My Siblings and Me: Brother and Child Reunion

By Nic Sheff 11/11/11

When he was tweaking, he was a wrecking ball on his siblings’ lives. But he learned that while kids may not forget, they do forgive.

Tweaking not recommended around kids Photo via

When my dad and step-mom first told me I was gonna have a little baby brother, I was actually super excited. I was only like 10 or 11 at that point, but already, I had this feeling like I really wanted to be a great big brother—like I wanted to be a good role model. I wanted to teach him about cool music and books and movies. And I wanted to make him feel safe and confident and loved.

Seriously, I remember thinking about all that stuff.

And once he—Jasper—was born, I sort of considered myself his third parent. Not that I actually was, of course. But I did babysit him all the time and change his diapers and feed him and even get up with him when he’d be crying in the middle of the night. I really deep down loved him. And as he got older, that love and caring just got stronger and stronger.

As a toddler and preschooler and kindergartner, I spent more time with Jasper than I did with my own friends. We’d draw a ton together, or play music, or I’d tell him stories.

Of course, when our sister, Daisy, was born two years later, it was the same way. I carried her around, played like crazy with both her and Jazz—and I had this intense love and feeling of wanting to support and care for both of them.

One time, high on meth, I told them this story about like Batman or something getting burned in a fire and my little sister had nightmares for weeks. I stole money from Jasper’s piggy bank. 

See, the thing is, I had kind of a rough time as a kid. I mean, sure, it was totally nothing compared to what a lotta kids go through, but I was way overly sensitive and uncomfortable in my own skin and really kinda hated myself in a lot of ways. And I think, for me, I wanted to protect Jasper and Daisy from those feelings. I wanted to give them all the strength and confidence and self-love that I lacked. I wanted to give them a perfect childhood. I wanted that more than anything. 

But I couldn’t.

I mean, I failed.

They had this perfect, idyllic, childhood and I ended up being the one who took that away from them. In fact, I ended up terrorizing them—and terrorizing their parents. In my first book, Tweak, I wrote about the time I got arrested in front of our house. When the Sherriff put the handcuffs on me, Jasper burst into tears and tried to run up to save me, but the Sherriff yelled at him to get away. Afterwards he was inconsolable literally for hours.

But that was just one example. One time—ughh, this makes me sick even to think about—but, one time, I was high on meth, or coming down, and when I was putting the kids to sleep, I told them this story about like Batman or something getting burned in a fire and my little sister had nightmares for weeks. I stole money from Jasper’s piggy bank. I got in huge screaming fights with both my dad and step-mom. I brought girls back to the house in the middle of the night and then would try’n sneak them out in the morning. And then, of course, I began to withdraw completely. I disappeared from them, only to show up weeks later, emaciated and sick and strung out and crazy looking.

Even worse, though (I think) was when I actually would go into treatment, get sober and start to build a relationship back up with them, only to suddenly vanish again. There was a time when I was sober I actually worked at their elementary school in the first grade class. Daisy was in kindergarten then, so every lunch I was there hanging out with her and her friends. We’d play tag, or wall ball, or whatever. Jasper and me would splash around in the pool together after his swim lessons.

And then I’d be gone. I’d steal some money and run off to the city and my dad and step-mom (can I just call her my mom from here on out? It’s too many words, otherwise, and it’s totally applicable) would be sent into a panic trying to save my fucking life again. And Jasper and Daisy would try to understand.

But, how could they?

How could they possibly understand something like that?

Most adults can’t understand it, let alone a couple of little kids.

Hell, I’d say I barely understand it.

All I know is, I was in a ton of pain and I kept reachin’ out to the drugs to try’n feel better—and then, once the drug hit me, the addiction would take hold.

Of course, it always tore me up to hurt those kids like that. Honestly, they were one of the only things I ever felt like it would be worth getting sober for. 

Because I hadn’t lost it, you know?

I hadn’t lost that desire to be a good big brother—to be a role model for them—to save them from all the stupid ass mistakes I’d made. I still wanted to give them that perfect childhood—the one I’d always wanted for myself, but had given up on a long ass time ago. I wanted so badly to be there for them.

But I kept failing.

I kept fucking up.

And, eventually, it got to the point where my parents would no longer let me see my little brother and sister. They wouldn’t even let me talk to them on the phone. I’d hurt them enough, they said, and they couldn’t bear to watch their kids’ hearts get broken again.

Christ, man, I couldn’t bear it either. 

I couldn’t.

But I also couldn’t bear the thought of never seeing them again.

I couldn’t bear it.

But I was gonna have to.

I mean, that’s the way it was.

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Nic Sheff is the author of two memoirs about his struggles with addiction: the New York Times bestselling Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines and We All Fall Down: Living with Addiction. Nic lives in Los Angeles, California where he writes for film and television. Find Nic on Twitter.