There’s a new movie out about addiction which came out yesterday and you may have heard of it because it has big stars in it by the names of Mark Ruffalo and Gwyneth Paltrow. Or possibly you’ve heard of it because it addresses sex addiction and that’s a tantalizing topic indeed. But what you may not have heard about it is that it actually gives an extremely accurate representation of what life in recovery is like.
This wouldn’t be so notable, of course, if accurate portrayals of recovery hadn’t been attempted so poorly so many times. Sure there was Clean and Sober, with its brilliant premise of a coke addict trying to hide out in a rehab to avoid getting busted for the death of the girl who OD’d in his bed and getting sober in spite of himself. But that was a long time ago and the many attempts that have been made on screens large and small since have often been outlandish (I could be remembering this wrong but I want to say that on Nip/Tuck, when Julian McMahon’s character went to Sex Addicts meetings, his sponsor was someone who wasn’t even in the program?) Of course, real sober life isn’t all that cinematic or dramatic.
An Addict Viewer’s Reaction
Thanks for Sharing is billed as a comedy but I didn’t find it all that funny. I was, however, moved and impressed by a lot of the writing and acting. Ruffalo and Paltrow were the least interesting part, possibly because they seemed to lack chemistry, possibly because Paltrow’s character’s food issues were so remarkably similar to the food and exercise issues she herself seems to have that it was impossible to forget that you were watching Gwyneth Paltrow and isn’t she married to the Coldplay guy and so why is she then a single lady in New York and by the time you’re done with that thought, the movie has moved onto the next scene.
And that was usually a good thing because the next scenes were often quite excellent. In his role as a pervy doctor who rubs up against women on trains and tries to film under the skirt of his attractive boss, Josh Gad manages the shocking feat of transitioning from repulsive and annoying to the heart of the movie before you’ve blinked and missed Carol Kane playing his wacky, pushy mom. And Gad becomes the heart not on his own but through his scenes with Alecia Moore—aka P!nk, who, I can say without irony or hyperbole may now be my new favorite actress. Moore is so honest but cool and tough but soft, so P!nk, in this that it made me feel about a million times less ashamed of the fact that “Just Give Me a Reason” has been my personal favorite song this year (there, I said it).
How They Compare to Real People in Recovery
Of course, Thanks for Sharing fits in a lot of recovery’s most common clichés—alas, clichés that make so much sense when you’re the addict whose life is being saved by them and sound absolutely banal to the everyday “normal” person. But the movie got so many of the nuances of recovery right and including the aphorisms is part of that. I do feel like it portrayed the lifestyle of an addict at any stage in sobriety as being about encountering a series of risky situations that could eradicate that sobriety at any second, as opposed to the far-less-exciting existence many people in recovery have of being primarily free from temptation but forced to deal with the rather unpleasant business of facing those parts of themselves that they were so determined to push away. (Also, it’s probably worth noting for anyone who sees the movie and thinks that sober sex addicts aren’t allowed to have TVs or laptops or masturbate, Sex Addicts Anonymous has its members come up with “bottom lines” for themselves, which may or may not include those rules.)
In the end, Thanks for Sharing is a genuine pro-recovery movie and that is rare in our increasingly cynical society. Call it the anti-Shame—an accurate label, since this movie does a fine service for a society that desperately needs messages about breaking down the shame around recovery.
Anna David is the New York Times-bestselling author of the novels Party Girl and Bought and the non-fiction books Reality Matters, Falling For Me and By Some Miracle I Made It Out of There. She speaks at colleges and on TV about addiction and recovery.