Nic Sheff is a meth addict. The first 130 pages of his book Tweak detail a harrowing 27-day train-wreck of late-stage meth addiction. (Nic Sheff hadn't actually been using for all that long before this time —apparently meth addiction can come on very fast.) It's remarkable he isn't dead several times over, by the end. It's also remarkable that someone who has messed up their head that badly can still write very, very well.
But that's not the whole way down the rabbit hole. It gets far deeper, and hard as it may be to believe, darker. It's odd that some of the darkest moments of the book are when Nic starts trying to clean up. I won't tell you how the book ends, but since Nic is still alive at the end of the book, the book in any case isn't a whole life story. So however bleak or hopeful the end, it's not really the end.
David Sheff, Nic's Father, wrote Beautiful Boy as a companion to Tweak, but it's really an alternate reality. For one thing, while Nic always knows more or less what is happening to him, David quite often doesn't know whether his son is using or not, or even if he is still alive. David details the pervasive, consuming anxiety that becomes a companion illness to his son's.
Beautiful Boy is a well written book, but surpisingly not as well-written as the best parts of Nic's book. It's almost beyond belief that Nic could macerate his psyche to the extent he has, and still write better than his father. One can't help wondering what kind of writer he could have been.
The other interesting insight that only comes from comparing the books is how comprehensively dishonest Nic's addiction is. Surely, one important point of meth is to try to avoid life's hard truths. The cruel irony is that meth makes those hard truths so much harder. But it seems that meth comprehensively poisons away the truth from every aspect of Nic's life. Nic lies to everyone including himself. In the end, he even lies to us, his readers.
Most of Tweak is flayed down to a raw, festering honesty. Nic does change certain facts to protect the privacy of people who appear in the book. But reading David's book, we realize that Nic changed more facts than he absolutely had to. Perhaps lying is a habit and nothing more, but in a very subtle way this is a window into the Sheff's joyless funhouse. We realize we can't trust Nic as much as we thought we could. Just as David discovered over and over that every time he trusted his son it was a mistake, and just as Nic learned over and over than even he couldn't trust himself.