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Oscar-Nominated Writer/Director Stuart Blumberg Discusses THANKS FOR SHARING

In this week's Blog we offer another free chapter from ADDICTED IN FILM: Movies We Love About the Habits We Hate about the wonderful "sex addict" movie THANKS FOR SHARING, written and directed by Stuart Blumberg - whom we recently interviewed for our YouTube series RECOVERY ON SCREEN.

THANKS FOR SHARING YOUR SEX ADDICTION

But how this movie is about so much more...

Several of the movies featured in the RECOVERY MOVIE MEET-UPs Program reflect the in-patient rehab experience and its immediate aftermath.  But as we all know, there is so much more to the addiction and recovery story. Rehab is just the first step. It’s the “rest of your life” steps that screw some people up.  And to us, no movie captures the depth, the nuances, the humor, and the “sober” realities of life after rehab quite as effectively as THANKS FOR SHARING.

On its most basic level, the movie is the perfect Hollywood confection:  Big “bankable” movie stars like Gwenyth Paltrow and Mark Ruffallo.  Big “indie cred” actors like Tim Robbins. Great “up-and-coming” talent like Josh Gad (pre-Olaf). And a complete show-stealing “cross-platform” co-starring appearance by music demigoddess Pink.  The marketing of the movie was straight down-the-line Tinseltown. A movie about...SEX!  Er, uh, sex addiction, rather. But not the yucky kind!

But appearances deceive. This movie is a great example of the “Fortune Cookie Analogy”. The outside of this cookie is shiny and new and appealing. As it should. Movie stars get paid millions of dollars to emote.  And getting butts into seats costs millions more. But inside this cookie one discovers several profound, challenging, difficult topics and themes about a person’s real-deal post-rehab recovery experience, and the recovery community in general. 

And don’t let the “sex-addiction” hook fool you. Sex may be more marketable than drugs or alcohol (although they are ALL marketed the same), but THANKS FOR SHARING is really about recovery from any addiction, especially drugs and alcohol.  In fact, many times during the movie, it's easy to forget it's about sex addiction at all.

The movie tells the recovery story from the point of view of Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12-Steps (although the entity itself isn’t mentioned explicitly in the movie). But the 12-Step meeting experience is only used as a structural device in the movie, and not the thematic centerpiece. Oscar-nominated writer-director Stuart Blumberg uses it as a way to explore a host of very complex themes and powerful teachable moments told in three commingled storylines featuring Ruffalo, Robbins and Gad. To successfully achieve this and also make a movie that’s accessible, funny and entertaining is no easy feat. But Blumberg pulls it off masterfully.

 

Mark Ruffalo plays Adam, a recovering sex addict who has been “sober” for five years.  No orgasms, through whatever means, period. (No, this is not a science fiction movie). He decides it's finally time to enter the dating pool, fortified with a hard-earned respect for (What? Monogamy? Missionary Position? No toys? It’s never made clear.)  He goes to a party and meets Phoebe, played by Gwenyth Paltrow.  No doubt he’ll fall in love with her.  Despite her recent notoriety, and an actual “Goop”-like product-placement moment in the movie, I think she remains one of the most sultry actresses of all time.  My God, that voice.  

THANKS for SHARING as Podcast
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But theirs is an odd coupling, really.  Physically, Ruffalo doesn’t seem to be playing in the same league as Paltrow. The moviemakers don’t even try to cheat the fact that he’s much shorter than she is, and less physically imposing - which is ironic given that he now plays THE HULK.  But what Ruffalo lacks in stature he makes up for with brilliant acting, and the wonderful “everyman” quality he shares in common with actors like Tom Hanks.

 

Next we meet Josh Gad who plays Neil, an emergency room doctor and (ironically) an addict who specializes in treating overdose victims. He attends 12-Step meetings so he can check a box, and it’s clear that when it comes to the actual work of recovery, he’s phoning it in.  If sex addiction was on a spectrum (and it is), Neil would be inching down towards the paraphiliac end of it, with frottage and voyeurism being his drugs of choice. For the first 20 minutes of the movie Gad basically plays a pervert, and I’m still scratching my head as to how a reputation-conscious entity like Disney felt comfortable enough to cast him as the lead snowman in FROZEN.  

