The film episode I chose, “I’m addicted to heroin,” centered on the lives of three young adults who are addicted or have been addicted to heroin and other drugs. The episode follows their day-to-day life, walking us through what it is like to be dependent on a substance so strong. Chloe, Ryan, and Olivia all experience have different experiences with the drug and find help as best they can, given their circumstances. When it comes to identifying what type of narrative surrounded the stories of these three individuals, I realized that they were all different. For Ryan, it was the quest narrative, for Chloe, it was the chaos narrative, and for Olivia it was restitution narrative with a bit of chaos mixed in. The narratives all aim towards one purpose, identifying the problem (whether its known to society or not) and finding ways or people to help in the coping process or somewhere along those lines. However, though these narratives put a name on the different aspects of the heroin addiction, they do not guarantee recovery and at times the categorization is wrong. The culture/stigma surrounding heroin addiction is usually that only people who are already at the bottom rungs of society get addicted. Not only this, within our own western society, addicts are more often than not portrayed as criminals. According to an article by Dr. Richard Juman, “Addicts are scorned by communities, and celebrities … are exploited…And while the government purports to view addiction as a disease, it often works in opposition to that position…” Addiction should be seen as a mental instability rather than a happenstance and just part of the unfortunate circumstances within society. One of the eight points that Dr. Juman considers is that “the mental health profession ostracizes people with addictive disorders,” a concept that is more real within our society than others.
Within the episode, only Ryan attained actual medical help before the addiction took control of his life. Being prescribed the Suboxone, which helps with narcotic withdrawals and the associated physical symptoms, Ryan was able to put his life on track before it was too late. Ryan ends up seeing his fight as a step forward, even when he pleads guilty to his previous charges of heroin possession. Olivia had open heart and lung surgery due to an infection with needle usage-which she attained from shooting up heroin with dirty needles. Olivia thought she’d be clean, on the constant rollercoaster of ‘today I am sick, but tomorrow I’ll be better’ that the restitution narrative describes. Olivia does eventually get Suboxone, but without adequate support from her family and enforced medical treatment, she relapses again and again. Perhaps the worst case is Chloe, who’d been balancing her life and heroin addiction for the last 7 years of her life without any actual recovery. Chloe upholds the chronic narrative till the end; never getting better regardless of how many rehabs she attends or which prescription clinics give her to battle the addictive tendencies.
The sick role throughout the episode was so clear that it was insane to watch Olivia and Chloe fall so hard. I guess that’s the gravity of being addicted to heroin. We, as the audience, can’t understand how they cant just stop and we can see where the exit signs are when they cant. Lecture 1 offered three aspects to the sick role: Acknowledgment, Seeking Help, and Excuse. All three candidates understood that their health was indeed abnormal and that they needed help. They all looked for professional help, though some were more persistent than others. What I saw in all three was that they were excused from almost every social regular responsibility that any 18-21 year old should have. These include, but are not limited to: attending school and getting a job. I feel like not enough people believed in Olivia and Chloe’s recovery and they themselves could not mentally escape it as a result since they’d fallen so far in.
I believe these narratives are helpful to some, not all. Though the lecture states that these narratives offer the teller a way of making sense of their suffering/illness and allows the listener to feel “less isolated” and develop/become a role model. However, after watching the episode, this did not become the case for Ryan, Olivia, or Chloe. Though Ryan was the anomaly who actually recovered, Olivia and Chloe only got worse or never left the drug just used it less often (like in Olivia’s case). Though I, as the listener, did view them as models of what I wouldn’t do in life, it did nothing to help them get better within their own lives. Had there been an implementation of a placebo for Olivia and Chloe, things might have been different for them. However, for that, you would need medical professionals who would actually care. I believe the benefits of these narratives is only within those that it works for, but it is not an absolute no matter how many test say that it works for a large population of people. Individuality, in my opinion, trumps any medical diagnosis based on past histories of others or the majority population.