I opened myself up to a huge amount of criticism – and also a huge amount of praise. It was exactly what I didn’t need.

I vacillated between feeling like a total loser/failure to feeling like a total expert on all things recovery-related. Humility is a key component of sobriety, I believe, and being a national poster boy for recovery made me anything but humble.

The reason, for me, that humility is so important is that I don’t think it’s possible to truly recover – and truly change – unless I’m willing to ask for help and take some dramatic steps to break the cycle of destructive patterns that have been controlling me my whole life. Basically, I feel like I will keep repeating the same thing over and over until I make a conscious effort to stop – and then ask for help in stopping because I can’t do it on my own.

This means that I not only have to ask for help but also that I have to accept it when it’s offered to me – and then I have to take the directions given. For me, that meant committing to therapy and committing to finding a therapist I could trust and relate to and respect. It meant taking the medication I was prescribed and continuing to take it – even after I had started feeling better. It meant going through the slow, painstaking process of learning to love and care for myself.

Slow and painstaking are maybe the most important words. It all took time. It all was a very gradual process. Sometimes I took steps backwards. But sometimes I took several leaps forward, too. I had to be patient. And I had to keep trying – to never give up- to hold on.

Touring the country, promoting Tweak, everything was still so new and precarious. I wasn’t ready to impart my knowledge and wisdom, mostly because I didn’t have a whole lot of it. Imagine a kid who’s just learned to ride a bike trying to win the Tour de France. It’s never gonna happen. The surprising thing wasn’t that I relapsed. The surprising thing would’ve been if I hadn’t.

Hastings concluded his blog post, however, by stating that, “as a general rule, I think there are usually more positives than negatives in sharing your story. When it comes to addiction, we should talk it about more, we shouldn’t keep it in the closet.”

He went on to say that “perhaps Nic’s ongoing public struggles with addiction actually give a more realistic picture than the standard ‘I’ve overcome my problem and stayed clean for X years’ narrative. The reality is, addicts relapse all the time. It’s a day-to-day struggle. It’s what makes the disease so frustrating.”

Of course, in terms of both of these points, I completely agree. Before going into rehab myself, I always thought that all an addict had to do to get sober was go into treatment for 28 days, and then just stay clean forever.

But for many people, getting sober is a complicated process. There are ups and downs—backs and forths – and it is rarely as clear-cut as people would perhaps like it to be. Relapse is often a part of the equation.

Sharing and talking about the struggle is vitally important. I absolutely in no way regret having written my book, or taking those opportunities to speak with other people about my experiences with recovery.

Especially when it came to speaking to high schools about my addiction, I could see the very immediate positive effect it had on some of the kids. A few I’ve even stayed in touch with since my talks – and some have told me they’ve gotten sober based on my example. Actually, a lot of them have had a much straighter and narrower path to recovery than I did.

The truth is a powerful force. And, within my struggles, that is something I’ve always tried to achieve (though it wasn’t always possible- and I just plain sucked at it sometimes). Telling our truths can change the world.’

Nic’s blog is worth reading in its entirety.