Rounding out the three storylines we have Tim Robbins playing the role of Mike, a 12-Step veteran who is at the top of his local meeting hierarchy, and Ruffalo’s AA Sponsor (who, similar to multi-level marketing, is by extension Gad’s sponsor).  But when his macro-addict son Danny crashes the tiny New York condo he shares with his on-screen wife Katie (played with wonderful grace by Joely Richardson), we soon realize that he is also a domineering, sanctimonious “dry-drunk” with a checkered past.

The movie opens with an absolutely brilliant juxtaposition of ontologies.  Fade into a medium shot of Adam (Ruffalo) on his knees, bedside, praying to his Higher Power, safely cocooned in his private oasis of innocence. Cut to him walking down the temptation-soaked streets of sin-city Manhattan. Bus signs smeared with bikini-clad models.  Billboards oozing with sexually-suggestive ads. Every single woman he lays eyes on is a short-skirted, bras-less Perfect 10. I mean, come on. It’s not even a fair fight.

But never fear, 12-Step is here!  He sits down with his fellow defensive linemen in their precarious formation against drugs, alcohol, and hyper-sexualized human existence. And it’s only a matter of time before someone in the line misses a tackle.  Because according to statistics, with alcohol specifically, only 1-in-10 of them will successfully recover in the long term without going to the dark side at least once, some twice, most multiple times. And yet there they are, drinking shitty day-old coffee, pushing back the offense, day-in and day-out against these unlikely odds. 

With a combination of sly humor and evocative visuals, writer-director Blumberg manages to frame the never-ending battle against the “moral weakness” of addiction in subtle, day-to-day human terms. It’s impossible not to root for these guys.  And I don’t say this just because I used to be one of them. I challenge anyone - with or without an addiction, to anything - to go to a meeting (any type meeting) in a dingy church basement or stuffy community center, own up to being a liar, admit that life is unmanageable, and beg total strangers for help. 

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It's tempting out there, but safe in here...

The 12-Step Fellowship in THANKS FOR SHARING

But having said this, some people are more dedicated to their recovery than others.  Unless you have round-the-clock supervision, an on-call sobriety coach, and/or daily/hourly drug and breathalyzer tests (some people have the money to pay for this), sobriety pretty much relies on the honor system. And it doesn’t always work. I know this from personal experience. Some people meet at bars after their support meetings to celebrate a week of sobriety. Some people indulge in their substance or behavior of choice every day except their meeting day, and call themselves success stories. And other people, especially Josh Gad’s character Neil, seem to gravitate to sex-addict meetings hoping to meet fellow sex addicts. For sex.  (In AA parlance, this strategy is called “The 13th Step”).

Gad is hysterical in this role, and it’s easy to see how he became a big star.  He’s always offering implausible excuses to Adam, his sponsor, for why his 12-Step homework isn’t done on time. The classic “Dog ate my 3rd Step” defense.  He accepts abstinence chips, but obviously hasn’t earned them. And then we see why.  Neil’s always at home, alone, in a tiny apartment, masturbating to online porn, scarfing down donuts. 

And the reasons for his co-occurring disorders?  Take your pick.  He’s an on-call doctor with no time to meet people outside of work. He’s overweight, and probably has trouble getting women to sleep with him.  Not because he’s overweight per se, but because he’s bought into the whole “dopey but lovable fat guy” routine. And despite the popular notion that addictions have deep, complex, multi-faceted origins in childhood traumas and PTSD, this scene shows us how addiction sometimes just boils down to just sheer boredom.  

