Moving Forward – Julia Verdin at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival


Combating the stigma attached to addiction is key in fighting this social epidemic.

Anybody who has watched a person that they care about struggle with substance abuse, or who has personally gone through that struggle, understands how difficult it is to ask for help. Often times this is a result of feelings of shame or guilt, sometimes because of the decisions they have made, or other times because of the damage they have caused. Sometimes, however, these feelings come from not wanting to be seen as one of “those people.”

There is a certain stigma attached to addiction – often people think of drug addiction or alcoholism as being limited to the guy living under the bridge drinking from a brown paper bag or hiding in a dark alleyway waiting for someone to rob. And these false preconceived notions can sometimes make people refuse to reach out for help and seek treatment when their lives have spun out of control.

It’s important to break through this stigma if we are going to effectively combat the epidemic of addiction that our society faces. Sharing information and educating people on the truth regarding addiction and recovery is the most powerful tool that we have at our disposal in these efforts. By reaching out to others to open discussions regarding these issues, we can show others who might be struggling with addiction that there is no shame in admitting that there is a problem and that they need help.

One of the best ways we have found to do this is through sponsorship of various events that allow us to speak frankly with people about addiction and recovery. Recently, we traveled to Park City, Utah during the 2017 Sundance Film Festival as the sponsor of The EcoLuxe Lounge, a showcase of some of the world’s leading innovators of eco-friendly services, technologies, and products, organized by Debbie Durkin of Durkin Entertainment, the industry-leading producer of on-screen sustainable product placement. The EcoLuxe Lounge, which makes appearances at various awards ceremonies and red-carpet events throughout the year, was held in The Blue Iguana in Downtown Park City and was visited by hundreds of entertainment industry professionals and Sundance Festivalgoers.

Hosting the Choices Recovery Media Center inside the EcoLuxe Lounge was our good friends Gretchen Rossi and Slade Smiley, stars of reality TV show “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” who spent her day speaking with dozens of actors, producers, and Hollywood insiders. Among them was Julia Verdin, whose career has spanned over 30 years and has included acting, producing, casting director, and writer. Her most recent work, “Lost Girls,” is about the tragedy of human trafficking, and she understands how important the influence of her industry in the world.

The trio talked about how the two causes of addiction and human trafficking intersect. “There’s a big recovery element because when teenagers are trafficked, they’re often drugged,” she explains. “So, they have to go through extensive rehab, and organizations struggle with having enough resources to support.” This is very true in many aspects of addiction – and one of the ways we can combat this is by raising awareness. The more people know about the issues surrounding substance abuse, and about the various options in treatment that are available today, the better prepared our society will be to handle these problems in effective ways.

Julia also touched on the problem with stigmas. “People’s perception is that trafficking is something that goes on in third world countries, and it’s right here in our backyard,” she says of the cause behind her film. “People just want to kind of turn a blind eye and pretend it doesn’t exist.” The same is true with addiction. People may want to ignore it or pretend it isn’t that bad, which will only make things worse. “Families often struggle with enabling,” Julia points out. “They give them money, or more leeway, or keep bailing them out. People have to make that choice to recover. Whatever happens in life, we all have to make a choice.” Fighting the stigma that makes people want to ignore substance abuse until it is too late is perhaps the most important part of our mission in the battle against addiction.

At Choices Recovery, we are dedicated to making a difference in the world through working towards a safer, healthier, and more positive environment for everyone. With the help of people like Julia Verdin, we can continue to share our message of leading a clean and sober lifestyle without addiction, reaching more ears and touching more lives than we could on our own.

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