Scott McClane’s candid honesty and compelling story of years toiling with addiction reminded me of the power of oral history. This is illuminated in Richard’s assertion, “helping another alcoholic is the best way to sustain sobriety.” An essential part of the solution to the epidemic of addiction is for us to hear the honest stories of those who have endured and survived the disease to find long-term sobriety. It’s vital we hear narratives that detail the journey to successful lives in recovery as a template or model for those seeking hope.

McClane is right that Anonymous People fails to reflect the challenging personal dynamics of recovery. For me, it’s fine to consider the documentary as optimistic advocacy, but would be dangerous to assume it’s a multi-dimensional depiction of addiction and recovery. Something I’ve learned in the rooms of 12-step programs is how vibrant and colorful personalities in recovery often prove. For those unfamiliar with the energy of “the rooms,” there is a great deal of humor and humanity doled out to offset the weight of pain and strain addiction has created. I felt McClane proved effective in communicating the broad spectrum of feelings and experiences in the journey of recovery.

Richard’s story was also inspirational, as he aptly explained his journey is dually similar and entirely different than McClane’s. Richard’s narrative reveals the reality addiction doesn’t discriminate; it’s not based on socio-economics, education, or career path. Even in the face of immense professional and familial responsibilities, drugs and alcohol had a vice grip on Richard’s life. It’s not easy to reveal the details of addiction to a group of people, yet it’s altruistic to do so.

There is evidence altruism fires up a dopamine cascade in our limbic system akin to using — so it’s quite possible the anecdotal power of A.A. is driven by some semblance of science. Even as I sometimes struggle with the tenets of 12-step programs in my recovery process, I firmly believe the bonds of intense honesty in the rooms fosters deep and rewarding relationships, like the one we find between Richard and McClane.

*This post was edited in January 2019 to remove the last name of one of the guest speakers at his request.