12 Movies About Addiction and Recovery
From books to 12-step programs, and even through online communities, we can find inspiration for sobriety all around us, in accessible and relatable forms. I don’t think of it often, but film is another great place to turn to when we’re lacking in our sobriety. Here are 12 recovery movies I threw together for the next time you’re feeling the desire to stay in bed. Prepare for both a cry and a laugh, and the inspiration to get yourself through.
This documentary aims to answer the great debated question, “Is addiction a disease?” With visual tools and simple lingo, Dr. McCauley explains the complex science behind substance abuse and recovery. After viewing this film five years ago, my father-in-law discovered a new understanding and acceptance of addiction, and with that acceptance came hope for his son’s recovery. Watch with your husband, your adult children, your students or yourself if searching for better compression of the addicted brain.
You can purchase Pleasure unwoven through Amazon and I found it available to stream here.
This is a favorite in the recovery community. Sandra Bullock’s character finds herself forced into rehab for a heavy drinking habit. Like many of us she is stubborn and unwilling to admit to alcoholism but when she can no longer hide from her truth, she begins to accept her addiction. With a self-discovery driven by early sobriety and the residents she befriends, she begins to grow into a new woman learning to navigate sober life and maintain her relationship with her long-term boyfriend. While the movie may be a bit cheesy, there’s no doubt that the heartwarming feeling is real, and to many of us, relatable.
You can rent 28 days (not to be confused with 28 Days Later!) on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play and YouTube.
Break out the tissues, if you have any experience with addiction (especially drug addiction), you’re gonna cry your eyes out. This is a raw, candid documentary about a group of men living in a residential treatment home and attempting to get clean. The highs, the lows, the failures, and the wins, all sewn together with pain and the fear loved ones must face. It shows an unfiltered truth which, I believe, everyone would benefit from experiencing.
You can stream Recovery Boys on Netflix.
Russell Brand: From Addiction To Recovery
In this documentary, Comedian Russell Brand shares his inspirational story—from taking drugs and alcohol on a daily basis, to becoming somewhat of a sobriety guru, Russell shares it all. With humor and truth, he tells us what it was like and exactly how he sobered up, making it feel like your chatting with a Recovery buddy, you’ll find yourself relating to this English Superstar.
You can find From Addiction To Recovery for free on YouTube.
This is another film depicting a woman’s journey of accepting her addiction and getting sober. The main character faces a series of ‘shameful’ events brought on by alcohol and drug abuse. Her choice to get sober is met with skepticism by both her husband and mother, but she finds support in other recovering alcoholics. Critics have called Smashed cliché, however, it’s cliché because it’s true, and those of us with a substance abuse problem will have empathy for the main character and in that, empathy for ourselves.
Smashed can be rented through Google Play, iTunes, Youtube, and Amazon.
Happy is a documentary, not on addiction, but on finding the beauty in life, despite the circumstances. The camera crew visits 14 different countries and interviews 14 people on different life paths. There’s inspiration to be found in every story and underlying lessons on positive psychology. If you’re struggling to find gratitude or the positive in your life, this movie is sure to help you discover your Happy.
This documentary can be streamed on Netflix and rented through iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and YouTube.
Based on a true story, Basketball Diaries depicts the dark side of heroin dependence. Jim (played by a young Leonardo DiCaprio) has a promising future in basketball, but before he reaches fame, he experiments with drugs and falls quickly in love. As his affair with narcotics takes off, he loses his mother, himself and his potential career. This film isn’t lighthearted, but neither is addiction. With a true portrayal of the dark sides of substance abuse and candid examples of how far one will go for drugs, Basketball Diaries is a must-see for those whose lives have been at all tainted by drug dependency.
Unfortunately, I could not find this movie available on any of the popular streaming platforms, however, you can purchase the DVD through Amazon.
Thanks For Sharing
Although this movie isn’t centered around ‘alcohol/drug’ addiction, it does a phenomenal job of painting a picture of recovery and sobriety. This film bravely takes on sex addiction, and while I wouldn’t recommend it to those not familiar with addiction, I do recommend it to my peers for the simple fact of the honest relatability found within the characters. Starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Mark Ruffalo, you’re sure to find some laughs and heartfelt feelings in the lives of the three main characters and their recovery from their sex addictions.
Thanks For Sharing can be found to rent or buy on Amazon, YouTube, Google Play and iTunes.
Not a movie, but an honorable mention. I couldn’t write a recovery media list without adding TV show, Mom, into the mix. Starring Anna Faris and Allison Janney, this program does a fantastic job creating highly relatable characters, with plots that are humorous but also relatable, CBS depicts an honest view of what it’s like to get sober and rebuild one’s life. It’s loosely based on the 12-step program, so if that’s a tool you utilize, I highly recommend it.
Check your local listings for Mom, or stream the full series through CBS All Access.
When A Man Loves A Woman
A married couple is forced to confront the wife’s alcoholism and their challenges that unfold as her sober journey takes off. While she flourishes in sobriety, her husband feels out of place. This movie paints a true picture of learning to stand on one’s feet, and, with an appearance from Philip Seymour Hoffman, who tragically lost his lifelong struggle with addiction in 2014, there’s an additional tug on one’s heartstrings.
When A Man Loves A Woman can be rented on iTunes, Google Play, Youtube and Amazon.
A Star Is Born
I haven’t brought myself to watch this, however, it is said the film beautifully paints an honest picture of the heartache caused by addiction. This remake, starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, is about a country singer and his battle with alcoholism. Lady Gaga recently won a Golden Globe for her outstanding performance in this powerful movie, so bring the tissues with you.
A Star Is Born Is still in theater and should be showing in a theater near you.
Based on a father’s memoir, Beautiful Boy portrays a son’s addiction and its ability to absorb the entire family. It’s a true testament to how far our loved ones will go to pull us out of the grips of drugs and alcohol. The gut-wrenching performances and the rawness of the script, produce a profoundly genuine picture of family addiction.
Beautiful Boy can be seen in some theaters and streamed on Amazon Prime.
Melissa is a 29-year-old student and stay at home mom to her two boys; 3-year-old Watson and her newborn, Emerson. She is married to a wonderful sober man and they have created a blessed life in Southern California.
Melissa has been sober since 11.6.13 and is active in 12 step fellowships. She understands there are no sober blueprints, and different things work for different people. Along with addiction, Melissa struggles with mental health issues, addiction to self-harm, and has a habit of self-loathing. Through recovery, she has begun to overcome those obstacles.