Beautiful Boy Afterword—Hope for an Addicted Nation
How did he relapse after two years? Was it two years? The word chronic plagues me these days. I wonder if the human mind can truly comprehend certain words. I struggled with death, but I fully grasp death now—the finality—through, and with, the people who have faced it. Chronic eludes me, though. I say forever and always and never-ending, and I understand them, but still I feel that the worst is over. It's not that I'm completely surprised by a relapse; I no longer deny the insidiousness of addiction. Another relapse is testament to the chronic part of it. As Nic would say, “This disease sucks.”
But a relapse strikes me with another wave of overwhelming sadness that Nic has this terrible illness, and many other familiar emotions resurface. I thought, Why must I keep learning and relearning the bleak lessons of addiction? How many times must I be traumatized? Clearly I'm still part of, contributor to, and victim of a culture of denial. When Nic relapsed, however, I knew it wasn't up to me. Nic would have to decide what, if anything, to do.
Other relapses quickly led to catastrophe, but Nic stopped this one. He recognized it for what it was and concluded that he needed help. Almost immediately he checked himself into a residential program. From there he enrolled in outpatient treatment that included therapy, twelve-step meetings, recovery support groups, and drug testing. He began working with a new psychiatrist who he says is remarkable, an expert in addiction and the disorders that often accompany it. The ability to recognize relapse and choose to get help is a sign of enormous progress. Am I grasping at straws? “As AA has long professed, recovery is about progress, not perfection,” Benoit Denizet-Lewis writes in America Anonymous. Nic has made significant progress, though it guarantees nothing.