At first glance, the connection between movies and addiction seems a little far-fetched; one is entertaining and hell. What connects them are the concepts of cunning, baffling and powerful. Every person in the addiction healing community hears these words over and over again and often memorizes the terms. But they are abstract concepts and often not clear in a person’s mind. Movies, on the other hand, can provide an emotional and visual example of something that otherwise lacks true understanding. Learning from films is possible; They offer a fully vicarious experience that touches every one of our senses.
Movies are more than simple entertainment. They are an artistically designed product that can teach vicariously. A really good film, one with a compelling story, interesting characters, and factual information woven into the plot, provides the perfect teacher while making a lasting impression. We are drawn in, we feel something, we awaken to an experience and we remember. In movies, it’s the story that concerns us first. For a short time we are part of the experience happening right in front of us. We can see and hear what the characters are doing. Good characters and excellent acting remind us of people we know, or of ourselves and our own experiences; we can relate. An actor’s facial expression or body language can make us feel the same; her touch becomes our touch. Action at the right pace keeps us engaged and focused in the moment. Time is suspended. Music pulls the experience together and opens our emotions to literally feel the experience. And while we’re still eating popcorn or candy, movies can offer us a real experience that touches all of our bodily senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. An experience that awakens all of our senses is an experience that can be used therapeutically to change behavior.
Addiction means we’ve been taken over; A crazy jockey rides us. We say and do things we think we would never say or do. And yet we do it. No matter what the consequences are, we do them. This brings forth the first word of the addiction mantra: List. Cunning means cunning, calculating, cunning or cunning. After years of recovery, it can wait until you’re tired, hungry, or angry, and then suddenly appear as a thought out of nowhere… You can even feel it shoot up from behind and suddenly jump into your head, “It’s been like ten Years, I’m sure I could have a drink right now. Or I haven’t missed it in all these years, so I can’t really be addicted. The ruse of addiction leads us to believe what is not true. For an example of cunning personified, watch the film RIVER WILD starring Kevin Bacon and Meryl Streep. Kevin Bacon’s character is cunning. He tempts others to believe him by behaving kindly, helpfully, and harmlessly. He is constantly watching and reading people and gets to know them quickly. He waits for the right moment to strike and take advantage of others. He looks for their weak spot and attacks from that direction. Beneath it, he is cold-blooded, heartless, and cruel. In addiction counseling we learn that until we wake up we are in the clutches of something very smart.
Do you remember Bill Macy in FARGO? He sets an excellent example of the confusion and denial that add up to confusion. He doesn’t see his life unraveling before him. He may feel it physically, but that’s part of what drives him deeper and deeper. He lies to himself and everyone else. He believes his lies. Everything will be fine. He tells one lie to cover up another. We watch him decompensate before our eyes, just as others can do to us when we are in denial, until the moment we face the power of addiction. And that power is not loving and kind. It will destroy us.
I ask you now to imagine a power beyond your current imagination. Unless you have literally experienced an earthquake, tornado, hurricane, or other seismic rebellion of nature, you cannot truly embody the true meaning of powerful. Unless, of course, you’ve been consumed by addiction. Watch George Clooney in PERFECT STORM. Throughout the film, he battles the converging forces of nature one by one, falling deeper and deeper into the maelstrom until he can’t get out. Suddenly the realization dawns, in utter clarity, the total awareness of the true force of nature that he is facing as he strains his head to see the wall of water cascading down on him. It is a visceral experience of absolute powerlessness. This is the power of addiction; in so deep you can’t get out on your own.
There’s a reason people go to 12-step meetings. They are a reminder to stay alert and always remember that the predator, addiction, will look for our weak spot and then attack. That’s smart. There’s a reason to listen to friends, family, and the law when they tell us our lives are getting tough. And there’s a reason to be aware of how deep we sink into habits of destructive behavior before we plunge into the abyss. The power of addiction can consume us. It is exactly what it does.
There is a way to raise awareness and education that can support traditional addiction counseling. Rent RIVER WILD, FARGO and PERFECT STORM. Really grasp the concepts of Cunning, Baffling, and Powerful. Then go to a 12-step meeting or therapy session and really have an honest discussion. It’s amazing how honesty can speed up the recovery process.