David and Nic Sheff
Last week, I started reading David Sheff's book A Beautiful Boy, and his son Nic's book, We All Fall Down. I tried reading both of them at the same time, meaning, read a chapter of David's book, then a chapter of Nic's. But for some reason, I didn't want to read Nic's book. I told myself that the reason was that David's book was well researched and beautifully written. I come from the same generation, and I'm accustomed to reading the concise, descriptive style of writing the elder Sheff displays in his book. The more in-your-face, raw style of his son was jarring to me, or that's what I told myself. My first reactions to books and life situations aren't what they seem at the time. There's often something rumbling underneath the surface of my initial reaction. Usually, it's something I don't want to face.
On page 177, first paragraph, Nic writes, "As much as I try to just be like everyone else, I always end up leaving feeling hollowed out, fucking gutted--like I need a drink--like I must be some entirely different species from the rest of humanity. I swear, sometimes I really do wonder if I'd be better suited as a hermit living off in a cabin somewhere--away from all people and pressures and judgements and responsibilities."
Yeah. Of course, I would rather have a deep dish pizza with garlic breadsticks or some fried chicken with greens and super-buttery cornbread (even though this kind of food would make me do the "vomitus projectus" thing because of my gastric bypass surgery), but other than being addicted to a different substance, I relate to Nic's sentiments about being better off living in a cabin somewhere 100%. In fact, whenever I read about people being locked in solitary confinement, I would think, what's so bad about that? At least no one would be bothering me. And being like everyone else? Yeah, I've always been hopelessly inept at that. I don't know how to do it, even with people in my recovery groups. I know it's me and my messed up thought patterns, but it's difficult for me to come up with something to say. Someone approaching me and saying, "How are you, Angela?" completely freaks me out. Do I tell them what I think they want to hear or the truth? Like Nic, I've always opted for what I thought people wanted to hear. Life seems so much safer that way.
And finally, this little gem from the second paragraph on page 326: "My whole life I've been looking for the easy way out. It's like I've been wearing those little plastic water wings, pretending that I could swim but never actually taking the time to learn how. So here I am, twenty-four years old, and I can't even swim. The water wings are gone, and I'm sinking--I'm going down and I'm gonna die if i can't get someone to teach me how to swim."
At fifty five years old, I feel exactly the same way. Sad. But Nic pulled himself out. And others have, too. I'm going to have to swallow my pride and ask for help. I have to let someone throw me a life preserver instead of sinking by myself. And also like Nic, I need a lot of help, not only from my food addiction 12 step program, but also from mental health professionals. For people like me with "grave emotional and mental disorders", there has to be more than one source of help: God (of course), my 12 step fellowship (who I will have to learn how to trust), psychiatrists and therapists. After all, it is MY recovery, no one else's. For the very first time ever, I recognize that I need to do this, and to stop being ashamed of the fact that I do need extra help. Thanks, Nic, for sharing your story and helping me see myself reflected in your words.