Elaine McMillion Sheldon stunned America when her Netflix documentary Heroin(e) premiered. Through her compelling, compassionate, and intimately personal storytelling, Sheldon illustrated the height of the opioid epidemic in one of the most devastatingly affected areas in Huntington, West Virginia, aptly described as the “overdose capital of the world”.
In a new series called Recovery Boys, Sheldon chronicles the addiction, struggle, and process of recovery for four young men named Ryan, Jeff, Rush, and Adam. All four of these men have been addicted to heroin for years and have felt the greatest effects of heroin addiction. They struggle to keep a job. They’ve been homeless. They face the incredibly guilt-inducing ethical battle of choosing to prevent withdrawal over their children and other life responsibilities. Thankfully, Sheldon refuses to edit her documentary in a way which glamorizes the process of recovery through an archetypical display of the hero’s journey. Instead, she chooses to humanize and ultimately make undeniably real the facts about struggling with addiction in America, especially an addiction to heroin: relapse does not have to be, but often unfortunately is, part of the process of recovery. Heroin addiction is one of the most difficult to beat. As one of the young men, Adam, explains, “It’s heroin. It’s the worst drug on the planet because it’s so good. People don’t get addicted to heroin because it sucks.” Overlaying the montage of urban living which introduces the documentary, one of the subjects explains, “The more you do, the more you have to do to get that same high.” Another voice describes the torture of chemical addiction to heroin and the need to stave off symptoms of withdrawal at even a potentially fatal cost, “I can’t not use. If I don’t use, I’m going to be sick.”
Addiction is disease, a sickness which involves the entirety of the holistic self: the mind, the body, and the spirit. Developing a chemical dependency upon a substance like heroin takes over and slowly dismantles lives from the inside out. According to a report released in August of 2018 by the CDC, 72,000 people died from an opioid overdose in 2017. More than 60,000 died of an opioid overdose in 2016 and more than 50,000 died of an opioid overdose in 2015. There is a preventable and curable disease claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of our friends, family members, neighbors, coworkers, and fellow strangers on the streets.
The men of this documentary, and the countless, nameless, faceless others who are struggling to overcome opioid addiction every single day, and who are losing their lives to opioid overdose every single day, need their stories to be heard. More importantly, we, as a society, need to witness these deeply intimate, personal, at times painful stories of addiction in order to rid ourselves of the preconceived notions of shame, stigma, and stereotype which inhibit our inherent ability to display and act upon tremendous empathy- life-saving empathy.
“I didn’t know people lived life sober”
For those of us who have never lived with an active addiction to a life-threatening drug like heroin, it is nearly impossible to imagine having your life so overtaken by using “drugs” that nothing else existed. Yet, for those living with addiction, who have lived with addiction for so long whether their own or the addictions of their family of origin, it becomes nearly impossible to imagine living life sober. Sobriety may never have been part of someone’s life when they’re from an addicted family system. Even for someone who didn’t grow up around addiction, they daily toil and routine of maintaining an addiction becomes such a sad, normalized, shame-ridden reality that the idea of something different, the idea of something better, seems out of grasp and undeserved.
Finding Recovery, Finding Hope
The documentary transitions into a series of written pieces sponsored by Netflix on the Mic website, called “Faces of Recovery”. Enlightened Solutions and our founder Jen Hansen was honored to contribute the stories, information, and support necessary to create a truly amazing series. Each part of the series highlights the lives of amazing individuals who have found recovery through one of the programs at Enlightened Solutions, or one of our affiliate programs like Serenity House and Hope Farm. “Recovery: All In The Family” details the many ways addiction can be passed on genetically and experientially through the generations, creating a predisposition for addiction and mental illness. In “Recovery: From Addiction, A Brotherhood Forms”, Enlightened Solution’s Hope Farm, a working barn and sober program in New Jersey, is highlighted as providing structure, challenge, and ultimately, brotherhood, to those who live and work there. Finally, in “Recovery: ‘A Part Of This Forever’” the other side of addiction, the “high-functioning” or “normalized” addiction, is exposed, revealing that even the most normal, successful, and high-functioning of individuals can be battling a severe addiction behind closed doors. Each piece of the series discussed heroic stories of overcoming addiction, our Enlightened Solutions programs, our affiliate programs, and our very real promise: recovery is available to everyone who wishes to seek it.
Enlightened Recovery Solutions is a strong member of the sober community, standing out as leaders in progressive, proven, holistic treatment and the development of a lifestyle of recovery which never necessitates the use of drugs and alcohol. Offering a curriculum of care including transitional and sober living, as well as working opportunities, Enlightened Solutions provides clients and their families with the tangible hope of a better future and the tools to achieve it. Call us today for information: 844-234-LIVE