Julia Roberts starrer, Ben is back is a highly acclaimed movie that is essential viewing to all those have seen, heard or experienced the horrible effect of opioid addiction. The movie does not tell us about how the problem begins but instead shows how family’s are coping with an addict’s repeated but failed attempts to break his habit.
Holly (Julia Roberts) is the mother of Ben, an opioid addict, who is ‘back’ (unannounced) from a recovery home to celebrate Christmas. The glee on Holly’s face contrasts with the horror on Ben’s sister’s face, who immediately texts her father to come home. Then starts the challenge of how to keep Ben away from his addiction, and yet allow him home. The lies, the ‘ispies’; the charm, the emotions; vs the rational and logical – all plays out within the 6 members of the family. The viewer can identify his/her own feelings in either member of the family-and it can help you in deciding (by the end of the film ) whether you need to change or not.
We see how, people in the town react on seeing Ben, a mother and a father whose daughter died of an overdose, a friend, a drug addict, a dealer for whom Ben was a drug carrier, and a girl for whom Ben was a drug supplier. Human emotions are a varied lot. The mother is grieving sadly while the father wants to break Ben, he does break the glass window of the car Ben is in. The friend is just friendly but Ben’s mother is suspicious. That’s the way parents of a drug addict become, every person who meets their son appears to be an addict. The girl to whom Ben supplied drugs, wants to get on a high one last time before going to a rehab centre, and they discuss this at a recovery meeting! Its an indication of how strong the urge is, and one last time is a crave that often never lasts, it keeps postponing sobriety indefinitely, this is why rehab centres are so essential for getting rid of an addiction. Getting admitted means the last time happened yesterday and not tomorrow!
But it is the mother, whose emotional glee, modifying the rules and anger at being asked to be firm when reminded of her commitment; that stands out. If you are a mother of an addict, you will identify with Holly and should learn that your ‘enabling behaviour’ can aggravate the problem and impede recovery.
In the movie, things go out of Holly’s hand quickly, and Ben is caught in his drug supplier’s net once again followed by giving into the urge and od-ing again. 77 days sober and that is the longest that Ben has ever been. Ben is back!
There is also important mention of how doctors and pharmacies are also enabling the problem in the US.
Holly wishes a horrible death to a doctor who first prescribed oxycodeine to Ben (In Delhi, you can get it from quacks and shops anyway). Then there is a pharmacy which does not stock a nasal emergency antidote for an opioid overdose, the pharmacist labelling the emergency medicine as indicative of supporting irresponsible behavior. Yet, the same pharmacist has no qualms, no questions asked approach when selling a syringe to Ben in the early hours of the morning. Unreasonable, in my view, to sell syringes over the counter, but India offers trading and selling in opioids so much easily and freely and affordably, that syringes are the least of our worries.