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The taboo world of addiction at The Art

There are over 23 million Americans recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. In spite of this, the topic is often looked down upon, and the people that are trying to deal with recovery are judged or pushed to the wayside. Sure, the A&E network took an hour once a week to show us people in different states all suffering from one common problem, but the issue remains a taboo that only a specific group have the burden to carry.

Coming soon to The Art Theatre Co-op, the documentary film The Anonymous People is “told through the faces and voices of the citizens, leaders, volunteers, corporate executives, and public figures who are laying it all on the line to save the lives of others just like them.” This according to a release written by the film’s director, Greg D. Williams.

Veronica Valli, the host of the event, is a therapist and life coach who has been focalized in the world of addiction for over ten years. Valli also runs her own self-titled blog that covers the life of addiction. And Valli was once an addict herself, making her intimately familiar with the 23 million Americans dealing with addiction.

“One of the great things about being clean and sober is, when you finally admit that you have a problem and get help, you do begin to see that you’re not alone,” says Valli. “It can be very lonely, being an alcoholic. I was a binge drinker. I binge-drank my way through college like many students are doing now. When I left college I just began to gravitate towards people that drank excessively the way I did. I had a job, I had a career, and I was well travelled. But I wasn’t close to seeing my potential. I was lonely, frightened, and full of anxiety and fear. None of those things I was equipped to deal with. At 27 I finally broke down and got some help, and my life has been truly transformed since then.”

Valli, who now works to inform the public about problematic drinking problems and a life of addiction, has witnessed how pressure from society has left the topic an unmentionable one.

“A really good comparison is the recent death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman,” says Valli. “He died of addiction, everybody knows that, and there was a difference between how he was treated and when James Gandolfini died. [Gandolfini] died of heart disease, which is also a disease. But both actors were treated entirely differently. The perception of the two diseases is very different in the public eye. You don’t even have to look at Gandolfini to tell that he wasn’t doing what he needed to do to take care of his disease. Yet, nobody was saying, ‘Oh what a shame, he threw his life away’ the way they did with Hoffman.”

The Anonymous People works toward breaking down stigmas associated with the world of addiction.

“It’s the beginning of a movement where people who are addicts and alcoholics are not going to be silent and hide in the shadows and be ashamed anymore,” says Valli. “There’s a real call for people for people to speak out and say, ‘Yeah, I’m an addict; I’m an alcoholic, too, and recovery is possible.’”

According to its press release, The Anonymous People won’t feature “needles hanging out of people’s arms, pictures of the brain or fried eggs in a pan.” But this film in particular aims to give hope and encouragement to people suffering from addiction.

“It’s a really hopeful film,” says Valli. “It’s an empowering film and people will feel really positive, empowered, and proud to be a person in recovery when they watch it.”

The Anonymous People will be showing for one night only at The Art Theater Co-op in downton Champaign. The screening begins at 7:30 p.m. on March 10th, and all guests are welcome to attend the showing. It should be noted, however, that tickets are not available through The Art, but rather through this website.

Says Valli, “I really want people [who are] interested to take the opportunity to come and see it because it will only be here once, and it really spreads the word that recovery from addiction is possible.”

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