Six Great Movies About Addiction

imagesAs some people know, I am in long-term recovery from both heavy alcohol and cocaine use. I am also in recovery from both anorexia and bulimia, all wrapped around a diagnosis of body dysmorphic disorder. My sobriety date is April 8th 2007. Being in recovery, I tend to look at movies about addiction and recovery with a different perspective than when I was not in recovery. It has gone from, “that’s fantasy and will never be me” and “I cant identify with any of this” to finding bits and pieces in every movie that strikes an emotional cord for me in either replicating what I went through or maybe even causing me to evaluate my recovery in a different way. There are a great many films both documentary and dramatic on all of these topics. This is not meant to be a definitive short list. These are just films that both entertained me and made me think about addiction and recovery issues in my own life. With one exception I am going to leave documentaries out of the mix. There are just too many that I have not seen. Here you go.

The Anonymous People. As full disclosure, I know many of the people involved and it is a documentary but I am going to include it. Why? I believe this to be the most important film about recovery to come out in the last decade. The gatekeeper to dealing with substance use disorder whether its alcohol, cocaine, prescription opiates, meth or the current heroin epidemic is stigma and shame. Fighting through that is a must to take that first step. Instead of telling us why we should ashamed, we now have a film that encourages us not to be.

Filmed in Richmond Va, talking to real people with real addiction issues standing up for themselves and those shamed into silence. It challenges the notion that we have to hide our names in shame because we are in twelve -step or rehab. The Anonymous people does a wonderful job in letting us know that addiction is not a choice and we have nothing to be ashamed of in taking that first step into recovery. I highly recommend it.

Less Than Zero I could not identify with the flippant, overindulgent, Beverly Hills culture but that does not matter because of the brilliant performance of Robert Downey Jr. It is in my opinion, one of the most realistic, chilling and heartbreaking portrayals of crack/ powdered cocaine addiction you will ever see. It irritates me when people comment that it is “life imitating art” with regards to Downey. Robert turned his life around and has incredible sobriety. His character in the movie died.

Bright Lights Big City. Michael J. Fox plays an aspiring writer caught up in the New York City nightlife and cocaine culture of the eighties. This movie resonates with me because it most accurately portrays my descent into cocaine addiction so much that I even wrote about it in my book. For me it was the Dallas, Texas nightlife and cocaine culture. Being the last person in the club, all coked up, feeling alone and empty. Wondering what I was doing there. My only connections outside of family distancing itself, were addicts and dealers. Failed relationships. Relationships wrapped around drug use. Unable to function at work. That was Jamie Conway in the movie. That was me in in addiction.

The Morning After. A oldie starring Dick Van Dyke that focuses on the ravages of alcoholism and the family dynamics that often play a part. It was the first movie I ever saw on the subject before I began to abuse alcohol. Dick’s character is a successful executive descending into alcoholism. I cried at the end with the final image of Charlie alone, drunk and hopeless on a deserted beachfront with a rendition of the Beatles hit song, “Yesterday” playing. A beaten alcoholic. It happens every day of the year around the world. Unfortunately, it is a very difficult movie to find,. Not available for US download that I’ve seen and as of the writing of this blog, only available on DVD in European format.

Clean And Sober Another one high on my list because I identify with with pieces of the cocaine addiction story-line. Michael Keaton plays a successful commercial real estate executive deep in cocaine addiction. He embezzles company money to cover a bad investment. He goes into rehab to escape the consequences of his actions. In denial, he manipulates everyone around him and is more concerned with getting his next fix and “13th stepping” in rehab than he is in recovery. He blames everyone around him and his bad luck rather than looking within himself to take his first step forward. A gritty realistic performance about a scenario that has been played out in one form or another, time and time again by addicts in real life, including myself.

Flight. A great performance of by Denzel Washington as a high functioning airline pilot He is both an alcoholic and cocaine addict who continually avoids consequences and is in denial. While the “moment of clarity” in the face of prison consequences is highly dramatized it is something we(addicts) all face in one form or another in real life with vary degrees of consequences to ourselves and others. Mine was a two-day blackout. A year before I had come very close to suicide but that was not enough to turn me around. It is a different process for everyone.