Meanwhile, Adam meets Phoebe (Paltrow) at a party. Their flirty repartee seems fairly innocuous on the surface. But given what we know about Adam’s sex addiction, and what Phoebe still doesn’t know about his sex addiction, the scene plays out like a merciless game of cat-and-mouse, where he’s the mouse, and she’s the cat. A cat who likes to play with her food.  In any normal context, she’d be considered a bit of a tease.  In the context of this movie, and Adam’s secret vulnerability, she’s a sexual predator.  

 

The story then delves into Mike’s (Tim Robbins) strained relationship with his son Danny, played by ALMOST FAMOUS alum Patrick Fugit. Strained, because Danny is an on-again-off-again addict who’s lied and stolen money from his parents to support his drug habit. But the real problem between him and his father isn’t just his addiction, it’s Danny’s strategy (or lack thereof) to overcome it. Mike is old-school. To him, like many other die-hard 12-Steppers, getting “in the rooms” is the ONLY way to overcome addiction. 

Danny disagrees, and tells his father that he would rather continue his recovery on his own. No meetings. He’ll make it this time. Things are different. But Mike’s been to this rodeo one too many times and thinks Danny is lying.  Once again.  As he always has. Because that’s what addicted individuals do, right?. He even makes the off-handed quip to his wife Katie: “How do you know an addict’s lying? Their lips are moving.” (A stigmatizing “joke” also featured in the movie GIA). 

So is Danny lying?

When it comes to addiction, the answer isn’t always a simple yes/no.  When someone asks an addict if they’re sober now, the answer is either the truth or a lie, depending on whether they are sober or not.  But when someone asks an individual with addiction challenges whether they’ll be sober tomorrow, ten years from now, or in ten minutes, there is no fully honest answer. How can they know? The honest answer only exists as a spooky quantum-like superposition of possibilities, with literally billions of variables in play.  Addicted individuals are only 100% honest at the moment a measurement is taken of their sobriety.  The future is completely indeterminate. Think of it like Schrödinger's Addict.

RECOVERY MOVIE MEET-UPs

Regardless, lucky for Danny that his mother Katie is an optimist.  She loves her son and wants him to be safe.  Like any parent. And so over Mike’s “better judgment”, she makes the gut-wrenching decision to let him stay, try one more time, give him one last shot. Anyone who has struggled to save a friend or loved one who is slowly killing themselves through alcohol or substance abuse in front of their very eyes knows how hard this decision is to make. 

Meanwhile across town, Adam builds up the nerve to ask Phoebe out on a date, his first in five years.  No pressure. They meet in Central Park, and the sparks fly predictably. We already know what Adam’s issues are. And Phoebe wastes no time telling him hers: She’s a breast cancer survivor, her ex was an alcoholic, she won’t date addicts, hates everyone but him, and just ran a 10K and didn’t break a sweat. Afraid she’ll run another 10K in the opposite direction, Adam decides to keep his sex addiction a secret. 

From a story structure point of view, this is the proverbial “Faustian bargain” the lead actor always makes in the First Act of the movie.  It usually happens on or around page 30.  The Romantic Comedy Rulebook states that the lead character must either lie about themselves, or disguise themselves, in order to win over the love interest. But as time goes on, the lie and/or disguise starts to unravel and eventually comes back to bite them in the ass in Acts 2 & 3.

Because the focus is on Adam’s sex addiction in this movie, it’s easy to overlook Phoebe’s glaringly obvious “less risky” addictions along the way. This first date scene shows she’s got some dicey feedback loops running in that beautiful head of hers. Her claim that she “hates everyone except” Adam? Sure, on one level, this could make a guy feel really special. On another, it begs the question: Why would you ever join a club that would only admit you as a member? Total Red Flag. Exercise freak. Yellow flag. But hey, love is blind, right?

And then they kiss. And it makes you wish you actually were blind. Because it’s one of the worst movie kisses in the history of people kissing in movies. Paltrow, the consummate pro, is in it to win it with full labial activation. She is fluent in French and Spanish, after all.  Meanwhile, Ruffalo channels Captain Kirk’s 1970s pursed lip stratagem, a favorite of the boys over at NBC’s Standards & Practices. The kiss is just another example of the physical mismatch between the two actors. But this time even great acting can’t save the scene.

