Sometimes when you’re feeling isolated and alone, it’s good to put on a TV show, movie, or documentary that focuses on substance abuse or has characters that suffer from it. Whether they make you laugh or cry, it can make you feel less alone during a pandemic or any time. From fiction to documentary, here are some ideas for films and TV shows that you can turn on with characters you can understand, even if they sometimes model behaviors to avoid.
What’s on Television?
Let us count the number of characters and representations of substance abuse on the TV show Shameless. The whole premise of the show is based on a poor family in Chicago that has an alcoholic father and a bipolar mother who is absent. They mostly play that patriarchal character for laughs, but there are some poignant moments, too. Among the siblings, we count at least two more recovered alcoholics and one with bipolar disorder. That doesn’t even get into the neighbors. It’s a symphony of dysfunction bound to make you laugh and feel better about yourself. There are one active alcoholic and two siblings who go into recovery during the show.
Showtime also broke barriers with the show about a nurse addicted to prescription painkillers in Nurse Jackie. This show highlights what happens to many healthcare workers who get pain medications prescribed legitimately, but their access to those medications leads them down a path to addiction. The show is also played for laughs but has some dramatic moments.
Netflix has a drama that portrays a functioning alcoholic and reluctant superhero in Jessica Jones. After a childhood accident that kills all of her family and experimentation that gives her superpowers she doesn’t want, this private detective turns to alcohol to medicate her trauma and loss. Unfortunately, she never attempts recovery in the course of the show.
Euphoria is another show on HBO that is loaded with addiction and mental illness. The show highlights teen addiction and the 17-year-old lead character is trying to stay sober in high school. Spoiler alert: she fails.
Mom is a comedy about an estranged mother-daughter relationship where both are in recovery. The CBS show deals with some of the daily trials and tribulations of trying to stay sober and the pair find themselves living together. If you want to stick to positive role models, go with this show.
What Are Some Movies About Addiction?
Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve probably seen 28 Days, with Sandra Bullock. The movie follows an alcoholic to court-ordered rehab and features a little equine therapy. It’s funny, moving at times, and a pretty accurate portrayal of challenges addicts face when trying to get sober.
One of Angelia Jolie’s earliest movies is about the real story of supermodel Gia Carangi simply titled Gia. She struggles to get clean from heroin only to fall victim to AIDs.
In The Fighter, Christian Bale plays Dicky Eklund, the addicted half-brother of professional fighter Micky Ward in this biographical picture. Bale’s portrayal is brilliant but excruciating to watch. Consider this and Gia strong warnings about the dangers of addiction.
One of the most recent movies that are based on a true story features the opioid crisis in Kentucky hill country. Netflix’s Hillbilly Elegy features Amy Adams as a former nurse who struggles with opioid addiction for many years and the impact on her family. This is one of the rare shows that never plays the addiction card for laughs.
What About Documentaries?
Anyone in or out of addiction knows about the show Intervention, which features real stories of interventions and their consequences, so we can move on to other documentaries, right?
Did you know that actor and comedian Russell Brand made a documentary about his battle with addiction? During the film, he talks about his experiences firsthand and interviews scientists to better understand the disease of addiction. Brand was inspired to make Russell Brand: From Addiction to Recovery after the overdose death of his friend, singer Amy Winehouse.
There are some lesser-known documentaries without celebrities including A New High about a climbing team made up of people in recovery aspiring to climb Mt. Rainier. In Heroin(e) on Netflix, the opioid overdose crisis is seen through the eyes of three women on the front lines in Huntington, West Virginia, now known as the country’s “overdose capital.” Also, check out Netflix’s Take Your Pills about the dangers and abuses of ADHD drugs like Adderall.
The media is full of characters and shows that fictionalize substance abuse and addiction. Some are based on true accounts and some are actual documentaries with real people. If you’re clean, the characters who are still addicted can serve as a warning to maintain your sobriety and if you’re still using, seeing the harsh reality in others will hopefully make you realize you need to get clean. These are only a few of the TV shows, movies, and documentaries you can find about the subject. If you find one that resonates with you on a personal level, you can watch it with friends and help them understand some of the trials and tribulations you suffered through with substance abuse. Whether you laugh or cry, these shows will show you that you are not alone. You’re also not alone if you come to Everlast Recovery Center. We treat substance abuse as well as mental health disorders in our Riverside, California facility. We strive to take you through detoxification, rehabilitation, recovery, and beyond with our aftercare program. Call us today and learn how we can help at 866-DETOX-25, (866-338-6925).