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WVPB's continuing coverage of the opioid crisis affecting West Virginia.

Film Screenings An Opportunity To Learn, To Care

Screenshot from the "Recovery Boys" trailer.
Elaine McMillion Sheldon

Tonight West Virginia Public Broadcasting is co-sponsoring a free film screening of Recovery Boys, the latest documentary by Academy Award-nominated director Elaine Sheldon, at Marshall University in Huntington. The doors of Joan C. Edwards Playhouse open at 7pm.

The event is part of WVPB’s Recovery project, a community engagement effort emphasizing recovery from substance use disorder is possible and help is available.

The 90-minute film follows 4 young West Virginia men for about 18 months, as they move through the often-excruciating journey of substance use disorder detox, rehab and recovery.

It’s available to view on Netflix but Sheldon has organized panel discussions following the screenings to encourage community dialogue. The filmmakers and the men followed in the film take questions and comments from their theater audience.

“It’s one thing to watch the film, it’s another to interact with the guys you just saw struggling in the film. You meet them as humans,” said Sheldon following a screening in Morgantown last month.

“That’s how we break down stigma. That’s how we learn what they need to help them get better.”

Recovery Boys is set largely in Aurora, WV, at Jacob’s Ladder rehabilitation facility. Kevin Blankenship, M.D., is its founder, and has been attending the public screenings to offer a medical perspective.

“Addiction is an area of medicine and of society that we have neglected to really advance until just in the past few years,” said Blankenship. “Overcoming the actual physical addiction is the easy part, relatively speaking. Dealing with the underlying issues of trauma and mental health issues and socioeconomic issues that are underlying the substance use disorder – that’s the really hard part.”

“We have to learn to put ourselves in someone else's shoes, to try to understand where they're coming from. Meet them where they're at, and at least care,” he said. “Have some compassion. Have some love. If we all did that for one another, a lot of these problems could be solved along the way.”

One of the young men followed in the film is known only as Ryan. He successfully completed the rehab program and is now residing in a sober living home in Morgantown and is a peer counselor for others entering recovery.

“There are a lot of guys at the treatment center working that are in long term recovery themselves that you see in the documentary,” said Ryan. “They are giving back kind of the same way that I like to give back now.”

“So it just takes a whole community to bring some of us out of addiction.”

RSVPs for tonight’s screening of Recovery Boys at Marshall University are requested at wvpublic.org. You can also find more information there about a screening near you.

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