The Art of Making a Difference at the PRISM Awards
Apr 26, 2012
THE 16thANNUAL PRISM AWARDS
Last week, I had the great privilege of attending the 16th annual PRISM Awards at the Beverly Hills Hotel. I didn’t have any idea what to expect. Being the perennial tomboy, my big issue was putting on a dress. Of course, this is symptomatic of the alcoholic mind. It isn’t about me; it’s about the achievements of others; it’s about ONE80CENTER sponsoring Renew magazine at the 16thannual Prism Awards show! And here I was, obsessing about myself. I pulled it together, though, because just as self centeredness is a byproduct of the disease, a byproduct of recovery is a circle of friends who turn up to offer support —and I had three friends who lent me three different dresses to choose from. God bless ‘em.
The PRISM Awards show honors actors, directors and writers in TV and film who portray alcoholism/addiction/recovery and mental health issues in a way that informs and educates the viewers. It’s no secret that alcoholism/addiction and mental illness are two of the most misunderstood issues in American society. I’ll wager that there isn’t one single person in this country whose life isn’t touched in some way by one of the aforementioned issues — be it a family member, a coworker, a sister’s boyfriend or a best friend’s father or whatever. In some fashion, it’s around us all. And for some, it’s much closer. It’s a child, or a parent, a spouse, or our very own self. For something to be so pandemic and yet so stigmatized is a travesty. It is difficult enough to recover, or to learn to live with a mental illness, without there being such a mystery surrounding the process. Without recognition, compassion and understanding, these issues can become fatal tragedies, and too often are.
THE ART OF MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Thankfully, there are brave actors, writers and directors who are out to change this reality. Through accurate portrayals of the truth about addiction, or recovery, and of mental health issues, they illustrate the humanity behind the “curtain of shame.” I don’t really watch TV, so I had no idea that so much light was being shed on these all too pertinent social issues. At the beginning of the event, the military in the audience were honored. As they stood to introduce themselves, I was thinking how incredible it was, to be so courageous, and to be honored for one’s bravery in the face of extreme adversity. It then occurred to me that every nominee was also being recognized for their courageous performance, but also every nominee was standing up for every brave person that has ever struggled with the challenges their character represented. Then it hit me — I AM ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE. I am one; I am part of this group. I am a survivor of a great battle, not unlike those brave soldiers. All of us in that category have been silently waging a war against our own demons, bearing up under the weight of our own crosses. We are not like other people; we just AREN’T. It feels good to be recognized and understood, not just by our own kind, but the rest of the world, too.
William H. Macy
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was part of the video clip from Castle featuring Stana Katic and Jon Huertas, and also in Days of Our Lives, both of which won. In another clip from the show Parenthood, a mother of two teens, while driving them to school, tries to tell them that their father was an alcoholic/addict, and that they also had the genes, and that they needed to be more careful than other people, that they couldn’t drink alcohol like other people who didn’t have the genetic disposition toward addiction. I spoke to the writer of that particular show afterward, and told her how it was identical to a talk I had had with my own two teenagers the week before, and it was stunningly similar.
William H. Macy was honored in a clip from Showtime’s Shameless, as a blathering, jabbering, street walking drunk on a rant. He was brilliant, spot on, and, with his wild gesticulating walking down public streets, talking loudly to himself, he brought to mind the kind of person we move away from when we see him walking toward us. He epitomized the disease of alcoholism at its worst—he IS US at our worst. We know that dark place, lost inside the labyrinth of the disease. And yet, he’s funny, its comedy, but no one is laughing harder than those of us in recovery. Emily Osment picked up an award for her work in Cyberbully, which depicted a teenage girl under attack on social networking sites, to the point of harming herself fatally. Cyberbully brings to light a new social dilemma that requires immediate attention, and is symptomatic of culture raised on contempt. Russell Brand and Helen Mirren were nominated in the field of Motion Pictures for their brilliant work in Arthur. Dr. Drew Pinsky picked up two Prism Awards, as he famously continues to shed light on these issues in his reality television programs, which reach millions of people.
Many of these actors took to the stage and stated frankly that they too suffered from PTSD, or were in recovery from alcohol or addiction. Marriette Hartley, who I remember from so many television shows as a child, bravely said that her personal experiences with PTSD made her even more moved by what the Prism Awards stand for. She wrote a book called Breaking The Silence about her own experiences, and once said, “I believe there must be no shame attached to mental illness or suicide. It is essential to get help and to stay in close contactwith a psychiatrist and if pharmaceuticals are advised, to be completely honest about family tendencies and disorders. Often a misdiagnosis can be dangerous. And above all, share your story with others. I have a friend who was once an actress, and then she got smart and became a nun. She once said to me that ‘one’s deepest wounds – integrated – become one’s greatest power.’ I believe that deeply.”
This quote alone expresses the spirit of the Prism Awards, and what I felt in the air that night.
Needless to say, I felt right at home at the awards show. In my life of recovery, and working in the field of treatment, all of the issues covered are normal in my world. I understand that which is perplexing to ‘normal’ people more than I understand so called ‘normalcy.’ It made me think of all the times I spoke to ‘normies’ the way I speak to people in recovery. You really can’t do that — you really can’t, when asked by a normal person how you are doing, REALLY tell them how you are really doing. I recall the time I was hired to work in a law firm, making calls regarding class action law suits, and one of the attorneys who was training me asked me how my weekend was. And I told him! I told him exactly how my weekend was, and how I felt about it, with the standard intimacy we share in the tribe of recovery. He looked at me as if I was an exotic fish that had just swam into his office. If I had said that to anyone in recovery they would have understood, implicitly. I learned then the biggest difference between those of us in recovery and those of us who aren’t is this thing of understanding each other.
All of the nominees of the Prism Awards, past, present, and those yet to come, all endeavor to bridge that gap between ‘us’ and ‘them.’ In the world at large, we are not isolated instances, we are part of a continuous fabric of humanity. We are surrounded by family and friends, lovers, spouses, coworkers, all who either understand a little about our inner struggle, about our triumphant recovery, or about what it takes to live with a mental illness. Maybe some of these people have no idea. We may keep it to ourselves, out of fear of being stigmatized, or judged. We may only talk to others of our own kind about it. But wouldn’t it be nice, wouldn’t it be really epic, if the world at large understood what types of things are handicaps for us, what sorts of things trigger us, so they can be sensitive to who and what we are? Wouldn’t it be utterly cool to be understood? Wouldn’t it be awesome if people knew that alcoholism is a disease, not a moral shortcoming, not a weakness, but a literal disease?
Dr. Drew Pinsky
I firmly support anything that unifies people, levels the playing field, allows for more harmony and respect and less contempt prior to investigation. The people involved in putting on the Prism Awards show, the EIC, the FX network, the actors, the TV shows and movies, the writers, the directors, everyone who is willing to put themselves out there to accurately depict these issues, are heroes. These people are truly living the “art of making a difference.” We should all endeavor to do the same.
The 16th annual Prism Awards will air on FX Sept.16, 2012. Renew magazine, sponsored by ONE80CENTER, took a ton of great photos and did interviews with the winners and presenters. Look for more in the July/August issue of Renew.
PRISM Awards photos courtesy of Frances Iacuzzi Photography for Renew sponsored by ONE80CENTER.