In 2017, Elaine McMillion Sheldon’s documentary “Heroin(e)” showed an honest, frightening and hopeful depiction of Huntington’s fight for recovery. Sheldon’s new documentary, “Recovery Boys” follows four men through their journey of rehabilitation in the small town of Aurora, West Virginia.
“It’s a depiction that is both honest and loving – something that, as a native of West Virginia, I believe we need right now. For Appalachians, the struggle with opioids has been a long one – starting in the 1990s – and my generation plays a central role,” Sheldon said in her Director’s Statement. “Each year, I learn of more of my former classmates who are battling addiction – some of them losing their lives to overdoses, others committing crimes that lead to prison sentences and the lucky ones receiving the help they need.”
This is the harsh reality that many West Virginians experience, but this reality is leading to innovation throughout the state to help people who are struggling with substance abuse.
According to the Herald-Dispatch, Cabell County’s overdose totals have decreased by 41 percent in the first six months of 2018, compared to the first six months of 2017.
“This is something everyone in the community has been working together toward,” director of Cabell County EMS, Gordon Merry, told the Herald-Dispatch. “Everyone is working toward a common goal, and I think we’re headed in the right direction. We’re getting more people into rehab. That’s just a fact. That’s our ultimate goal – to get these people back into society where they can be productive.”
Sheldon’s documentaries have gained national attention. Places like Huntington and Aurora have created programs that can be replicated throughout the country. These programs give people a reason to have hope.
“I make this work for those whom society has given up and for those who are still fighting. I make this work to increase awareness and empathy, because the stigma and shame still remains present in our society,” Sheldon said. “I make this film not to victimize, pity or make excuses for individuals, but to uplift the stories of people who are actively trying to make change, no matter how big or small.”
Huntington is still fighting. West Virginia is still fighting. There’s hope in this state. Sheldon’s documentaries reflect that.