Many people ask if I've stopped worrying. Sometimes it feels as if things never change, but they do. I worry less. For years I felt anxious whenever I didn't hear from Nic for a day or two because it probably meant he was in trouble again. He'd relapsed. Recently, however, I left a message for Nic and didn't hear anything for four days. When he called back, he said he'd been away for the weekend. It struck me that over the entire four days I hadn't once freaked out. Things can change, albeit slowly, in fits and starts, with forward movement and regression. Yes, I stopped worrying in the same persistent, all-consuming way. But I don't think parents ever stop worrying about our children. Sometimes I'm fine. Sometimes I worry. Will Nic relapse in LA? Could the success of his book cause him to relapse? Could failure? Attention? No attention? Criticism? Praise? Rejection? Stress? Boredom? Loneliness? Impulsiveness? Quiet? I worry. I worry less. Really.
We're having dinner at Nancy and Don's. It's late summer and the sky is orange and smoky from the spate of fires burning through California's forests. Other friends arrive, friends we haven't seen for a while. Around the redwood table, one of them asks about Nic.
Sometimes I tire of the convoluted, messy truth. It's so much easier to indulge myself by keeping it superficial, by offering a Zen snapshot: “Nic's great.” Karen and I had just visited him in LA. We saw a movie, visited museums, took a long walk with Nic and his hound dog, a stray he rescued. We laughed, listened, commiserated, made plans, compared notes, contemplated the future. It was a great couple of days. Nic seemed fine, but he acknowledged that it had been a difficult few months since he relapsed.
Excerpted from Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Meth Addiction by David Sheff, Copyright © 2007 by David Sheff. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.