Maybe this is because I chose working in the field as a profession, but I usually seek these films out and love them! When the Tribeca Film Festival comes to town, I buy tickets to all addiction related films.
When I happen to watch them with my brother who is in recovery, we actually tend to make jokes and laugh. This may be to reduce any awkward feelings (as a defense mechanism) or to try and make light of a dark time in his life. This could also be because he is in long term recovery at the moment.
During my time working at outpatient rehabs, I would have to lead psychoeducation workshops once a week. Oftentimes I would show a video clip or film. And I was very mindful of the content of what I was showing to make sure it wouldn’t be triggering (showing direct substance use). This was for people in very early recovery. And while I type this I’m thinking of all the other things in films that could be triggers that we may not even be aware of. Such as: a happy relationship, someone living a lavish life, someone going to the pharmacy or doctor, even certain streets that remind out loved ones of places they used (this list could go on and on).
I think if we, as supportive loved ones, find ourselves in these situations and feel uncomfortable, it could be a cool moment to look at as an opportunity to communicate about it! A simple, “Hey I’m going to pause this for a minute, this scene is making me feel a bit anxious. How is it making you feel?” or “Woah this scene is making me uncomfortable which I think comes from my concern for how you’re experiencing it. Do you feel comfortable watching movies with scenes like this in it? Or should we put on a Disney cartoon?”
The above examples are just off the top of my head but it’s cool to find opportunity in regular daily moments to learn a little more about yourself and your loved one, and find openings to have conversations about the topic of substance use!