I loved Nic Sheff’s memoir Tweak and, even more, his dad’s memoir Beautiful Boy, so of course I wanted to read Nic’s sequel. We All Fall Down is subtitled Living with Addiction and that really is what it’s about. It starts in rehab and ends with Nic clean and sober — at least for now — but it’s in no way a straightforward or triumphant journey.
The thing with Nic Sheff is, he’s still really young and he’s still really an addict. You could argue that he didn’t let enough time go by between recovering from his horrific addiction (to crystal meth, mostly, but also to other drugs) and becoming the latest addiction-memoir-author. It seems he relapsed at least once while writing Tweak and then again while promoting the book on tour. We All Fall Down is the story of what happens after the addiction-memoir happy ending — how Nic struggles with rehab and its rules, tries to get clean on his own, succeeds and fails, convinces himself he’ll be OK if he limits himself to drinking alcohol and smoking weed, writes a book about addiction, promotes it, gets worse, gets better, gets wiser. It’s a really messy book, and if you read Nic’s now-defunct blog or his columns at addiction/recovery website The Fix (especially if you read the comments by people who know him in real life), you can see that Nic Sheff is living kind of a messy life, out there in public (although apparently he is clean now). He’s not writing about his youthful addiction from the distance and perspective of a wiser old age; he’s writing right through the middle of it, and if you know much about the life of young addicts, it’s almost painfully realistic.
Nic Sheff’s writing style — consciously mimicking the spoken word, down to including “like” and “um” as constant interjections — gets irritating to me at times, but there is a raw honesty here about the messiness of addiction and recovery that you don’t always get in these types of memoirs, and I wouldn’t want to have missed reading it.