'Heroin(e)' Director's New Film Explores Recovery, Community

Jun 29, 2018

Academy Award-nominated director Elaine McMillion Sheldon’s newest film “Recovery Boys” is now available on Netflix. The film is a companion to Sheldon’s first film “Heroin(e).”

Her new documentary follows four men as they try to reinvent their lives after years struggling with substance use disorder. Two of the men are West Virginia natives, while the other two are from Florida and Virginia.

But all four of them have found their way to an addiction treatment program on a farm in Aurora, West Virginia. This farm and its treatment center, called Jacob’s Ladder, is the setting for Sheldon’s film.

There are different ways someone struggling with substance use disorder can find recovery, but Sheldon says while making her film and following these men, she’s seen the impact farming and agriculture can play.

"When they come to the farm, they’re able to not only learn new skills but sort of find new purpose within this farming community, which is very supportive and very loving," Sheldon said, "So I think there’s a real opportunity, because West Virginia does have many farming communities like Aurora, you know, for people to be a part of that. I think that farming; we know nature’s healing, we know that people’s environments play a role in their recovery.”

Sheldon says the program works with a person struggling with addiction by teaching them not to rely on instant gratification, but to think about the good that’s coming – the crops they planted, the animals they’re raising, or of the future – family, kids, a job; to be able to imagine life beyond the addiction.

“Shifting those environments to more positive ones, you know, taking away the instant gratification thing of getting your fix on a daily basis; planting a seed and seeing the results of that, weeks and months down the road, is something to remap pathways in the brain; to teach people to have longer visions of their life."

Sheldon says it was important to her to give viewers an honest picture of substance use disorder, treatment, and recovery, and says there is nowhere better for that story to be told than in West Virginia.

“I think West Virginia has a huge opportunity, because we have this problem, to be a leader in providing solutions around the crisis. We have beautiful environments throughout this state that can reconnect people back to nature; nature and environment plays a very important role in people’s connection to one another.”

West Virginia Public Broadcasting will co-sponsor a free screening of Sheldon’s new film, “Recovery Boys” on Friday, July 6 at the Metropolitan Theatre in Morgantown. The doors open at 6:00 p.m. and the documentary will start at 6:30 p.m.

Click here to RSVP.