That said, I do have an enormous amount of sympathy for poor Mark (we're on a first-name basis in this paragraph, just FYI).  You see, like Mark, I too have been the perpetrator of a screen kiss gone horribly wrong…

The scene is Cartagena, Colombia in 2018. I was co-starring as the “husband” of a local actress in an indie production directed by one of my former screenwriting students. The script read something like: “Maria awakens from her year-long coma, sees her husband, and the couple kiss in celebration.”  So I’m thinking, hey, coma, probably groggy, doesn’t know where the hell she is, just a simple peck on the lips, and it’s a wrap.  But no. It seems Maria was catching up for a year of lost time. The director yelled “¡Acción!”  What happened next is still a blur, but I’m pretty sure the actress playing Maria raped my face.

 

It was awesome. But troubling as well. Even though it’s all about the craft, I was married at the time.  And this wasn’t Vegas, so what happened in Colombia wasn’t staying in Colombia unless I took drastic measures, like never telling anyone the actual name of the movie. Don’t bother trying to Google it.  I bought all the relevant SEO Keywords and buried them under a dead squirrel in my neighbor’s backyard. To this day I break out in cold sweats when Netflix premieres foreign movies en Español.

Anyway, back to my happy place: Crippling Addiction and Uncertain Recovery. 

 

So about 30 minutes into the movie, the mood of THANKS FOR SHARING begins to deviate away from Hollywood fantasy over into real-world serious. We start to see real consequences. Neil (Gad) goes first. He loses his job for trying to take secret videos up his (female) boss’ skirt. Total pervert stuff. But what follows is one of the most powerful scenes in the movie. In his 12-Step meeting right after his termination, instead of taking another sobriety chip he hasn't earned, he shares. He admits that he’s been lying about his sobriety the whole time. He adds, tearfully, “I’m out of control. I’m scared.” 

For anyone who has experienced a similar “come-to-Jesus” moment in a 12-Step meeting (even as a spectator), you know how powerful and transformational these moments can be. For some people, this is the most important moment in their lives. A moment that might SAVE their lives. AA knows this. And that is why at this precise moment of what amounts to a confession, AA provides you the solution: Surrender to your Higher Power.  Steps 1-3. Ask any evangelical Christian who has “seen the light” about their conversion experience. They’re almost identical to what people experience in a 12-Step meeting every day.

It's nice to see Neil’s “conversion” moment happened in the way that it did. Hollywood has had a tendency to make light of mutual support meetings, or even turn them into the butt of jokes.  Remember FIGHT CLUB where Tyler Durden and Marla Singer argue over which support meetings they want the other to avoid? “Sickle Cell Awareness Group”, and “Tuberculosis Wednesday Night Confessional”. FINDING NEMO features a scene where Bruce the shark and his support buddies all get together for their “Fish Eaters Anonymous” meeting.  Don’t get me wrong; the scene is absolutely hilarious. And as I’ve always said, you need a good sense of humor to succeed at the whole recovery thing.  But it was nice to see the power of this moment conveyed respectfully and honestly in the movie, instead of being played for laughs.

After Neil’s powerful share, it’s also nice to see the power of AA fellowship in action. All the members of the group embrace him, support him, and offer help. Even Adam, who has every right to be mad at his sponsee for lying to him the whole time, embraces this as an opportunity to deepen his own resolve. People often forget that what happens outside of meetings is just as important as the meeting itself. The 12-Step Fellowship generates a wonderful multiplier effect. To be “of service” is tantamount to serving yourself. 

But we must remember that this is still a Hollywood movie, so Neil’s 12-Step meeting moment needs to lead somewhere. In this case, it crashes headlong into Pink, a fellow sex addict, who he befriends.  Maybe because she’s Pink, and her whole M.O. is “I don’t give a fuck what you think”, but she’s got arguably the best lines of the whole movie. Scratch that. She has the best lines of the whole movie, period. There’s nothing cosmetic about her in-group shares. They’re blunt and honest, a bit titillating, and also strangely hilarious. “I ruined my relationship with my best friend by fucking her old man.”  Maybe it’s her deadpan delivery that makes a screw-up like this seem funny. Either way, when the laughter stops, a harsh reality also sets in when she says: “There has to be another way or I’m going to fucking kill myself.” 

