I'm not gonna lie to you—recreational drug use is pretty damn great. Through a combination of nature, ingenuity, borderline-dangerous curiosity, and chemistry, our planet has been blessed with all manner of substances that can make our short lives a hell of a lot more interesting.
But what happens when "recreation" turns into "occupation"? When one is so ill-equipped to handle normal life that they retreat so far into a haze of intoxicants that they can't emerge, and life becomes little more than a frantic, incoherent stumble from fix to fix? That's when people like the fine folks at Central City Concern (CCC) step in to help guide addicts back to a life of normal.
That process—at once ugly, frustrating, and hopeful—is at the heart of Finding Normal, a quiet documentary shot last year by local filmmaker Brian Lindstrom. With no narration and no expository text, Lindstrom tells the personal stories of addicts and counselors at CCC's downtown Portland rehab center.
Like most successful docs, Finding Normal smartly follows charismatic protagonists, like counselors (and recovering addicts) David Fitzgerald and Jill Kahnert as they attempt to guide patients out of the Hooper Detox Center and into recovery through CCC's Recovery Mentor Program. Not surprisingly, not everyone makes it through to the other side, and the counselors feel the losses as strongly as the successes. But with a reported 70 percent success rate, the mentor program is obviously doing something right.
A couple of moments in Finding Normal come off as a little too testimonial—as if they were ripped out of a self-help infomercial—but the closing segment, at a Portland park on the Fourth of July, wraps up the film nicely. The recovering addicts aren't quite sure what the future holds, but they've finally got the skills to figure it out for themselves.