Wednesday, February 28, 2024


Seeing the humanity in addiction

Addiction has long been a scourge on the human condition— the cocktail of brain circuitry, genetics, and circumstance leaves us needing more…then more…then more still. In recent years, our nation has been hit by a devastating epidemic of opioids. The documentary film, directed by Laura Dubac and Mike Goedeke with cinematographer by Toledo’s Josh Nagel, ONE, centers the crisis around two people from very different circumstances who “found themselves at the very same place: addiction.”

ONE examines the humanity in the condition. As the mother of Justin, a son who lost his battle with addiction, producer Dawn Taylor was convinced that wallowing in the problem is far less valuable than searching for answers, or for compassion. She explains that ONE came from “a strong desire to change the dialogue around addiction and help individuals identify and embrace the underlying issues that lead to the disease.” At its core, ONE is a story of pain. Addiction is no more or less than the mask we put over our pain when we are unable to face it.

Two lives, one addiction

The stories at the center of ONE are vitally important, both in the humanity of their subjects and in the different paths that lead to addiction. It can be tempting to frame these kinds of struggles as the symptom of already difficult lives— poverty, neglect, family trauma— that oversimplification does a double disservice, negating the struggles of people like Nicole, the former straight-A student and cheerleader who represents one half of the film’s central pair. She doesn’t fit the profile that we associate with addiction, but that doesn’t make her pain any less valid. At the same time, this reductive narrative suggests people like the film’s other focus, Tito— his father was incarcerated when he was young, leaving him with deep “rage which only masked intense pain”— who is inevitably bound to a life of addiction and struggle. ONE challenges this woefully incomplete portrait of addiction, searching for deeper meaning and an understanding of why so many people across so many disparate walks of life end up in the same, dark cycle.

“The opposite of addiction is connection”

But, ONE isn’t only interested in exploring the problem of addiction. It’s also trying to find a solution. It isn’t about avoiding pain, nor is it about “enshrining” it. It’s about meeting the human struggles that create addiction head-on, finding the humanity in those struggles and in those unable to cope with them.

Taylor eloquently summarizes ONE through her own experience of loss: ”I understand, perhaps better than most, the desire to want to distract, numb or avoid. I want to fill my time with busyness so as not to be confronted with the daily reminder my boy is gone. I want to crawl up and sleep, never to be awakened until I can be with my boy again. But I do not believe that is what is intended, what is healthy, what honors my son’s memory. I choose to allow the pain to overcome me, I ask it to teach me, I pray it provides growth and somehow, elevates the life of Justin to one of celebration.”

ONE, a story of compassion in the face of the very darkest parts of the human experience and the human connection, will get us all to the other side.

Currently, no local screenings are scheduled, but the documentary team is working hard to arrange distribution of this vitally important story. Contact Amy Clark ( to set up a screening.

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