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If it's okay with everyone, I'm just going to steal this movie...

PINK in THANKS FOR SHARING

This line reminds us that, all laughter aside, there are serious lurking consequences here.  It’s perhaps also why movie critics felt that the movie’s tone was all over the place (it is) and didn’t quite know whether it was a comedy or a drama (it doesn’t).  I would argue that it’s both, and everything else in-between for that matter.  It’s the reason the movie is so important and effective at what it does.  It packs so much into a mere 1 hour and 52 minutes. And for me, it totally works.

By contrast, Adam has had a relatively easy time during the whole movie. He and Phoebe hook up and decide to go steady. They make love, but since it’s consensual and monogamous, it doesn’t constitute a relapse. She does a wonderful striptease performance for him, and he barely raises an eyebrow, even after five years on the lamb. So, just what is his “problem?”  Whatever “sex addiction” he has is the cute and cuddly kind and doesn’t seem to have negatively affected him or anyone else. 

But unfortunately, his Faustian Bargain eventually comes due and Neil’s forced to come clean to Phoebe. And this is where the “sex addiction” that’s been a whimsical narrative pretext throughout the movie suddenly takes on a more ominous dimension. Neil confesses to compulsive masturbation, rampant womanizing, and hiring prostitutes. The latter is the bitterest pill to swallow for most women in a committed relationship, not just Phoebe.  Any boyfriend can cheat on you at any time with anyone and give you a nasty sexually transmitted disease. Unless you’re celibate, it’s the cost of doing business. But imagine the calculus when your boyfriend is an admitted sex addict who may still have the escort service’s number on speed dial?  

So what’s poor Phoebe to do?  Well, like everyone else who loves an addict, she has to trust. And that’s an even more bitter pill to swallow sometimes. There is a telling scene where she breaks into tears in front of Katie (Joely Richardson). Katie also loves an addict, her husband Mike. Phoebe worries that Adam could relapse at any time. There are never guarantees.  Any promise that he’ll be sober only exists as an indefinite possibility, not a fact. Imagine for a moment what this is like for people like Katie. Basing your entire emotional life around a person who can destroy everything you’ve built together in one single relapse.

The scene is perfunctory, and could easily have ended up on the cutting room floor and not changed the outcome of the story either way. But writer-director Blumberg chose to keep it because it’s beautiful and sincere, and allows Katie to tell Phoebe (and the audience) something critically important to the friends and family and loved ones of addicted individuals. The best way for them to live with the constant uncertainty, the ever-present possibility of a loved-one’s relapse, is to focus on self-care. To work on themselves. To get stronger.  They cannot stop living their lives just because everything could end at any moment. And they can’t live their life thinking that it will end at any moment either. So they trust, but verify. And wait. And hope. And live.

Sadly, when Phoebe does try to verify whether Adam is telling the truth, it kills their relationship. It’s a simple set up, and happens in relationships all the time. One partner overhears a suspicious conversation, usually late at night. The partner hangs up when the other enters the room.  In this case, Phoebe asks Adam who he was speaking to so late at night.  Adam’s tepid answer is unconvincing. So Phoebe does something that you can and should do with Adam: Trust but verify. She asks to see his phone so she can see who he was actually talking to.  Adam says no. He refuses to have Phoebe invade his privacy. She grabs the phone, realizes he was telling the truth. But the damage is done. They part ways.

This scene is pivotal, well written, and well acted.  But it also highlights an aspect of the family and friends of addicts story that takes on added significance if you’ve actually lived it. And I have, with my ex-wife, many times.  It is common - and in many respects healthy - for someone with an addiction to want to “move on” with their lives. But in the same way that substances like alcohol distort your thinking, sobriety does as well. The result is what I call “Sobriety Sanctimony”.  Desperate to put the past behind them, an addict becomes angry when a loved one pushes back on a verification.  Just like Adam does in this scene.  

