While most of us are stuck at home to stop the spread of COVID-19, we may be looking to escapism. But just because it’s escapist doesn’t mean it can’t be realistic. When I want storylines about addiction and sobriety, I prefer comedies, especially right now. They give me something I can relate to in a format that is easier to process. Most comedies dealing with addiction also have more depth. Many are written by people who are in recovery themselves, making the portrayals more accurate and human. Below are some comedies that deal with substance use and recovery.
This new show, which came to Netflix March 19th, is the semi-autobiographical story of comedian Mae Martin’s struggle with addiction. Her character, also named Mae, has a history of abusing cocaine and other drugs. While at the start of the show, Mae hasn’t used for years, she’s struggling. We see her reluctantly attending NA meetings, questioning everything the group’s leader says, and channeling her addictive tendencies into other venues. She falls in love and quickly moves in with a closeted woman. This relationship becomes a sort of drug for her. We learn early on that Mae’s struggle with addiction goes back to when she was a teenager. She’s still processing anger at her parents—with an incredible performance by Lisa Kudrow as Mae’s overbearing mom—for kicking her out of the house when she was young. The show is really funny, powerful and at times heartbreaking. Heads up, though: Mae still drinks.
This is a very dark comedy/cartoon about a horse, BoJack Horseman, who used to be famous and is obsessed with his glory days. Throughout the series, BoJack—voiced by Will Arnett, who is himself sober—drinks and uses drugs to extreme excess. He acts self-centered and very difficult. He burns bridges wherever he goes, but most of all he hurts himself. Over the first five seasons, you really see the agony of addiction, for both the person and those in the person’s life. But in the most recent sixth season, starting with the first episode “A Horse Walks into a Rehab,” BoJack enters addiction treatment. He struggles against this at first, making snide commentary on everything. But as the season unfolds, we see him really grapple with his past and family history. He has flashbacks to his parent’s unhealthy relationship to alcohol, and to his own first drinks. He also starts to help others in treatment with him, including a teenager who tries to escape. A warning that as funny as this show is, it can get disturbing at times, and includes an overdose death. All seasons of BoJack are available on Netflix.
In this very funny show available on Amazon Prime, co-written and starred by Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan, the character Rob meets the character Sharon on a business trip to London. Rob later finds out that Sharon is pregnant and moves to London to help raise the child. Rob is in long-term recovery from alcohol. Perhaps because Rob Delaney himself has been sober since 2002, the portrayal is realistic and humanizing. Sobriety is a big part of Rob’s life, but it’s not the center of the story until a later season. Rob is allowed to be a full person first. We see him attend AA meetings, and when a new friend in London is thinking about getting sober, he comes to Rob for support. Catastrophe presents a sober character who has obviously done a lot of self-work, tries to be a considerate and decent person, and is still allowed mistakes.
Comedy is a form of survival. Sobriety is too. Now, more than ever, we could use laughs. I watched all of Feel Good towards the beginning of when the pandemic reached the US. It was helpful to laugh while preparing to make it through something so daunting. If you are struggling with an addiction or a mental health disorder, there is help available. Amatus Recovery Centers is open and here for you during this crisis. We use third-party, hospital-grade sanitation, and offer telemedicine options, to make sure you feel safe receiving the treatment you need throughout this pandemic. At our addiction treatment centers across the country, many of our staff are in recovery and have been where you are. We will help you build towards long-term recovery with compassion. Call an admission specialist at 410-593-0005.