Why Should I Avoid Depictions of Drug or Alcohol Use on Television and Movies?

Identifying and taking the necessary preventative measures to avoid potential triggers will make up a large part of the recovery efforts for patients with addictive disorders. This will involve increasing self-awareness about the shifting moods and emotional responses to activities, locations, people, and even television programs and movies. Once transitioned into their independent sober living situations, clients might want to constantly check-in with themselves to gauge their reactions and emotional responses to measure their sobriety comfort levels better. 


In early recovery, not every trigger will be immediately identifiable. Some will change from safe to full-blown trigger warnings, and others will be unavoidable. The amount of variables that could lead to relapse is one of the main reasons why those in recovery should avoid drug/alcohol depictions in movie and television programs.


The “Newness” of Sobriety


Much of sobriety, both in practice and thought, might be entirely new for clients. This newness can often come across as uncomfortable. Clients might often be tempted either through active choice or by subconscious inclinations to regress to their previous addictive behaviors and thought patterns that initially led those individuals to seek out treatment in the first place. This may sound unlikely and slightly unreasonable with all the self-awareness and learned recovery techniques that clients gain. Still, the urges will persist despite an individual’s recognition that substance misuse will most certainly lead to discomfort. 


For many of those in addiction recovery, this feeling of discomfort may have been the only comfort they could consistently rely on. Their substance misuse was most likely a form of self-medication that must have worked to some degree. Substance misuse was never a sustainable solution to trauma or mental health problems. Yet, it served as a manageable means of coping with anxiety or trauma for much of their adult lives. 


Clients might already feel the pull to revert to unhealthy habits when faced with the same stressors in everyday life. These stressors are bound to surface eventually. They hardly need to add to these addictive inclinations by watching television programs or films that may further plant the seeds for substance use. Those in addiction recovery may even be completely unaware of the effect that the repetitive images of drug or alcohol use have on their subconscious. However, the suggestive nature of an addictive mindset can be triggered in a client simply through the repetitive sights and sounds of substance use.


Romanticizing Drug and Alcohol Use


Aside from the increased risk for subconscious inclinations toward substance misuse, movies and television programs have a bad habit of romanticizing addictive behaviors that recovery treatments are trying to eradicate. Clients will already find themselves eager to paint their previous life of substance misuse in a favorable light, and they do not need further encouragement from movies and television programs. Commercials alone are practically synonymous with romanticizing the culture of alcohol consumption. Even cautionary tales will occasionally nail a feeling in a scene about drug or alcohol use, which could incite an urge to use again.


We are not suggesting that addiction recovery patients run out of the room or stop watching television altogether simply because beer commercials air almost as frequently as automobile and insurance advertisements. Light renditions of alcohol use tend not to cause any sort of immediate reaction worth noting for addiction recovery patients. Individuals in recovery, though, should still be aware of the content they are watching and how it affects their confidence in their long-term sobriety.


How to Handle Being Triggered By Substance Misuse Portrayals


There is no list here when it comes to being triggered by substance use portrayal. Addiction recovery patients simply have to be willing to turn off or walk away from a television program or movie. This may mean walking out of a movie theater or leaving a watch party with friends or family. In later stages of addiction recovery, patients will find themselves not as susceptible to these repeated images. However, even later on, clients would be wise to show caution with television and film that rely on substance misuse portrayal as a narrative arc for the story. They should constantly be checking in if such portrayal makes them uncomfortable or feel unsafe in their sobriety. It is always best to err on the side with caution and don’t watch in these instances. The best line of defense will still be the avoidance of any film or television program that has definitive and repetitive portrayals of alcohol and drug use


Television and film often romanticize alcohol and drug use portrayal, which can directly influence the behaviors of individuals struggling with an addictive disorder and subsequent substance misuse. If you or someone you love is struggling with impulse control and the urges of an addictive disorder with co-occurring mental health issues, then Choice House has the dual-diagnosis addiction recovery treatment services to help. We offer men the chance to achieve sobriety while they learn about preventative measures and self-awareness techniques. Located in the Boulder County area of Colorado with the Rocky Mountains nearby, our facilities offer treatment services that include a 90-day inpatient program, an intensive outpatient service, and a sober living campus. We help men start the process of building a new, sober foundation as they learn how to better cope with their addictive disorders. Through various therapeutic modalities, we prepare participants for re-entering their independent lives as sober individuals capable of facing the challenges from substance misuse influence no matter if they happen to be from tangible events or on-screen portrayals. For more information about Choice House facilities or addiction recovery treatment services, please give us a call at (720) 577-4422.

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