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Movies to Help Those in Recovery

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How Movies About Addiction Can Aid People in Recovery

Movies can offer inspiration and motivation. Watching the struggles of other people living in similar situations and battling demons that you face can be beneficial. Films about addiction can be helpful for someone living in recovery. You can sympathize with the battle if it’s one that you’re fighting or if you know someone who struggles with a substance use disorder.

Many people misunderstand substance use disorder. Movies that portray factual aspects of a life of addiction can evoke strong reactions and even provide the motivation to change. People experiencing addiction sometimes feel that they do not have a problem. By watching a film representing drug and alcohol use, they can relate. People may accept that they also have a problem and decide to seek treatment. Read on to discover movies about addiction and recovery that may inspire you to seek treatment or encourage you to continue on your path to recovery.

“28 Days”

The film “28 Days” is about a woman with alcoholism who chooses to go to a 28-day treatment facility after crashing a limousine into a house while intoxicated. The movie starts with Gwen Cummings, played by Sandra Bullock, and her boyfriend, Jasper, showing up to her sister’s wedding drunk and falling into the cake. After stealing a limo to search for a bakery, she crashes into a house.

Before treatment, Gwen attempts to take narcotics into rehab with her. At intake, they are confiscated. She later has Jasper bring her some during a visit, only to throw them out the window, deciding to stop using drugs. She quickly changes her mind. She climbs out the window to shimmy down a tree to find the pills, and she falls and breaks her leg.

At this point in the film, Gwen wholly changes her attitude and takes rehab seriously. She becomes active in group discussions and therapy. She also becomes close with her roommate, Andrea, a younger girl suffering from heroin addiction. Unfortunately, Andrea relapses in the facility and overdoses. Her death affects Gwen, and she commits to mending the relationship with her sister because she realizes how her addiction has caused them to become estranged. After 28 days in treatment, Gwen returns home with a new outlook on life. Jasper does not respect Gwen’s recovery. When he tries to talk her into drinking, she becomes angry and breaks up with him.

How “28 Days” Relates to Addiction

A large portion of “28 days” occurs in an inpatient rehab treatment facility. The film illustrates real-life addiction struggles that various people in treatment suffer with. Alcohol withdrawal is a dangerous problem and can result in death if not appropriately treated in a medical setting or detox program. Gwen shakes, has hot flashes, throws up, and hallucinates — these are all severe withdrawal symptoms in real-life alcoholics.

Initially, she denies her alcoholism but eventually faces it head-on, moving through the stages of recovery. The film takes the character through all the stages of healing in her short 28 days in rehab.

During therapy, Gwen has flashbacks from her childhood when her mother was young and an addict. Breakthroughs in treatment can help people remember childhood trauma that could contribute to the substance use disorder later in life. By dealing with these repressed memories, Gwen realizes she has a problem and wants to change her path so that it doesn’t lead to an overdose like the one that killed her mother. Overdose is a tragic concern for people who suffer from heroin addiction and their families.

“Drugstore Cowboy”

“Drugstore Cowboy” is a film set in the early 1970s about a group of drug addicts who rob pharmacies. Their goal is to get high from the score or trade for heroin on the street. Bob Hughes, played by Matt Dillion, is the group leader. His wife Diane, best friend Rick, and Rick’s under-age girlfriend, Nadine, make up the crew. They move from their apartment to different hotels, planning and robbing pharmacies in Oregon and Washington.

Police detective Gentry knows that Bob is the leader of the robberies and harasses them. Finally, Nadine overdoses tragically in a hotel room. They first choose to hide her body. They then take her out of the hotel around a cop convention to dispose of her remains. Bob is torn up from the death, realizes that he has a problem, and decides to stop using and change his life even if Diane is unwilling to change with him.

How “Drugstore Cowboy” Relates to Addiction

The movie presents substance use disorder in various ways. The chase for the drug becomes a priority over anything else. Despite adverse consequences, the crew is still willing to do whatever it takes to get the drugs. Standard features of opiate addiction are stealing, trouble with the law, lying, and other forms of criminal activity in this film. Ultimately, death is the final consequence when Nadine passes away.

Many people suffering from addiction realize that they have a problem and desire to change. Still, the substance has a stronghold over them since opiates like heroin are destructive and powerful. Many overdoses from opiates occur around the world every day. In just one year, over 96,700 people tragically die from overdoses. “Drugstore Cowboy” also paints a vivid image of the inner struggles of someone with a substance use disorder and how it slowly changes their character. The decision to get into treatment can be terrifying for someone who has no support.


