05 Jan 6 Movies About Addiction That Can Inspire You
Hollywood is often fixated on the theme of substance abuse and addiction in films. It doesn’t always paint a pretty picture and can oftentimes dramatize the actual facts surrounding this epidemic. Luckily not every film staring an addict protagonist is tragic and without remorse, or redeeming qualities. Here are some films meant to inspire and show that even though, yes addiction may be surrounded by a lot of drama for some, for most it is simply a part of a chapter filled with challenge, succeeded by a lot of obstacles to overcome, to finally reaching sobriety and stability in their lives. Though these films are indeed entertaining, the underlying principles of hardship and overcoming great adversity surrounding substance abuse, is still in tact.
1. 28 Days
We start with the first film on our list, 28 Days. The movie stars academy award winner and two-time nominee Sandra Bullock as Gwen Cummings. The film was produced in 2000 and directed by Betty Thomas. Bullock’s character is a sassy, high-speed New York columnist and everyone’s favorite party girl. Her high speed, no holds bar, and out of control drinking sends her off into a spiraling fall, when she inevitably ruins her sister’s wedding. She steals the wedding’s limo accompanied by her partner in crime and enabler boyfriend Jasper, played by actor Dominic West. Her daring and highly dangers act lands her in court-ordered rehab. The victim in all of this is her poor sister and only family member who cares enough about her to want to see her get better. Gwen is then admitted into Serenity Glen where she is sentenced to a 28-day program. Why the producers chose 28 days eludes me, as most rehab programs today require no less than a 30-day stay. My guess is Hollywood wanted to be unique in this scenario. At Serenity Glen, Gwen encounters a colorful array of characters (inmates, as she sees them). She is hesitant at first to put any effort at the facility and what the people there have to offer her. Ultimately, she realizes she is a burden to her sister; Jasper only “loves” her because he has someone to go crazy and party with, and her life truly is a mesh of uncontrollable drinking, and sadness when she’s not. In the end Gwen meets Eddie (played by Viggo Mortensen) a fellow patient and her love interest as the movie progresses. Eddie serves as a kind of tether for Gwen and helps her on her journey to recovery. 28 Days is fuelled by Bullock’s charismatic persona and brings a sense of realism to the film and character.
2. My Name is Bill W
Next on our list is the made for television film, My Name is Bill W. staring James Woods. The movie was produced in 1989 and made by the Hallmark channel. Though Woods had not yet been catapulted into Hollywood’s top grossing actors and producers he since has been nominated for two academy awards. The movie deconstructs the, based on a true story, life of stockbroker William Griffith Wilson (played by Woods). Bill’s character is simple, yet complex, and a highly plausible person’s tale. A former World War I vet and consequently an alcoholic due to his devastating fortune loss in the stock market collapse of 1929. With his life in full tatters, Bill meets Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith (played by James Garner). The good doctor is also a struggling alcoholic, but in their distress they rise above and begin a support group, none other than the birth of Alcoholics Anonymous. I highly recommend this film to anyone struggling with alcohol issues, because this film isn’t just based on the true-story origin of AA, but beautifully portrays how even in light of such a challenging disease, one can make something of themselves and prevail. Not just succeed, but ultimately producing the foundation of an organization that has helped millions of people to date. The next time you feel sorry or ashamed of your addiction, stop and think of how you can turn your story in a different direction. Become a part of a community and make a change, not just for yourself, but also for others.
3. The Basketball Diaries
Our next pick is the very raw, yet highly rated film, The Basketball Diaries staring a young Leonardo DiCaprio. The film is the movie adaptation of Jim Carroll’s best selling autobiographical book with the same title. It tells the story of Carroll’s teenage years and his roller coaster ride with Heroin. The film sets in the 1990s and is a coming of age crime-filled drama directed by Scott Kalvert. It tells the story of teenager super basketball star Jim Carroll who unfortunately falls into the crippling hands of heroin and misguided friends. The pressure of his life and the people around him land him on the cruel streets of New York where he does just about anything to score drugs. Its not until Jim encounters Reggie, a neighborhood friend that he is able to regain his life. One of the best depictions of life as an addict, in my opinion, DiCaprio delivers an outstanding performance and credibility to the character and his struggles.
The film Drunks stars a critically acclaimed array of academy award nominated actors and actresses. It was released in 1995 and stars actor-comedian Richard Lewis and academy award winners Faye Dunaway and Dianne Wiest in a grand story of friendship, survival, and recovery. One of the first films to take an in-depth look into the inner workings of the 12-step program. The movie follows the stories of a group of alcoholics who gather at a Times Square basement for their AA meetings. They share not just their stories, but become a unit of survival and encompass more than just a group of addicts. Drunks premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and earned strong reviews and it was one of the first films to obtain the entertainment industry’s Prism Award. This award recognizes films that offer a realistic depiction of alcoholism and substance abuse.
5. Clean and Sober
Clean and Sober stars the academy award nominated actor Michael Keaton. You may also know him from the original Batman movies. In the film Clean and Sober he plays a real estate salesman named Daryl with a terrible cocaine habit. As the film progresses we find out Daryl has embezzled his company’s money and one night wakes up next to a girl who has overdosed on cocaine. He tries to run away from the crime scene and his life by checking himself into rehab under an anonymous alias. There he is helped and guided by a counselor named Craig, played by none other than Morgan Freeman. Daryl finally comes to terms with his addiction and even falls in love with a fellow rehab patient. In a sense the film portrays what can potentially go right with the right kind of care, but it is a little far from reality in that this isn’t always so easy for everyone to achieve. If you enjoy good movies you’ll enjoy Keaton’s high-jinx and expressive meltdowns.
6. Days of Wine and Roses
Lastly, to round off our top 6 inspirational movies about recovery we have, The Days of Wines and Roses. By far the oldest of all the movies, but a must see none-the-less. The film was released in 1962 and stars Jack Lemmon as the protagonist Joe Clay. Clay is a rising young and hungry public relations executive who encounters a beautiful secretary by the name of Kristen Arnesen (Played by Lee Remick) at a party for work. Joe seems enamored and bewitched by Kristen who, similarly to him, is both ambitious and on the road to success. They eventually fall in love and get married. Soon after though, Joe starts drinking on the regular and somehow manages to get Kristen addicted too. They both become addicted and their lives begin to spiral out of control and their marriage deteriorates. Joe eventually finds the courage to get help and is admitted into a psychiatric ward where he gets sober through the support of AA. Unfortunately, for Kristen she is unable to face her problem and she gets worse.
Recovery is never easy. These movies do an excellent job of showing the possible journey of an addict, but also the hard work it takes to get sober. If you or someone you know needs help with substance abuse treatment, enroll in a sober living facility today. Hopefully these films have shown you that rehab and treatment can help set you on the right path, back to regaining your life.