Those are the six that I personally enjoy the most. Of course, there are many others. Some other very good ones I also enjoy are below. Feel free to comment and let me know your favorite movies about addiction, recovery, or mental health issues in general.

1. 28 Days starring Sandra Bullock

2. Leaving Las Vegas starring Nic Cage.

3. Smashed Starring Aaron Paul from “Breaking Bad”

4. Basketball Diaries staring Leonardo DiCaprio


Want to book Brian Cuban for your event? Please contact:

Paul D. Kreiter, M.Ed.
Senior Vice President American Program Bureau
pkreiter@apbspeakers.com 617 614 1642


Posted in UncategorizedComments (0)

Surgery and Addiction Recovery: Dangerous Bedfellows

11063784_10153591974828028_7543164623465982171_nRigorous and relentless honesty.

That’s what it would take to maintain the delicate balance of postoperative pain management and long term addiction recovery.

As I am sure most people can imagine, having to undergo surgery can present unique sobriety challenges for those of us in short or long-term recovery. It doesn’t matter if the surgery is major or minor, postoperative pain must be managed.  And, it usually cannot be done without prescription-narcotic pain medication.

For years, doctors told me that at some point, I would need a full right hip replacement.  Since I was relatively young for such a diagnosis, I put it off as long as possible. My doctors and I worked together to manage the pain through anti-inflammatory steroid injections and non-narcotic pain meds. As a recovering cocaine addict, using non-narcotic pain-management methods and medications is very important to me.

Read the rest on my blog at PsychCentral.com


Posted in UncategorizedComments (0)

The Greatest Gifts My Dog Gave Me

11188249_10153324801303028_8613452303814804361_nMy best friend of 14 years has crossed the Rainbow Bridge.   We called her Peanut. She was a rescue dog.  A beagle mix.

When my ex-wife Nikki suggested we get a dog all those years ago, I resisted. I had many excuses. Excuses that hid the truth about why I did not want a pet.  When it came to being loved, I was completely closed off to anything or anyone who offered her love to me, including Nikki.

I did not love myself so how could anyone or anything, even a dog, love me? I was hiding from myself in the abyss of alcohol, drugs and bulimia for nearly half my life — since I was 19.  Nikki knew none of these things.  I was a master at hiding.  However, she knew I had built a wall, preventing her from getting close to me.  She hoped the unconditional love of a dog would tear that wall down.

Read the rest on my blog at PsychCentral.com

Posted in UncategorizedComments (0)

“The Addicted Lawyer” Part I-Law School Chaos

BrianCubanThis is part one in a new blog series about my journey through law school and as a practicing attorney while also dealing with mental health challenges. I went through the law school process when the word “recovery” in a competitive, graduate education environment was virtually unheard of beyond quiet, whispered circles. While there is still stigma to be broken, today there are resources available at schools both undergraduate and graduate that I never dreamed of. It is my hope that by sharing my experiences I will empower both law students and lawyers to deal with their challenges and seek help. Even in the most competitive of environments, seeking help is not shameful or weak. That first step forward is the epitome of strength and courage. Give yourself that chance.

 September 1986. A beautiful, brisk and sunny fall day in my hometown of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. I was sweating like it was the worst, humid July-day Pittsburgh had to offer. I walked through the wide glass doors of the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Law. I was a officially a first year law student, a “1L.”

I was lost and overwhelmed before I had finished my first step into the expansive lobby. Not unusual feelings for a twenty-five year old entering a new phase of life, especially the stressful and competitive law school environment. My reasons were not the usual ones.

Read the rest at PsychCentral.com

Want to book Brian Cuban for your law school, legal conference or law firm event?  Please contact:

Paul D. Kreiter, M.Ed.
Senior Vice President American Program Bureau
pkreiter@apbspeakers.com  617 614 1642


Posted in UncategorizedComments (0)