One 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