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Best Depictions of Treatment Centers in Film and Television

Fictional media portrayals of the rehab experience that show it as it really is have been few and far between in film and television. This may be because the gritty, challenging, day-to-day struggle of men and women going through treatment for addiction doesn’t fit neatly into a one or two-hour format. Also, addiction treatment is a sensitive subject that makes many people uncomfortable because it hits too close to home (virtually every American family has been touched by alcohol and/or drug addiction, at least to some extent).
rehab experience

Storylines revolving around substance abuse have been featured prominently in many movies and TV shows, for the purposes of creating drama and conflict. But the recovery and rehab experience has been largely neglected by the entertainment industry, perhaps because the whole point of addiction treatment is to bring the drama to an end.

Nevertheless, there have been some nearly accurate portrayals of treatment centers and the rehab experience in television and movie productions. This has been especially true in films, where stories of triumph over the tragedy of addiction have been positively received by audiences and critics alike.

Four Theatrical Films that Detail the Rehab Experience

If you’re interested in fictional presentations of the addiction treatment process, or if you know a recovering addict or alcoholic you believe could benefit from such stories, here are four movies to search for:

Clean and Sober (1988)

Filmed at a time when rates of cocaine use in the United States were sky high, “Clean and Sober” stars Michael Keaton as a Philadelphia real estate broker who turns to crime to support his runaway cocaine habit. With the help of a sympathetic counselor in a rehab center, he eventually admits he has a drug problem and successfully completes a 30-day treatment program. The Keaton character’s commitment to sobriety is strengthened in his aftercare program, thanks to the able support of a compassionate 12-step group sponsor.

When a Man Loves a Woman (1994)

This film stars Meg Ryan as a woman whose life is turned upside down by her struggle with alcoholism. Her drinking takes a heavy toll on her spouse and children, and while her stint in rehab does help her find sobriety, the film’s story shows that she must then work hard to make amends to her loved ones and bring her family back together.

Alcohol and drug abuse are not victimless crimes and “When a Man Loves a Woman” shows how substance abuse impacts the lives of those who are close to an addict or alcoholic.

28 Days (2000)

Sandra Bullock plays a newspaper columnist forced into rehab for her drinking problem. At first she resists the efforts of rehab center personnel to help her overcome her alcoholism. But with the help of a supportive network of her peers in recovery, Bullock’s character comes to accept the truth about her alcohol dependency and embraces her recovery regimen.

Even after leaving rehab, her commitment to her sobriety remains firm and unshakeable, despite the efforts of a former boyfriend to lure her back to her old life of drinking and carousing.

Home Run (2013)

This limited-release theatrical film received a positive critical reception despite never going into wide circulation. It tells the story of a promising young baseball player (played by actor Scott Elrod) who loses his career to alcoholism. After hitting rock bottom, he regains his life and the promise of a better future, reconnecting with his family after his transformative experiences in a faith-based, Christian rehab center.

TV Movies: The Story of Bill W

While substance abuse and addiction treatment have been featured in films fairly often, there have been few television presentations of the rehab experience.

However, the critically-acclaimed 1989 TV movie “My Name is Bill W” tells the inspiring true-life story of alcoholic stockbroker William Griffith Wilson (played in the movie by James Woods), who co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935. The world of addiction treatment was changed forever by the efforts of Bill Wilson and his AA co-founder, Dr. Bob Smith. The 12-step approach to recovery they championed, which is accurately depicted in the film, remains a major part of most addiction treatment regimens to this day.

IMDb (Internet Movie Data Base): Clean and Sober, Home Run, 28 Days and When a Man Loves a Woman, My Name is Bill W Movie Reviews.

Posted on March 24th, 2017

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