The 2011 movie “Arthur,” based on the original film from the 1980s, is about a wealthy man living in New York spending money on luxurious cars and anything else he wants. His mother is the CEO of a large company, and he has access to unlimited money to spend. However, he is an alcoholic and constantly makes headlines for his drunken, wild behavior. Russell Brand, who is openly a recovering addict himself, plays the leading role of Arthur. His nanny, Hobson, raised him, and even though he is in his 30s, she still takes care of his every need.

Arthur meets a girl, Naomi, and falls in love with her. Yet, his mother has arranged for him to marry Susan, her assistant, to provide succession for the business because Arthur’s alcoholism is too severe for him to run a company properly. If Arthur doesn’t go through with the wedding, he loses all the money. When Naomi finds out about his marriage to Susan, she leaves him. Before the marriage, Hobson dies, shattering Arthur because she was like a mother to him. He walks out of the wedding and catches a train to Naomi’s home.

Arthur then tells her that he loves her and that Hobson has died. She explained that she was sorry, but she could not replace Hobson as his mother. Arthur decides to get sober and finally change his life. His recovery leads his mother to return him to the business, and, ultimately, he wins Naomi back into his life.

How “Arthur” Relates to Addiction

Arthur has charm, money, fame, and possessions, though he continues to drink daily despite it all. Alcoholics may appear to have it all together while alcohol still has a tight grip over their lives. Arthur is emotionally stunted and relies on Hobson to care for his basic needs.

When people become addicted to a substance at a young age, emotional maturity and executive functioning can come to a halt. While they age physically, they are stuck in adolescent thinking and have self-control problems. When Arthur finally decides to stop drinking, he can truly grow up. He forms a better relationship with his mother, can keep a job, and maintain personal connections with others. The movie shows that recovery is possible, and emotional maturity can then be achieved.

“Four Good Days”

“Four Good Days” is a film based on a true story of a woman addicted to heroin and her relationship with the grieving mother. Deb has cut Molly out of her life after the heartache and disappointment she put her through over 10 years. Molly, played by Mila Kunis, and her mother, Deb, played by Glenn Close, have been through the detox and rehab processes multiple times. Finally, Molly comes to her mother one last time for help to get her into treatment for her addiction.

A doctor at the detox facility explains that if Molly can stay clean for four days, he can give her a shot to fight off the cravings for the drug. She gets the medication-assisted treatment, and the relationship between Molly and Deb appears to be getting better. However, her mother still worries that Molly could relapse.

How “Four Good Days” Relates to Addiction

“Four Good Days” is a powerful film depicting critical aspects of a life of heroin addiction. With the opioid crisis in America today and so many overdoses from heroin or synthetics, many people can relate to the tragic hold the opiate can have on Molly throughout the movie. You can sympathize with both the mother and daughter in this film.

Molly tries desperately to manipulate her mother and steal her possessions to sell for money to get the drug. Many heroin addicts have a primal fear of withdrawal, leading them to do almost anything to get more drugs. Deb loves her daughter but is tired of enabling her and the agony she feels each time she relapses again. Mothers of addicted children face the struggle of kicking them out of their lives or allowing them into the home to steal and hurt them. It is hard for parents to become estranged from their children for fear of guilt if anything should happen to them.

Deb copes while her daughter is detoxing for four days. The addiction can disrupt the entire family’s healthy coping skills. The movie ends with Molly clean but elaborates the possibility that she could relapse at any time. “Four Good Days” affirms that recovery is a constant lifelong battle that people should treat very seriously when they have a substance use disorder.

Getting Help for Substance Use Disorder

Movies can be both entertaining and therapeutic. People widely misunderstand addiction, but films that depict it in relatable ways can aid in a decision to get clean and offer help throughout recovery. These films discussed above do not glorify the use of drugs or alcohol. Instead, they provide stories you can identify with in your struggle with a substance use disorder. Movies that cover addiction and recovery can also remind you that you are not alone.

Some of the films on this list show graphic depictions of drug and alcohol use. If they become a trigger, it is best to watch the movies with someone else or in a safe environment like a treatment facility. However, by watching movies that realistically show the lifestyle and issues with substance use disorder, you can find the inspiration and motivation to live a successful life in recovery.

If you or someone you love is seeking treatment for a substance use order, Granite Recovery Centers can help you to have a successful lifelong recovery. We offer various programs designed to work with your lifestyle and schedule, as well as aftercare programs to continue your recovery after treatment.