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Category Archives: Anonymous People

Tales from The Anonymous People

IMG_4130One of my responsibilities at The Council is to help support showings of the documentary film The Anonymous People.  I have had the privilege of seeing the film 10 times throughout the Philadelphia region.  I know the film by heart. 

But my favorite part of The Anonymous People isn’t the film.  The best part for me is witnessing the reaction of audience members afterwards.  The film has a special way of encouraging people to view addiction and recovery in a different way.  And when a person hears a new perspective about an incurable disease that can destroy lives and fill prisons, it tends to loosen the lips a bit; especially when there has been no public forum for talking about these issues.     

There are a few themes or patterns in the way audience members react to the film’s message.   I call these patterns “tales from the anonymous people.”  Some audience members always leave the theater immediately after the film is over.  I surmise that they have another commitment or wish to smoke a cigarette.  Some viewers who leave are unsettled by the film’s message to consider speaking out in support of recovery.  For some viewers, this message of advocacy cuts against the culture of their recovery.  I clearly respect that sentiment.

There are many other audience members, however, who stay and ask questions.  They listen intently to the discussion and they quietly speak of feeling empowered, hopeful and wanting to support recovery in their community.  They want to support recovery either because they are so thankful for it; still wishing for it to strengthen; or heartbroken because it did not come in time or last long enough for their loved one.  I clearly respect these sentiments as well.  

These are some tales of anonymous people.  And they speak volumes.  These tales say that recovery has come a long way.  We now need a big tent to hold the different pathways to recovery, as well as the different beliefs about the role advocacy may have in our life of recovery.  Silence has been replaced with a big tent which is certain to grow even bigger in the near future.  

My tale is after we are all in the big tent, when we will find our common voice.  If you have not yet seen the film, please come to one of our Philadelphia showings and bring a loved one.  You will be very glad you came, as you are witnessing history in the making.  You will then have your own tale to tell.  And I respect that.

Michael Harper,  Assistant Director

My Take: The Anonymous People by Jim Kosa

AnonPeopl LogoI watched a great documentary film, recently, called The Anonymous People.  It’s about addicts, those people everybody knows, some intimately, but nobody wants to talk about.  They range from crazy, albeit harmless, Aunt Betty ,who’s never been seen without a can of beer in her hand, to Robert Downy, Jr. ,who’s gone from being a vagrant at death’s door, to one of the hottest, most respected stars in Hollywood, and everyone in between.  I mean everyone in between, because addicts, whether their poison is drugs, alcohol, food, sex, gambling, or a host of other unhealthy behaviors, are easily mistaken for the rest of us. 

Still, addicts hide in plain sight, to a large extent, pariah.  Why? Addiction, including alcoholism, has been recognized as a disease by the American Medical Association for over 50 years.  Victims of Cancer, Parkinson’s, and just about every other major disease, aren’t discriminated against to anywhere near the degree that alcoholics and addicts are, even those in long-term (Up to 60+ years!)  Recovery.  But, then, these victims, of what I’ll call Mainstream Diseases, aren’t treated like criminals. 

One activist in the film, a woman in recovery from Alcoholism for over 42 years, is fighting for alcoholics to receive the same level of support she received when battling Breast Cancer.  “The medical community couldn’t do enough for me.”, she exclaimed. 

Of the $250 Billion taxpayer dollars spent on addiction annually, only 4 % is spent on prevention and treatment.  The rest is spent on prosecution and incarceration.   It’s common knowledge that The War on Drugs has been failing miserably for over five decades.  Still, archaic laws, that do far more harm than good on multiple levels, remain in effect. Get pulled over for driving drunk and the System welcomes you with open arms and processes you post haste.  Try to get a heroin addict into a rehab and you could be bogged down in red tape for weeks.  It’s insane. 

It’s, also, ironic that the film places much of the responsibility for the stigma connected with addiction on addicts themselves.  It dissects the Traditions of 12 Step Programs which  emphasize the importance of anonymity, and how these are too often misinterpreted to the detriment of the Fellowship.  At one point in the film, Bill Wilson, himself, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, the mother of all 12 Step Programs, actually encourages recovering alcoholics to speak about their own recovery and to advocate for the rights of other alcoholics, as long as they do not involve the twelve-step group by name. 

To that end, then, I’m Jim and I am in long-term recovery, which means that I have not used alcohol for more than 15 years. I am committed to recovery because it has given me and my family new purpose and hope for the future, while helping me gain stability in my life.  I am now speaking out because long-term recovery has helped me change my life for the better, and I want to make it possible for others to do the same.  

With over 22,000,000 alcoholics in the United States alone, and only 2,000,000 in recovery, how can I not?

Click here for information on the next showing of The Anonymous People.

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