A Star is Born – a love story of alcohol and addiction

Sheila and I went to see A Star is Born recently. If you haven’t seen the film yet or you don’t want to know what happens, STOP READING HERE. If you have seen it or don’t care about spoilers, read on.

Oh my goodness. I knew what was coming. I knew the story and what would happen and it’s safe to say I know alcoholism and what it can do to a person and all their relationships. I have seen too many people lose their entire lives to this and yet…

I still wasn’t ready.

I view everything and every experience through the lens of a woman in recovery. It’s all I can do, without any effort or shame, it’s how I view the world. Viewing this film through that lens feels heavy and all too familiar. I am forever reminded of how much I have to be grateful for, and these reminders come in all sorts of ways.  We all love someone who is addicted to something. We all do. Or we’ve lost them already. It’s ever present, it’s ever looming, it’s ever shooshed, it’s ever compartmentalized.

The beauty of this film to me was how showcased the sickness was. It wasn’t hidden or brushed aside, it was front and center, especially when you view things the way I do, with that lens of recovery.

Bradley Cooper has a history with alcoholism and that real life experience was clear from the first moment Jack spoke on screen. The opening scene is of him taking pills with a drink.

The way alcoholism and addiction takes hold of a person’s entire life is so well portrayed in this version. I’m often critical of how the media portrays alcoholism and addiction because many times, it’s way off base. This film got it right. It’s not always loud, mean, aggressive, messy. It’s often subtle and unnoticed by folks who don’t know what it looks like, smells like, feels like. It’s often a quiet killer long long before any repercussions ever manifest.

This love story was not only between two people, but with alcohol and drugs as well.

People are hurting. Alcoholism and addiction often cover up that hurt, but the people underneath are often kind and soft and gentle and well, vulnerable. Even when people are truly madly deeply in love, that deep rooted pain doesn’t go away unless it’s really dealt with. If love could cure alcoholism and addiction, it would barely exist. Many many alcoholics and addicts have great big love in their lives, and yet….

Lady Gaga in this film is incredible. I mean Bradley Cooper was no slouch in this film but I am gaga for Gaga. She is absolutely phenomenal. I couldn’t take my eyes off Ally for one second. She is magnificent. She is strong and magnetic and full of love and stars and perfection.

These two characters met each other exactly where they were in their lives and they just loved. They just loved. The way he looks at her, I’ll tell you what. Don’t we all long for someone to look at us that way?

The backstories were like easter eggs throughout the film done so well that we knew the pain of a life long suffering family story. We knew without needing to be beat over the head with it. We didn’t need it on a plate served up piping hot declaring – THIS IS WHY HE IS THE WAY HE IS.

“Shallow” was written by Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, Andrew Wyatt, performed by Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga.

Tell me something girl…
Are you happy in this modern world?
Or do you need more?
Is there something else you’re searching for?

I’m falling
In all the good times I find myself along and for change
And in the bad times I feel myself

Tell me something boy…
Aren’t you tired trying fill that void
Or do you need more?
Ain’t it hard keeping it so hardcore

I’m falling
In all the good times I find myself along and for change
And in the bad times I feel myself

I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in
I’ll never meet the ground
Crash through the surface, where they can’t hurt us
We’re far from the shallow now

If you saw the film you know how it ends. It’s not a happy ending but it’s realistic, unfortunately. I admit I watched this knowing where it was headed and took it all as a preface to the enormous blow that was coming. I watched knowing – KNOWING what would happen and yet I was still rooting for both of them. Isn’t that what a great love story is all about? Isn’t that what we in recovery root for? We long for such a great enormous all encompassing love but with that will likely come the same amount of overwhelming pain at some point. Love affairs are painful and joyful and everything in between. It happens in every relationship of substance.  Family, friends, kids, pets, lovers, even careers and passions.

I’m playing the soundtrack over and over and ugly crying every time. This isn’t a bad thing.

This film is causing so many of us to feel something. Empathy, compassion, understanding for sick people we love and for those who stay with them. People tend to be unsympathetic toward both parties in real life. We are drawn to these people for a reason. They are enigmatic. I know this man in this film. I know him over and over and over and I know her. Boy do I know her. She is everyone who wants our best and we just cannot get our shit together. But she loves us anyway. Right where we are. She knew what she was getting but the longer she was there the more she learned that it doesn’t get better on it’s own.

This love story is just that. I sat there watching and tears were ever present because I know what it is to self medicate to feel normal. To not want to hurt all the time. To pass out or embarrass myself at terrible moments or to regret what I said or did the night before and have to ever apologize for that. That shame runs so deep.

We never got to see Jack stay sober for any length of time so we don’t know what would’ve happened with this love story. His ending, this relationships ending was far too common, sadly.

I am wrecked after watching this film. Isn’t that what art is supposed to evoke? This feeling that stays with us days afterward? I am listening to the soundtrack and just weeping today. It doesn’t feel bad, just aware. Just full of sadness and gratitude and loss and also hope.

She says something to him after he’s been sober for a little bit like, “are you sure you still want to be with me?” and I remember coming to from my fog thinking, who will want me and who will I want now? When you get sober you have to relearn everything and figure out what you want and who wants you in return for who you are becoming.

“Is That Alright?” was written by Gaga, Nilan, Monson, Shadow, Nelson, Aaron Raitiere, performed by Lady Gaga.

Life is so simple
A little boy, a little girl
Laughing and loving,
Trying to figure out the world
I want you
To look right in my eyes
To tell me you love me,
To be by my side
I want you
At the end of my life
I wanna see your face,
Wanna fall with grace
At the moment I die
Is that alright?

We do recover. Don’t let this deter you. We do recover. From all kinds of things. And we do it together. And then we create from it. We write and draw and sing and create films and we reach out and we hold on. I believe Ally from this film recovers. Somehow and in time, she recovers. But she is forever changed.

I’m thankful when those who have been through it create from it. But I also know the toll it takes to give so much of yourself. I’m thankful people do it and I’ll keep doing it. I’m thankful for my women friends who will sit and cry with me and rub my shoulder knowing what they know without judgment and with enormous empathy.

I’m thankful that art is here to carry this message so thoughtfully and carefully and beautifully. Because so much of life, even when incredibly painful, carries so much beauty that it stays with us long after we are exposed to it. That is what makes us who we are and who we will become. If we give it enough time for the becoming.

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