The Amazing Story of Lost in Woonsocket | The Fix
facebook twitter RSS
HOT TOPICS: Alcoholism  Addiction  AA  Cocaine  Heroin

The Amazing Story of Lost in Woonsocket

The director of an addiction documentary airing this weekend tells The Fix how it changed his life.


Normand and Mark's reunion in Lost in

By Luke Walker


| Share

When John Chester began filming an episode of Random 1, a short-lived A&E docudrama, he had no idea that it would become a full length documentary—Lost In Woonsocket—and that the experience would change his life. Random 1 focused on a question: Can one seemingly insignificant act of kindness towards a random stranger change their life? The theory was that a single, random act of kindness could inspire a compassion chain reaction. Lost In Woonsocket began as just another episode, with John and his colleagues searching the US for people to help. In Woonsocket, a small Rhode Island town, they met Mark and Normand: two homeless alcoholics sharing a tent in a patch of woods behind a drug store. The odd couple were co-dependent, enabling each other's alcoholism. Chester admits he had no prior addiction experience. “I didn’t know anything about addiction or recovery," he tells The Fix. "I didn’t know the difference between AA and detox.”

Mark was the episode's focus, with Normand only appearing briefly to wish him luck as he was being taken to rehab. The show aired as usual—but something unexpected happened. Normand's estranged children happened to change the channel to Random 1 (during an episode of Dog The Bounty Hunter) and saw their long-lost father, drunk and homeless, in the brief moment he was on-screen. They got in contact with Chester and pleaded with him to help their dad as he'd helped Mark. Despite Random 1's fundamental rule being to help people at random, Chester agreed.

“My job was to report the facts," he tells us. “I wanted people to judge if there was more harm than good.” But he found this hands-off model was no longer enough; he returned to Woonsocket to find Normand, still living in his tent. Mark also returned, beginning a dramatic saga that would entwine the lives of these three men for the next six years. Lost In Woonsocket airs Sunday February 26, 11 am EST, on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Rehabilitation Directories

Most Popular
The Rehab Review
Cliffside Malibu

The “beach-house-relaxed” Cliffside Malibu claims to provide an oasis for recovering addicts and alcoholics. And that’s just what you'll get—if you’ve got the cash.

Morningside Recovery

For a “rehab near the beach” experience that isn’t quite as costly as similar SoCal competitors, head to this Newport Beach treatment facility.

AToN Center

Whether you’re interested in the 12 Steps, SMART Recovery, or holistic treatments, this luxurious, appealing and commendable 4.5 star (our system doesn't yet show the 1/2 star) San Diego rehab has a program for you. 


This exclusive Northern California rehab is all about client choice—as well as golf outings, Buddhist field trips and keeping up with the office.

Capo By The Sea

Capo By The Sea offers an executive rehab program complete with medical detox and a focus on dual-diagnosis issues, as well as an outpatient option in an environment that exudes the kind of beach house optimism one would expect from an Orange County recovery outfit.

Journey Malibu

Want many of the luxury amenities A-listers have come to expect—including an enormous backyard with a pool and patio, an herb garden, a volleyball net and a spectacular vista of the Santa Monica mountains—with a recovery program to match?

The Ultimate Guide to Rehab

What you need to know when choosing an addiction treatment center.

the fix tv