All too often, big mainstream media is on the wrong side of the proverbial coin when it comes to substance use. Images of drinking, illicit drug use, even smoking (until a more recent on-screen decline ) are frequently glamorized or are at least featured with the kind of frequency, lack of judgment, and appropriate context that they help to build up a kind of social acceptance and celebrity “cool.” When addiction and recovery are dealt with, coverage tends to be dominated by the tawdry details of one’s decline into the turmoil of substance abuse such that viewers become fascinated with the idea of a “fall from grace” and not the hard work and commitment many show in putting their lives back together. In almost all cases, the picture we get is skewed, fantastical, and absent of positive recovery modeling.
An episode of The Meredith Vieira Show recently featured a segment that broke the mold and deserves some credit. The piece in question revisited the stories and continued sobriety of a group of recovering addicts and alcoholics who were featured in a 1991 60 Minutes story Vieira did on the history and success of Oxford House, a resident-managed collection of sober living houses across the U.S. that has become a springboard for many successful second chances. The segment is noteworthy because it focuses on real people – not celebrities – of all backgrounds rebuilding their lives by doing simple, but critical, things to learn to live sober again. From holding each other accountable, to doing chores and taking responsibility for themselves in a community setting, to working and going to 12 step meetings and other counseling and therapy sessions, the residents in this piece can be examples to us all. And they should, far more often, be examples that are shown to the American television or movie viewer. The fact is, their stories are playing out every day, all across the country. They are admirable, yes. But they are also not special. Just committed to a better life and finding their way in that life one day at a time.
The show also deserves credit for shining light on the powerful role of community support in long-term recovery and the importance of transitional programs for recovering addicts and alcoholics. In this case, a media leader really got the story right. To learn more about BTG’s approach and its transitional programs to help clients move forward with a strong foundation in sobriety, click here.