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Anonymity on the Silver Screen

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Join Together speaks with Greg Williams, producer of “The Anonymous People,” an independent documentary about the over 23 million Americans living in long-term recovery from addiction.


Tell us about your background and personal experiences that have led you to take on this project.

Greg Williams: During my first five years or so in recovery, I was hyper-aware of feeling like I was living in two worlds—a son and student by day and a secret person in recovery by night.  I was very uncomfortable knowing that people in the recovery meetings supported and encouraged me, but outside of the 12-step rooms, I thought I wasn’t supposed to talk about how great my life was.

As a part of my Masters degree, I began to talk to people who felt the same way.  I had the good fortune of learning from people like Bill White, who is probably the nation’s authority on the history of addiction treatment and recovery advocacy.  I was taught that anonymity did not mean I couldn’t share about my recovery status publicly and advocate for others.

You’ve described the development of “The Anonymous People” as one of the most powerful learning experiences of your life.  Can you share some of that learning with us?

Greg Williams: Last year when I put The Anonymous People out there as a Kickstarter campaign—and we received nearly double our donations goal—I thought, “Wow, there are a lot of people out there who really care about this issue.”

Throughout each step—test-driving the movie earlier this year in select markets, KinoLorber picking up the distribution rights and establishing the Gathr theatrical on demand model—I got a little more excited.

But truthfully, the most gratifying part of this entire experience was meeting and talking with people like Maetta Broadus in Kentucky who is featured in the film.  Her love and appreciation for her recovery life is infectious and I’m humbled to serve as a recovery advocate with thousands of others across the country just like her who will no longer stay silent.

“Anonymity” has been both a foundation of the early recovery movement and also considered by some to be a barrier to its progress in the future.  Can you share your perspective on this issue?

Greg Williams: Bill White says, “We will shape the future of recovery with a detached silence or with a passionate voice.”

Throughout history, we’ve watched other movements struggle without a unifying message.  Our message is pretty simple.  We are people in recovery from a disease who now live dynamic, productive lives, just like people who are in recovery from heart disease or cancer.  But others can’t know about our disease unless we tell them.  Congress can’t know and neither can the media.

If it wasn’t for recovering people sharing their stories and advocating for treatment in the 40′s, 50′s and 60′s I very likely wouldn’t be alive today.  It is my duty to carry this forward for future generations.

Where do you see the recovery movement going from here, after both studying it and living it so intensely over the past few years?

Greg Williams: I think the future looks really bright because we have grassroots momentum on our side.  Education and a new language is the answer to many of our pitfalls.  And we have a new action campaign, in partnership with Faces & Voices of Recovery.  ManyFaces1Voice.org is the response to the one question everybody asks after seeing The Anonymous People: What can I do to help?  This site elevates passion for recovery into the tools needed for recovery advocacy.

We understand you’ve made arrangements to help anyone interested in hosting a screening of “The Anonymous People.” Please tell us about those resources.

Greg Williams: The concept is a brand-new, movie-going experience called Theatrical on Demand and a company called Gathr is pioneering that experience.  Anyone can serve as a movie “captain” by following a few simple steps including selecting a nearby movie theater and the day and time they’d like the film to show.  The folks at Gathr negotiate with the theater so that all a captain does is promote the screening and guarantee a certain number of predetermined tickets will be reserved.

Anyone can watch a film trailer at Gathr’s link and sign up to captain a screening.

Greg Williams is a communications specialist, addiction policy expert and, above all, an activist for the transformation of the current response to addiction in America. Mr. Williams holds a B.A. in communications and media production from Quinnipiac University. He also holds a M.A. from New York University specializing in addiction public policy, documentary film and health financing.

3 Responses to this article

  1. Avatar of Toni Black
    Toni Black / September 24, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Sounds great! I haven’t yet been able to view the documentary, however, it all sounds very exciting and “ABOUT TIME!” I have been in recovery for 25 years and personally rarely practice the spiritual principle of anonymity. I believe it is my responsibility, duty, commitment,obligation, call it whatever you will, to shout to the world that we the people DO recovery from addiction and stay clean/sober, lead very responsible and fulfilling lives once sobriety is achieved. I have been working in the treatment field for 18 years and encourage all whose paths I cross to take on the responsibility of educating society that people do get clean and stay clean. Thank you for your efforts in doing the same! I would love to be of service in any way that I can with your journey. Peace

  2. Avatar of Eileen G
    Eileen G / September 20, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    The topic “Anonymity”on the job is on my mind a lot. I have been in recovery for 24 years. When I first got clean I worked in a hospital and did not share that I was a recovering addict and felt like I had a big secreat. Then I worked in the field of recovery and was able to talk about it. Ah, what freedom. But for the last 8 years I have been working as a Social Worker and maintained my Anonymity. I would love to share my passion for recovery. I am very active in the 12- step porgram that I am a member of, and have hope for all addicts. But at the Agnecy I work for unfortunately being open about being in rcovery would not benefit me or others. I have to say this makes me sad especially in the filed I work in.

  3. dean hale / September 18, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Thank you for all of your efforts, keep up the GREAT work Greg. We are hosting two screenings in Upstate NY one on Sept. 19th at the Crandall Theater in Chatam, NY and one Oct. 9th at the Spectrum Theater in Albany, NY

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