I can’t tell you how many times this happened to me.  My wife would look at me, squint, and ask “have you been drinking?”  I would get angry and say “Of course not; are you crazy?!”  I would literally expect her to trust me.  I would sometimes demand it.  And this, even though she had no reason to trust me.  She would push back and say, “Trust you? Dude, you’ve been sober a week! Hello!”  And yeah, she shouldn’t have trusted me. I wouldn’t even have trusted me.  I’m glad she verified.  It is a frustrating feature of recovery, but it’s also a necessary maxim: An individual in recovery’s relapse rate will always be non-zero.  And you’re only as good as your last breath test.

RECOVERY MOVIE MEET-UPs

This dynamic plays itself out in a similar but more complex way in Mike’s home. He and Katie discover that a bottle of pain pills has gone missing.  They automatically assume Danny took them and has relapsed. And why wouldn’t they? They have every reason to. So they confront Danny, who denies stealing anything. An argument begins. And in the ensuing five minutes, writer-director Blumberg uses the conflict to channel some of the deepest insights about addiction and recovery that I have ever heard outside of a book or clinical context.  

As they argue, it becomes clear just how deep Mike’s own “Sobriety Sanctimony” goes.  If he says Danny took the pills, Danny took the pills. End of story. Danny should have gone to meetings. End of story. Mike’s way is the ONLY way.  The RIGHT way.  After years of sobriety, he thinks he’s “earned” the RIGHT to be right.  But he hasn’t earned anything.

What’s more, in the argument it comes out that when Mike was drinking, he used to come home drunk and beat Danny.  Mike’s sanctimony gets ratcheted up even higher.  How dare Danny bring that up?! Why isn’t he over that? The past is the past! We’re talking about right now! 

Danny fires back, calling his father out for never, ever apologizing.

 

“Dad, say you're sorry!” says Danny.

“I'm not saying I'm sorry to you!” his father answers, utterly tone-deaf to what’s happening around him.  

 

And indeed, why should he apologize?  Because let’s face it, sober sanctimonious people are always right. Why would they ever need to apologize? 

And here is where the movie takes the recovery conversation to its zenith. I watched this scene over and over.  Not because I understood Mike with all his flaws, but because I had been Mike with all his flaws. Even though my alcohol problem never led to my wife suffering any physical abuse, there’s always the emotional kind. The worry of not knowing if I’d get home okay. The anxiety caused by my mood swings. For years I had demanded that my wife forgive me. I had apologized in the best ways I knew how. And so I expected her to forgive me. On my timeline, not hers.  Because I had worked for it. Because I was sober now.  Because this time was different.  

“Don’t you get it?” I would ask her. 

Turns out I was the one who wasn’t getting it, because I was too busy trying to be right. So I totally understand why Mike wants to move on from the past. Because for any person in recovery, the past kind of sucks. Bringing it up generates a lot of guilt. Guilt causes anxiety. Anxiety exacerbates urges. And urges lead to relapses. 

So there are two opposing forces at work here. There’s Mike’s desire to put his past behind him, lessen the guilt, and lower his risk of possible relapse. And then there’s Danny’s need for his father to truly atone for his sins, apologize, and seek forgiveness. It’s really the only way that father and son can move on with both their lives. But like in my own experience, and that of millions of others grappling with the same rival impulses, you simply cannot expect people to forgive your behavior on your timeline just so you can move on. They need to move on first.

The movie then takes a dark turn. But it’s important that we see it, because it reflects what happens in real life for real people in real recovery. After his blowout with Phoebe, Adam relapses. And we finally see how what started as Adam’s cute and cuddly “sex addiction” is really Adam’s kinky and weird Sex Addiction. He masturbates, hires a prostitute, and hooks up with one of his old S&M slaves.  Basically most of the sex-related sins of the bible, minus incest. But by the look on Adam’s face as he pleasures himself, I’m not sure we could rule that out either.

