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.

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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.

And it didn’t seem like it was ever gonna get any better.

Really, it seemed hopeless.

Like I could never rebuild all the trust that I’d fucking shattered to nothing.

I didn’t even know where to start.

So…what I did was…well, first thing’s first, right? I had to get sober.

I went off to treatment somewhere and then to outpatient and I started meeting a whole lot of people who were actually going through pretty much exactly what I was going through with Jasper and Daisy. So many addicts I met in early recovery were in my same situation. Basically, we’d all totally fucked over the people we’d loved in our lives and finally they’d had enough and cut us off, in one way or another. For me, and for them, getting those relationships back seemed impossible.

The counselors, of course, were useless as ever.

“Time,” they’d say. “It’s just gonna take time.”

But none of us wanted to hear that. At least, I know I didn’t.

Anyway, what good was time gonna do?

How, after everything I’d put them through, was my family ever going to let me back into their lives? No amount of time could erase what I’d done.

I couldn't help but notice some of the other people in my group actually beginning to rebuild relationships with their loved ones. 

But then, slowly—you know—with fucking time—I couldn’t help but notice some of the other people in my group actually beginning to put the pieces of their broken lives back together. It didn’t seem possible, but people were starting to rebuild relationships with their loved ones. They would call their mom or their dad or their ex-wife or their child and they would talk. It would be hard and awkward at first, but, as everyone assured me, gradually, things would get better.

And so—fuck—I did it.

I tried.

I sent an email out to my dad. 

It was short—maybe one or two lines. 

Just, you know, I’m sober and, uh, would you be willing to talk to me?

And, to my surprise, he actually wrote me back.

We emailed a few more times and then, finally, we were able to talk on the phone.

But when I asked to talk to Jasper and Daisy, he wouldn’t let me.

In fact, he wasn’t even going to tell them that he and I had talked.

Still, I kept on trying. I tried and I tried and I began talking to my dad more and more then I started talking to my mom again, and then, almost two years later, I was able to talk to Jasper…and then to Daisy.

It was just like the damn counselors had said.

Time.

Fucking time.

Over the years we’ve continued talking—me and the kids—and eventually it even got to the point where we could see each other in person. And so I flew up North and hung out with them and, you know, the thing is, after all my worries about how I’d ruined their childhoods, they’ve actually grown up to be two of my absolute favorite people in the whole world.

‘Cause now, honestly, I’d say I talk to them on the phone pretty much every single day. And I miss them bad when I’m away. In fact, a lot of the time I think about moving back to Marin just so I can be closer to them.

Jasper is totally the sweetest, funniest kid. And he is so deeply good and caring and loving. I didn’t think it was possible for a teenage boy to be as open and gentle and kind as Jasper is, but he truly is.

And Daisy is my little soul sister. She is amazing. Beyond amazing. 

She is my best friend.

Jasper is my best friend (and he was my best man at my wedding).

But it’s fucking crazy scary to think about how close I came to destroying our relationship for good, you know?

And, looking back, I am so profoundly grateful that I listened to those stupid counselors and all my friends in recovery, because they were right:

With time…and work…it gets better.

It all gets better.

I just can’t give up.

I mean, we just can’t give up.

‘Cause it’s not hopeless.

It never is.

So, to my Jasper and Daisy, I love you.

And I’m sorry.

Nic Sheff is a columnist for The Fix and the author of two memoirs about his struggles with addiction, the New York Times-bestselling Tweak, and We All Fall Down. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, two hound dogs, and a cat. He is currently working on a novel about sisters growing up in a Northern California cult.

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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.