How do you feel when watching a movie showing addiction?



Movies, tv, and netflix are ways I like to relax with my loved one who is a recovering addict. Any time we watch something that involves someone smoking heroin/opiates, I immediately want to shut the TV off. I think something inside of me thinks it is going to trigger him into using or have cravings.

Anyone else feel this way?


@Selfcare31 I know this exact feeling all too well. My mom struggles with an alcohol addiction, and you can hardly get by a movie or TV show without there being some sort of reference to or usage of alcohol. When a movie shows two people catching up over some wine, that doesn’t affect me so much as when a movie shows teens or adults drunk at a raging party. I sort of just bite my tongue through it, sometimes I catch myself looking over at my mom’s expressions on her face and hope she isn’t being triggered or anything.


I used to watch / read everything I could on addiction, but now I find myself avoiding all media on it. I’ve seen enough out there and in my own experiences!! This has been a recent shift but I just couldn’t make myself watch any of these new movies or tv shows based on it that are getting lots of press.


@ashleykm3 I do the same thing! I try to be really discreet about looking over my shoulder and gauging his expression. He has caught me a few times and I try to pretend I saw a bug or something!


@polly I agree! There have been a lot of shows lately that revolve around drugs. It’s just been the recent trend. And my boyfriend LOVES these shows but I always feel a bit uncomfortable watching any related to heroin or opiates. Especially when they show them actually using in the way that my boyfriend typically uses.


Yes! I feel uncomfortable in the same way seeing a sex scene with your parents feels uncomfortable… :grimacing:


@Selfcare31 yeah my husband will normally make some joke about it that usually I laugh about but it’s also a little bit raw x


@katie That is such a perfect way to describe the awkwardness and uncomfortability I feel! I get worried he’ll want to use when he watches it happening on the screen though!


@katie wow nail on the head with this response! That feeling is so awkward!


Haha I just imagined this hehe x


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!


As I was reading your response @erica , I was thinking, “We should just ask people how they feel - why don’t we!?” (Myself included!) And then you said this:

Written out makes it seem so do-able… :raised_hands:t4:


I’ve definitely had that conversation with my husband!!


I think its very natural to feel that way and I also know for a fact that its a huge trigger for some addicts. Have you ever asked your loved one how he feels about it? My sons used to watch the movie “Requiem for a Dream” over and over, they called it drug porn even though it was a horrifically sad story line.

I don’t even like seeing drug use in movies, it triggers me to feel sad about my boys.


@erica I tend to do the same thing, I think since I’m in the psychology space! I find it really valuable to stay up to date with how the media is representing certain aspects of mental health. I’d say recently the representation has definitely been more realistic and respectful of people’s personal journeys. It can definitely get a bit triggering at times but I think these are the types of films/tv shows I end up being the most moved by, if done in the right way.


Oh yes. Even if I’m alone, sometimes I get this feeling in the pit of my stomach. It can feel like it’s everywhere.