Movies can make us feel a range of emotions. Sometimes we watch them to de-stress, disconnect, and escape our current surroundings. Other times, movies can be a window into our souls and depict on the screen that which we are dealing with in our current lives. When it comes to addiction, Hollywood tends to dramatize what it can look like but, these five movies paint a more realistic picture.
If you want a realistic portrait of life in treatment, you must see 28 days. It tells the story of Gwen, a New York city journalist who loves to be the “life of the party”. When her partying ways become a problem, she is court ordered to check into rehab for 28 days. With lots of laughs, lots of tears, and some “ah ha” moments, you get to know the characters in this movie and their struggles with staying sober. Gwen goes from all-out denial to complete acceptance and learns to, “accept the things she can not change, the courage to change the things that she can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Examining addiction and the family dynamic, this is the movie that breaks it down from all points of view before and after treatment. Those who have been through it know, addiction doesn’t just affect the using individual, it affects the entire family. Alice is an alcoholic and her family begins to see that her drinking has gone from functioning to frightening. She enters treatment as one person and leaves it an entirely different person, a person, that her husband no longer knows or understands and, they begin to see each other as strangers. The movie begs you to ask the question, “what are life and relationships like when going from active use to living in recovery?”
When I saw this movie, I knew two things at the end of it. First, this movie is brilliantly portraited and the second, I never wanted to see it again. If this movie would have come out in the 80’s when the “just say no to drugs” campaign was being pushed, one showing of this movie would have surely scared you straight. In it, you are introduced to Sara, a woman whose obsession with fitting into her favorite dress to appear on a game show leads her to seek out a sketchy amphetamine pushing doctor. Sara’s son, Harry, and friends, Marion and Tyrone, have big dreams to open a clothing boutique but, they can never seem to escape their brain’s obsession in finding their next heroin fix. You notice the parallel between mother and son in their active addiction that leads them into the most disturbing of circumstances. A raw and dark fall down the rabbit hole is the best way to describe what it’s like to see Requiem for a Dream.
Over the years, we’ve seen a huge correlation between musicians and substance abuse. There are those that have said they think that it’s necessary to be under the influence to get the creative juices flowing. A Star is Born shows you that way of thinking couldn’t be further from the truth. We see Jackson, a star musician and all-out alcoholic, meet and quickly fall in love with Ally, an aspiring singer who dreams of making it big. Ally’s career begins to take off just as Jackson’s alcohol addiction sends his life spiraling tragically out of control. An important movie to see to tarnish the glamour that can be paired with fame and alcohol and drug use. You will walk away from this film feeling infected by the music and the message.
Of all the movies I have seen on addiction, the word REAL is the best way to describe this film. Perhaps that is because this movie is based on a true story. A son, Nick, who seems to have it all; the looks, the grades, and the loving family until he is sucked into a world of substance abuse by way of crystal meth. Even after numerous relapses, his father is willing to do anything to help his son find his way out of his world of addiction. The push and pull dynamic you see between the two, the battle of trust lost, the longing to once again have a “normal” relationship, and the complete sense of desperation is so relatable from the viewpoint of the addict and the loved one. From complete frustration to heartwarming moments, this movie will take you on an emotional roller coaster.
While movies about addiction may be difficult to watch, they do not compare to what it is like to go through it in real life. If you or a loved one are struggling, help is only a phone call away.
We all deserve to live happily ever after!