Dr. Gabor Maté And Ione Skye 'Say Everything'

By John Lavitt 11/02/15

The actress spoke with the addiction expert at the REEL Recovery Film Festival last week.

Ione Skye and Gabor Maté
Courtesy of John Lavitt.

At Laemmle’s NOHO Cinemas in North Hollywood last Thursday, addiction specialist Dr. Gabor Maté and actor Ione Skye engaged in a back-and-forth about addiction and spirituality to cap off the 7th annual Los Angeles edition of the REEL Recovery Film Festival.

Entitled “Say Everything,” a play on the title of Ione Skye’s starring role in the classic '80s romantic comedy with John Cusack, the discussion was introduced by festival founder Leonard Lee Buschel. But the noted proponent of harm reduction techniques in addiction medicine and the sober actor in long-term recovery stepped away from addiction; rather, the exchange began with an intriguing discussion about Jewish identity and their common religious background.

Although Dr. Maté pointed out, “When the spiritual core of a religion is lost over time, what is left are only the rituals and the ceremonies,” he also highlighted his respect for the role of prophets in Jewish scriptures. Dr. Maté smiled, “In most religions, you don’t honor people who criticize authority, and I like that.”

Skye responded, “When we see religion today, we tend to see the corruption first. But I learned a different way of looking at my Jewish identity when my daughter was recently Bat Mitzvahed. Her Bat Mitzvah was a truly spiritual experience because it was about helping her find her own path. You have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

Dr. Maté went on to tell a story about an angry patient raging against God after the death of her mother. He understood her pain because he had experienced the same thing as a young man. “I was so angry because I wanted to believe in God. My rage was about having nothing to believe in despite that deep desire,” Dr. Maté said.

From her experience working a program of recovery, Skye said she learned, “God isn’t responsible. I was told early on that it’s self-will run riot. I learned from people that have walked a path of recovery before me that our egos are to blame. Keeping my ego in check comes through the process of working on my own defects of character.”

Towards the end, Dr. Maté reworked the very definition of addiction. Dr. Maté wants to change the way addiction is treated in order to address the root causes, i.e., the first trauma.

“Addiction is always rooted in pain," he said. "My mantra is not why the addiction, but why the pain. That’s the first question that needs to be asked. First look at the trauma, the you can understand why the addiction. We must remember that trauma affects brain development. The future of addiction medicine is a greater understanding of trauma.”

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.