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We All Fall Down: Living with Addiction

by Nic Sheff

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1845129,931 (3.56)1
Sheff writes candidly about stints at in-patient rehab facilities, devastating relapses, and hard-won realizations about what it means to be a young person living with addiction.

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Showing 5 of 5
The sequel to Tweak, Nic's story begun by his father in Beautiful Boy. More coherant and explained a lot more, to me. Most of all Sheff makes excellent points about the state of addiction treatment in the US, and the fact not everyone believes in a God & has a problem with any sort of a Higher Power. "Trying the same thing over & over & expecting a different result" is crazy, but that is exactly what the "experts" want addicts to do. I am really glad I took on reading all three of these; it's a nice experience to see the different viewpoints, have it all rounded out. ( )
  JeanetteSkwor | Jun 20, 2016 |
If I were honest, there were times during this book that I thought I would rate it only one-star. I really wasn't digging on the direction he was taking me and that is just a testament to the roller coaster-life that the author lived. What won me over was the brutal honesty and the insight to his mental illness and addiction. I can't pretend to understand all of the issues and problems that the author had but I do think I gained a little insight that could help me in my own life. I appreciate Sheff's outreach efforts and I am grateful that he was able to survive the bad times to write this book. ( )
  jimocracy | Apr 18, 2015 |
Fortunately, Sheff is not as whiny or narcissistic in this memoir as he is in his first, Tweak, though he still manages to be quite unlikeable and astonshingly unsympathetic. Sheff affectively chronicles the ups and downs of trying to overcome his addiction and pull his life together in a raw, honest, and expletive-ridden narrative. ( )
  Sullywriter | Apr 3, 2013 |
It’s a while since I finished Sheff’s first memoir,[b:Tweak: Growing Up On Methamphetamines|657371|Tweak Growing Up On Methamphetamines|Nic Sheff|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1259233004s/657371.jpg|643459] (which I liked a lot) - in which he chronicles his descent into meth and heroin addiction - so I was curious to see if he could wow me a second time. Unfortunately not.

In this memoir we’re now privy to Sheff’s journey through the world of rehab and recovery. The follow up memoir seems a fairly transparent publishing industry-driven attempt to capitalise on the New York Times Bestseller success of the first, a ‘what happened next’ instalment, a ‘We’ve done addiction, now let’s write about recovery’. This seems to be a common feature of addiction memoirs; Augusten Burroughs did it, as did James Frey, and James Brown. I was kinda sorta interested in what happens next, but the trajectory of Sheff’s addiction journey is fairly predictable in the end. I agree that there’s courage in telling one’s story at this level of honesty though and I applaud him for that.

My main problem with this memoir is its glaring lack of personal insight, and an almost exclusive reliance instead on present-tense reportage. Even when Sheff later learns something about his mental health status (quite likely a driver for many of his addictive behaviours) his ability to self-reflect and articulate what this means, in relation to his addictions, appears extremely limited. His passing nod to the science behind addiction is reduced to a micro commentary on lab addicted flies. Now that’s a new one. This could have been humorous if properly handled. Instead it comes off as slightly juvenile in its dearth of detail, and lack of finesse.

All good memoir works by revealing the narrating self learning from experience, translating these insights to the page. In universalising experience, memoir seeks to touch the reader and change them in some small way. This is its shining, defining feature. Without this it runs the risk of straying too far into the domain of self-indulgence. Does Sheff have one foot in this domain? You betya.

I was left with the feeling that Sheff never actually achieves that much insight into himself, and that’s a shame because I certainly have compassion for his struggle. I was much more interested in his period of abstinence, and what worked to keep him there, but there’s not much of that here. We probably didn’t need another drugalogue. We get that it’s tough.

Sheff writes about his time in an Arizona rehab, his near miss with another, and his relationship with a new love. It won’t be giving much away if I say that relapses continue to be a feature of Sheff’s recovery journey because his revelation of character sets us up for them from the outset. You can see them coming like a flipping runaway train.

Ultimately, I had mixed feelings about this book because, despite empathy for his battles, I wasn’t enamoured with Nic the narrator. Yet somehow, in my thesis-driven memoir frenzy, I kept turning the pages, in spite of the truly irritating constant “f” expletives, the all too frequent “uh’s”, and the liberally littered Americanisms such as “like”, as in “So, uh, yeah, that’s the way I play it this morning”. I was eventually able to look over them and accept them as part and parcel of the personality of the narrator. Sheff's tendency to self-deprecate doesn’t always balance with his self-centredness, but this works to illustrate the mindset that drives addiction at least. Yes, I have compassion for the battle, but I can’t say this book particularly endeared me to him. Sheff is thin on humility.

What he does do well is convey the relentless compulsion to ‘use’ which characterises addiction. He’s a living, walking example of how addicts cross-addict to other substances, and this powerfully illustrates that it doesn’t matter what substance you use, it’s all addiction. William Burroughs famously said, ‘Whether you sniff it smoke it eat it or shove it up your ass the result is the same: addiction’.

As his many counselors and twelve step buddies try to emphasise, Sheff’s recovery ultimately depends on abstinence. Does he get there? God, you’d hope so because active addiction is clearly a sure-fire route to death for this guy. He may be running out of chances.
( )
1 vote ZenMoon | Mar 31, 2013 |
Perhaps because I am a recovering addict myself, but I was entranced by Nic Sheff's vivid portrait of substance abuse in We All Fall Down. The title snatched my attention at once; how very appropriate! When our lives are overtaken by drugs, we will fall down. Every time.

I do have one complaint, Sheff's language. His voice is unique in that his writing is exactly how he is thinking or saying. I give him kudos for originality there and enjoyed his story all the more for it. But the use of the "F word" began to get on my last nerve before I reached the halfway point. I can cuss like a sailor with the best of them yet Nic's every other word begins with an F and ends with a K. ( )
  kdoumlele | Nov 28, 2011 |
Showing 5 of 5
"despite pretensions of being raw or edgy, standard fare in a confessional, consumerist culture."
In this follow-up to his debut novel Tweak (S & S, 2007), Sheff, a recovering meth addict, recounts his time in various drug rehabilitation facilities. The memoir also recounts his budding relationship with Sue Ellen and subsequent relapse back into drug use and alcoholism. Sheff is an unreliable narrator. He is constantly contradicting himself, vilifying the vaunted 12-step program and then later admitting that some elements of it work for him. He seems highly critical of rehabs and their staffs yet recognizes that they are working to try and make him better. His skewed worldview makes him difficult to relate to, but his honest and uncompromising ability to relate his emotional state makes him a tragic and eventually redeemable figure.
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Sheff writes candidly about stints at in-patient rehab facilities, devastating relapses, and hard-won realizations about what it means to be a young person living with addiction.

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