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******SPOILER ALERT WARNING******
Sometimes, I like to go to the movies by myself.
It’s rare. Just going to the theater in the first place is pretty rare for me. It’s hard for me to sit still that long, my mind always racing to the work I should be doing, errands I should be running, all that fun grown-up responsibility stuff.
Yesterday though, I decided to go see “A Star Is Born”, with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. Full disclaimer before I continue with this post: spoilers ahead. Also, I’ve never seen any of the previous remakes or the original.
I’ve been a Gaga fan since 2009, and I saw her in concert on her Born This Way tour in 2012. I wasn’t an obsessive fan (never felt comfortable calling myself a “Little Monster“, for example), but I’ve been appreciating her talent for a while. As a fan, watching her sing so much in this movie was delightful.
The movie handled alcoholism and addiction a lot more sensitively than I would have expected. It was obvious to me that Bradley Cooper knew more than a little bit about this topic. It was hard to watch at at times, but for the right reasons. This wasn’t exaggerated; watching Jackson Main (Bradley) and Ally (Gaga) felt like watching real people, in real life. Well, “real” people who were also mega-stars, but even that felt secondary.
This movie scared me a little bit. Maybe a lot.
Jackson went through phases of sobriety through the movie, some short-lived, but he would try. He went to rehab. He wasn’t a wildly abusive drunk. In Jackson, I saw a man coping with trauma and confusion in the only way he really knew. His loved ones coddled and enabled him, to be sure. His brother, his friends, and then Ally would clean up behind him, pull him off the street, make sure he was ok for another night or day.
He was a full time job for them. That’s reality for most people who love somebody in active addiction. It’s a very, very tough place to be.
This scared me, because I saw myself in Jackson. Even though I didn’t drink like him, I immediately recognized the shared demons. Relapse scares me. I never want to go back to that place where I felt helpless, scared, dark, and powerless to stop even when it was hurting me.
It’s easy for me to take my sobriety for granted. Because I didn’t have obvious consequences (the kind that point directly to alcohol from an outside perspective, like a DUI), it would be easy for me to dismiss sobriety as a “helpful phase” of my life, and justify a drink – or two – or three. When I watched Jackson though, I saw what could be me if I started, and kept, drinking again.
I didn’t know what the end of the movie would be, but I had a hunch. They touched on suicide throughout the movie, and suicidal thoughts. By the end, I had tears streaming down my face. As soon as Ally’s manager gave Jackson that horrible speech, I knew. And having been in the program for 3+ years, my first thought was, “Dude – call somebody. Now. Go somewhere. NOW.”
Of course, it’s not always that easy. Our thoughts can lie to us. I just know that’s what I do when I start to feel a overwhelmingly hopelessness. I’ve been almost completely pulled under by despair before, although suicide isn’t where my mind goes. It goes to alcohol, lots of it, as soon as possible. In those moments, somehow from the depths of my brain, I also hear, “FIND SOMEBODY – NOW.”
Maybe one day, that won’t be enough, I don’t know.
I don’t dwell on the future. All I know is that on days when I felt like there was no point in going forward, somehow I got through anyway. Somebody answered the phone. People showed up to a meeting. Another sober day.
I saw Jackson stay isolated, spiral into his thoughts, and make up his mind. That’s when things get dark and dangerous, and of course they did for him as well. It reminded me of what could be waiting for me, if I don’t stay connected to recovery.
I’ve seen reviewers say that his suicide is framed as though it is supposed to be a noble sacrifice. I didn’t see it that way at all. I saw it as a tragic ending for a man who was getting better, and could have continued getting better.
There were other themes that I appreciated in the movie, though. Jackson’s speech to Ally about using her voice to say something real resonated with me. The way he pushed her to move past her fear and just put her words out to the public – that inspired me. I sit on many, many things that I create and never share. Why? It’s meant to be shared. Those parts of the movie helped me a lot. They are helping me finish this post and put it out there right now, actually. Begone, perfectionism.
Also – I’m obsessed with the song “Shallow” now. So beautiful.
Tell me something, boy
Aren’t you tired tryin’ to fill that void?
Or do you need more?
Ain’t it hard keeping it so hardcore?
In all the good times I find myself
Longing for change
And in the bad times I fear myself
Take it one day at a time, friends.
On the Edge of a Relapse at Two Years Sober
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Hi! I'm Ashley, and my sobriety date is May 6, 2015. I write to share my experience, strength, and hope in recovery. On any given day, you can find me developing websites, writing, or chauffeuring kids around. Read my story...
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O! Thank you for this post! It is awesome that “A Star Is Born” inspired you!
I really liked this movie and was blown away by Lady Gaga. I cried watching it and talking about it with my husband. “He should have called someone!” I told him! It made me feel so sad because recovery has been the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I wish everyone could experience the love that is shared among us.
Thank you again!