In 2007, I entered recovery; and this time it stuck. I was overjoyed. After a few years sober, I made a decision to include pieces of my story in a documentary about recovery called The Secret World of Recovery. The point of the film was to educate and help remove the stigma of the disease of addiction. I believe it served its purpose and educated a few people, but it also definitely put the stigma of the disease on me. At the time of filming, a friend in recovery who had done something similar warned me about putting my private struggles out there for the world to judge, applaud or condemn; but I wasn’t concerned. I have always believed that I survived my nine lives so I could be of service to the world.
Making that film led me to recovery advocacy – one of the best parts of my life – and for that, I’ll always be grateful. But the documentary is also a reminder of a different time and a different young woman. Perhaps a young woman who was impulsive about putting so much of her personal life in the public eye in her very genuine attempt to do something good for the world.
I have nothing but pride for my second documentary, The Silent Majority, which made it to PBS this past fall. I profiled teen addiction treatment programs and loved every second of it. I met amazing young people and the remarkable adults who run those programs. I’m so glad I put that information out into the world – letting teens and young adults know help is available, and they’re not alone. I’m proud of The Silent Majority and can and do re-watch it. I’m also proud of The Secret World of Recovery, though in a different way; but I never re-watch it.
By outing myself as a person in recovery, parts of my life have been affected. Because of the movie, everyone in my professional life knows I am recovering, whether I want them to or not. When I walk into meetings with strangers, I often think they probably already know everything there is to know about me – though I’ve not even spent five minutes with them. It probably isn’t the case at all, but it feels that way.
More importantly, though, over the years I have had the honor and the life-changing experience of having people tell me something I said or wrote or filmed helped them to make it through another day. Those moments take my breath away. At one screening, I had a mom tell me that because of watching The Secret World of Recovery, she was able to intervene in time to save her daughter’s life. As this woman hugged me, thanked me and cried, I knew the power of film and the power of service trumped everything else.
I love movies, and I love social activism; but I do urge you to take seriously the decision to be public about your recovery. It is tough to face the fact that we still live in a world full of prejudice and ignorance.
I was fortunate – with those two documentaries I was able to combine my two loves – film and recovery. Years later and beyond my wildest dreams, today I write screenplays. I believe it is one of my Promises come true – health, recovery and good old-fashioned movies.