Once an addict always an addict? Or is substance abuse an affliction one can kick completely? That’s the subject tackled by The Anonymous People, a groundbreaking documentary which seeks to radically revise the way we view the over 23 million folks in recovery.
For decades, Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-Step programs have mandated that their members hide their identities, as if to suggest that there’s a reason to be ashamed about their disease. But according to first-time director Greg Williams, himself in long-term recovery from alcohol and drug abuse, former addicts would help remove the stigma by going public about their woes rather than remain in the shadows.
The film makes a persuasive case that addiction is a disease deserving of as much empathy as AIDS or cancer. The problem is that the 12-Step approach of secretly declaring oneself powerless against booze, crack and the like, makes imbibing look more like a character flaw than an illness.
People capable of holding their liquor might ask: What’s the fuss? Isn’t the difference just semantics? After all, AA has a proven track record. And if another approach works for you, you’re perfectly free to follow that path without needing to diss the conventional method.
Regardless, director Williams has enlisted the assistance of a number of celebrities, including ex-congressman Patrick Kennedy, actress Kristen Johnston and former TV news anchor Laurie Dhue, all of whom talk about battling their personal demons. Unapologetically designed to shift popular consciousness, this passionate polemic might very well go down in history for transforming public opinion about recovery movement.
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 88 minutes
Distributor: Kino Lorber
To see a trailer for The Anonymous People, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqoEtUn0Agw