I have never experienced anything like “A Star is Born” featuring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper (also directed by Bradley Cooper…his first time directing EVER!). When I walked into the movie theater I was completely unaware that parts of my life and my struggle with alcohol would be showing on the screen. This film brought me back to parts of my
drinking days that I really did not want to remember. No, my drinking was not to the extent of Bradley Cooper’s in this film but every recovering alcoholic can relate to his struggle.
At one point in the film, Lady Gaga’s character, Ally, is sitting with Bradley Cooper’s character, Jackson, in an in-patient treatment facility for substance abuse. As he begins to apologize for his awful behavior while drinking and drugging Ally stops him several times and says, “It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s a disease”. There is a such a controversy between people in recovery, as well as in our culture as a whole, about whether or not alcoholism or any other addiction is a disease.
You can say that people with addiction just have no self-control and if they tried harder and really wanted to stop they could stop but honestly, I tried to stop on my own and I couldn’t.
Even today in my one year of sobriety I still have days where my anxiety and stress is at its highest and my mind starts thinking, “I’d like to have a drink and then I would feel better and I can forget how scared and anxious I am about x,y,z”. My anxious brain has a continual pattern of fear-drink-feel better, anger-drink-feel better, happy-drink-feel even better, stress-drink-feel better. It is a habit that has been formed, that I have learned and practiced and perfected from the day I started drinking.
Although I am no expert, no neuropsychologist, my opinion is that it is a disease just like diabetes, cancer, AIDS, you name it.
I work with someone, much like Bradley Cooper’s character, who wants to be sober and live a different life but continue to crash and burn when the world hands them something they can’t handle mentally. They are sick…they mentally cannot pull it together without a drink and I’ve been there. It’s heartbreaking to work with addicts in recovery because they start doing so well and then one day you find out they’ve overdosed, or they’ve hurt themselves drinking or drugging, etc. and you just want to scream and say, “WHY? WHY CAN’T YOU STOP? PLEASE JUST TRY HARDER”. And in those moments when I don’t understand, I remember what it was like for me and how hard it was to not drink for those first few months and in my darkest moments.
We have a disease, a mental illness, and this does not make us bad people or undeserving of help and love. We don’t mean to hurt you or make you worry and upset but some of us don’t know how to live “normally” without a substance to get us through. So be patient with us because some of us are trying our best and fail and relapse several times before we finally get clean.
If you have a family member who is an addict or love someone who is an addict remember you are not alone and there is support for you. Some people hang onto their loved ones and continue to have a relationship with them regardless of the emotional pain and turmoil they go through. Others choose to separate themselves and let me say, that is okay, because your mental health should come first. If you cannot take care of you then you cannot take care of others.
Thank you Bradley Cooper for directing this old but new film for our generation. The story is powerful and reminds those of us in recovery of our past and where we came from.
As always, thanks for reading,