Addiction. Food, liquor, heroin, cocaine, sugar are all addictive substances. If you indulge your cravings you may become addicted. Sex, gambling, eating, crime are all addictive behaviors. If you indulge your cravings you may become addicted. What do they have in common with one another? You. You are the variable in the addiction equation. Sex is sex for everyone–all of the machinery is the same, the software is different. What is going on in the addict’s head is different than for a person not yet addicted.
There is a simple test to see if you are, in fact addicted to a substance or behavior. Are you ashamed of doing it? If you steal off into a room late at night to eat until you make yourself sick, hiding from those you love, you are addicted. If you rush to quit the program you are looking at on your computer when you hear the garage door open, you are addicted. If you promise yourself that you won’t do it again, right after you just finished doing it, you are addicted.
There have been some really good movies in the past that cover very well the cycle of addiction. Lately the movies have gotten better at showing the cycle of shame that accompanies it. Here is a partial list of my favorite shame films…they cover both substance and behavior problems.
In the genre of substance addictions there are some really great shows. “The Days of Wine and Roses” is a movie from 1962 that covers the slide and redemption of a man who, with his young wife, leads the life cycle of the alcoholic. I say alcoholic even though I do not think that such a thing really exists. In my opinion the ‘alcoholic’ is a person whose addiction cycle includes alcohol. Alcoholism is no more a disease than gambling addiction, but the behavior is addictive when it becomes compulsive. Watch Jack Lemmon descend from social drinking to compulsive drinking. The compulsion and shame of it lead him to loathe himself, which leads him to the solace he finds when medicating himself with more of his chosen medicine.
In my next choice for great movies about substance abuse we have Jennifer Anniston who is self medicating with pain killers. In the movie “Cake” she has chronic, mysterious pain that she can’t get a doctor to prescribe enough pain killer to cure. She takes matters into her own hands and procures them for herself. Her misery drives everyone away from her, and the movie is about her figuring out how her problem is herself, she begins to cure her pain by living instead of avoiding. I need to watch this one again, as I will probably watch all of these again. You might think she has a disease, and that somehow taking these pills has altered her brain, but you would be wrong. There is nothing special about this woman, nothing about her that is any different than the Lemmon character in Wine and Roses. She is wired exactly like the people in the behavior addiction movies. This movie shows you what the source of her mystery pain is–no review will tell you, but once she acknowledges it I knew that she would no longer have to take pills to feel better. Great movie.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a porn addict in the movie “Don Jon”. There is plenty to see as he hides his compulsive behaviors from his new beautiful girlfriend, played by Scarlett Johansson. In this one I can see where he finds the need for the mental relief provided by masturbating ten times per day. Not finding joy in his life, his religion, his boys, or any of the real people in his life, Don Jon shows how a normal behavior, like masturbation, can descend into something to be ashamed of–something to hide. Hiding and shame are the dividers between the normal life and the addict life. This movie tries to show how the triggers available in our day to day lives make these behaviors harder to avoid, which is true to an extent. The reason that some people become compulsive is not because of the triggers that we are all subjected to week in and week out.
A much better movie about sex addiction is found in the Mark Ruffalo and Gwyneth Paltrow movie “Thanks for Sharing”, which is about the benefit that a talented cast of characters find in an AA type program for sex addicts. It’s really great in showing the hiding, sneaking, and shame that these people find when they indulge in their compulsive behavior. It doesn’t go deeply enough into any one story to show you why someone would put themselves through this kind of torture. Is sex really that good to destroy your life over? You know, and I know that the answer is no. The hit of brain chemicals that you get from the act is so fleeting, and the shame and self loathing so long-lasting that it is hard to feel any sympathy for the addict. Why can’t they just say no? Where does the compulsion come from? The problem is in the way that the brain can re-wire itself if the emotions are strong enough. Watch this movie to see how you can begin to emerge from the fog of compulsion and self loathing…
If you have made it this far, here is a list of movies and trailer links, for more great films about all kinds of addiction. Feel the shame, wonder at the lying and self-deception, marvel at the broken promises and lives, but know that none of the real people that these stories are based upon are any different than yourselves. They are not weaker or more evil than you, your spouse, your neighbors. Any person can be a victim of compulsion, some compulsions are productive or creative…work, art, sports. Lives have been wrecked by being over productive, just like over medicated lives are wrecked. Love the addict in you, the addict in your life, because the healing starts with self-loving to kill the self-loathing. Don’t be part of the problem.
These following are movies I found looking for the links to the other movies. I am excited to watch them now, here are the links.