Similarly, Mike’s fight with Danny also has adverse consequences.  Because let’s face it, fights are extremely stress-inducing.  It is very common for people who fight with loved ones about their addiction to use it as a reason to reactivate their addiction in response. It’s an almost autonomic “fuck you, I’ll show you a thing or two” kind of response.  AKA a case of the “Fuck-its.”  And yes, it’s childish, but it’s caused more relapses than I care to mention. 

And that’s exactly what happens to Mike as he visits a neighborhood convenience store after the fight with Danny. Fuck it.  After hemming and hawing for a few seconds, he asks the clerk for a bottle of Jameson Whisky. Robbins’ expression is priceless.  It so precisely conveys the absolute confusion, madness and banality of that moment. I’ve been through it dozens of times, and all I can say is that it’s as close as you can come to having an out-of-body experience without drugs, or hypoxia, or direct stimulation of the vestibular cortex.  But also banal in the sense that the act itself is so simple. You buy a fifth of whiskey. It’s usually cheaper than bottled water. Done and done. And then…chaos.

The scene also captures how easy it is for a simple substance like alcohol to derail even the most die-hard, longest-running teetotalers like Mike. Pride and reputation and achievement count for nothing.  I know people who have gone 30 years sober, gone to a thousand meetings, become leaders in the recovery community, and then go on to order a glass of wine at dinner for no particular reason and wind up living in a park addicted to meth six months later. We always think of relapses as catastrophic, and they are, but only as they pertain to actual consequences.  The act of relapse itself usually takes less than a minute, depending on your drug of choice.  T.S. Eliot said it best: The world “ends not with a bang, but a whimper.”  

But luckily at this whimpering moment, Mike gets a phone call from Katie that Danny has been in a bad automobile accident. He rushes to the hospital, but luckily Danny is alive, albeit roughed up, and handcuffed to the hospital bed because he relapsed and totaled a car.  Turns out that Mike was right after all. Danny couldn’t do it alone.  But will Mike’s Sobriety Sanctimony kick in?  If it did, we could also add Sobriety Hypocrite to his name tag. But luckily Mike’s paternal instincts prevail, and he hugs Danny instead of judging him. And this is how it usually goes down in a lot of these situations. Against the mind’s better judgment, the heart chooses to forgive. And to forgive is to move forward, albeit always into indeterminism and uncertainty. For that is Recovery.

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A similar rapprochement happens between Adam and Phoebe. With the benefit of time, distance, and a little water under the bridge, they meet in Central Park and are reminded of how the other person made them feel, versus the problems that forced each to overthink their relationship.  Phoebe had every reason to mistrust Adam, but she also admits that she has her own issues to address, like perfectionism. Sobriety Sanctimony sometimes cuts both ways, and it’s too easy for the “sober” person in the relationship to lorde this over their loved one.  We are reminded that “those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.”

Rounding out the three storylines we end on Josh Gad’s character, Neil. His arc during the movie has been entirely the reverse of Adam’s and Mike’s. He faced his demons at the beginning of the story, and by the end - thanks to Pink’s help - he is a 12-Step warrior ninja.  His full acceptance of the program, his patient implementation of the steps, and his dedication to his own recovery journey shows that 12-Steps can work “if you work it.” And Neil does, by buying a bike, avoiding subways (and associated frottage temptations) and talking it all out with his mother and (maybe?) new love interest Pink.  

THANKS FOR WATCHING is an enjoyable, funny, intentionally precise and honest movie that allows us to peel back the curtain on the “dark underside” of recovery, warts and all.  And this is not a “bad” thing.  Everybody knows that long-term, successful recovery ain’t all rainbows and unicorns. I know this through experience. This movie hits so close to home that it shattered all my windows, and it’s the reason it’s featured prominently and proudly in the RECOVERY MOVIE MEET-UPs Program. 
 

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