New Doc 'Reversing the Stigma' Shows the Human Face Behind Dependency

By Paul Gaita 01/19/18

The documentary highlights the challenges faced by people in various stages of addiction recovery and the way they are viewed by those around them. 

Tele graduating from drug court
Tele, one of the subjects of "Reversing The Stigma," graduating from drug court.

The efforts of real people facing real issues of substance dependency is the focus of a new documentary, Reversing the Stigma.

The documentary, produced by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) and the New York State Media Center, showcases the challenges faced by those with substance dependency, both in their attempts to gain sobriety and to convince those around them and the world at large that they are sincere about their desire to change.

The documentary also showcases the work being done in the Empire State to aid individuals in combating dependency, and seeks to remind viewers that dependency is a chronic but treatable disease.

The documentary, which can be viewed on YouTube here, features interviews with New York residents who found that their dependency had two front lines: the physical, mental and emotional struggle with substance abuse, and the social perception of dependency as a failing or, as one interviewee notes, "a lesson to be learned."

The film's narrator is Laurie Dhue, a television journalist and former news anchor with CNN, Fox Report and The Blaze, who in the course of the film discusses her own issues with alcohol and drug dependency.

In addition to Dhue, state health care professionals and leaders provide perspective on dependency and recovery, as well as efforts by New York agencies like OASAS to provide treatment for substance use issues. In 2016 alone, approximately 232,000 individuals were treated for substance dependency in OASAS-certified programs, with an average daily enrollment of 98,000.

The journey undergone by the film's subjects underscores a refrain heard throughout the recovery field: "They're no different than you or I, for the most part," said Brian Hart, director of community services for the Chemung County Mental Hygiene Department. "They reached a juncture point in their life where they turn to use of alcohol and/or drugs and it got to a point where it was managing their life that wasn't productive for them or helpful to them."

Giving these individuals the help they need is, as Hart notes, "a community issue that needs community resolutions." Once solutions through acceptance, support and treatment without judgment can be provided, Dhue said that "then, and only then, can we open the door to reversing the stigma."

Reversing the Stigma, which premiered throughout the state of New York during National Recovery Month in September 2017, will air on Syracuse's public television station, WCNY, on January 28, and screens at the Wyoming County AG and Business Center in Warsaw on January 24. Additional screening information can be found via the OASAS website.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.