A filmmaker—and her mother—retrace the steps of her recovery and find unimagined levels of openness and hope among those they meet along the way.
By Aabha Rathee
The second time was a charm for Lindsey Glass.
Thirteen years ago, at 21 years old, Lindsey Glass made a long journey from Sierra Tucson to The Sanctuary in Delray Beach to Dahlonega Spa Resort in Georgia as she worked on her recovery from an addiction to prescription pills. Years later, Glass retraced her steps, this time as the producer and screenwriter for the documentary The Secret World of Recovery.
Working alongside her mother, The New York Times best-selling author Leslie Glass, Lindsey says the experience was redemptivein more ways than one.
“It was good to go back as a success story,” the younger Glass says while speaking with Renew from her New York City home. “It was certainly extremely emotional. I felt gratitude. It was evidence of how different life now looks like for me. Being in recovery is what has made me a screenwriter.”
But beyond charting her own story of personal redemption, the film also provided an opportunity to use her story to help others. The concept of the documentary film— written by Lindsey, directed by Leslie and co-produced by the mother-daughter pair— was to string Lindsey’s tale together with a multitude of other recovery stories. They structured the movie largely around the places and emotions Lindsey experienced, but in the process, the film consciously gave voice to several other people in recovery or involved in facilitating the work.
“I would say social activism was the real force behind creating The Secret World of Recovery,” Lindsey says. “We made it largely because of our disappointment of the media’s portrayal of addiction. This country gets no idea of what recovery is really like. We wanted to show successful people in recovery. We thought, ‘Oh, my God, it’s 2011, and there is still social stigma attached to it.’”
The duo managed to get real people with no on-camera experience to talk without inhibition, fear or hesitance about their lives. What came out were stories of personal regrets and realizations but also hope.
“I think the most shocking thing to come out of the making of the movie was that so many people wanted to talk,” Lindsey says. “It was like they had no voice before but had so much to say. Cameras were rolling, and people were talking; they were crying. The impression we got was that people were ready to stop hiding. They were ready to talk.”
It’s not the first time Lindsey had thought about using her story to bring recovery issues to a larger audience. She and her mother wrote a screenplay similar to The Secret World of Recovery a few years ago.
“We wrote a screenplay loosely based on my experience a while ago—around 2004 to 2006—but it never came to fruition,” Lindsey says. “So when the time came again, we were ready. But we certainly wanted to throw some education in there, helping to explain what recovery is and how to get into it.”
Initially, the film was screened at the Van Wezel Center for Performing Arts in Sarasota, Fla., followed by a screening at the Straz Center in Tampa at the Drug Abuse Comprehensive Coordinating Office’s National Recovery Month. The pair eventually got into the editing room again to create a new, shortened version of the film for television and, more importantly, classrooms. The film has been nominated for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Voice Awards, which recognize efforts to educate people about recovery.
“People across the board have been very kind,” Lindsey says. “Almost everyone now understands the need for a new genre in entertainment—one that highlights the positive spin of recovery.”
And Lindsey and Leslie are ready to take up the mantle. The two followed the first documentary by setting up the nonprofit Reach Out Recovery, established to support other recovery programs by consolidating efforts in education, awareness and fundraising. They also have finished filming their second documentary, The Silent Majority, which tries to bring a positive message to the younger generation by highlighting recovery programs that work. It had its first public screening in Washington, D.C. in April.
Lindsey admits to nerves and sleepless nights while editing The Secret World of Recovery, especially regarding the concluding mother-daughter segment where the two veer into sharing deeply personal confidences.
“I was putting a very emotional and personal thing out into the universe,” Lindsey says. “It wasn’t easy.”
Luckily, she knows a thing or two about being brave.