Helping Americans Heal: Kennedy Premieres “Recovering America,” a Film About Overcoming Addiction

Helping Americans Heal: Kennedy Premieres “Recovering America,” a Film About Overcoming Addiction

Nikos Biggs-Chiropolos | June 19, 2024

By Nikos Biggs-Chiropolos, The Kennedy Beacon

The Kennedy campaign premiered a new documentary on June 15 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that addresses one of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s top priorities: helping Americans to heal.

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The film, Recovering America, explores today’s national drug addiction crisis, offering solutions Kennedy proposes to enact, while highlighting examples of recovery that reflect his own journey. The event also featured a panel discussion with media personality and addiction medicine specialist Dr. Drew.

The film begins with Kennedy talking about America’s “plague of addiction” as he tours the streets of San Francisco, one of the most drug-ravaged cities in the nation. An on-screen stat, attributed to the CDC, states that 107,543 people died of overdoses in the United States in 2023.

Kennedy makes a staggering contrast between this figure and the “war on terror,” which was launched after approximately 3,000 Americans died on September 11, 2001. More than 30 times this number of people now die of overdoses per year and the government barely responds; Kennedy pledges that he will.

Focusing specifically on California, the film shows people on the street both smoking and injecting fentanyl and other drugs, and even highlights an example where these activities are taking place right across the street from a school. Despite the depravity of the situation, the film calls upon all of us to view the condition of drug addicts with empathy and compassion, emphasizing that addicts should be seen as fellow human beings who can recover.

It also features excerpts of a conversation between Kennedy and Rene Zegerius, a Dutch expert on drug policy who recently appeared for an in-depth discussion of this topic on the RFK Jr. podcast.

Zegerius explains that to combat the addiction crisis, “you have to acknowledge that this is not a problem you can solve by yourself” – the solution should involve health services, law enforcement, and local governments all working collaboratively with drug addicts. He says that there is no one solution – people in a bad situation often need “tough love,” but also hope, to find the motivation to recover. Kennedy notes that the Netherlands now sees only approximately 40 deaths per year from drug overdoses because of programs that Zegerius describes, which were implemented a few decades ago, when thousands were dying from overdoses every year.

Another interviewee in the film, addiction therapist Brian Gallagher, discusses scientific studies on loneliness, and whether it could be driving the addiction epidemic. He explains how rats kept in isolation in lab experiments, when given the choice between cocaine water and regular water, almost always choose the former, even though it eventually leads them to die. Yet when they are placed in cells with other rats, they almost always drink regular water. He draws an analogy to “a real sense of emptiness, loss, and pain” that so many Americans currently feel.

While the film explores many tragedies, as did Kennedy in a post he shared on X about a close friend who recently died from an overdose, it also offers stories of hope. Many people featured in the film share their stories of recovery, as does Kennedy.

In a segment toward the end of the film, Kennedy’s regard for the healing power of a direct connection with the earth, and its role in the creation of a healthy America, shines through during his conversation with Brandon Guinn. Guinn runs Simple Promise Farms, which is not just a farm but a place for recovering addicts to build a new life and find hope through a higher power.

Kennedy tours the farm and talks to Guinn, illuminating the theme of recovery with the planting of seeds – another idea that Kennedy has explored through his campaign. While planting seeds in the earth, Guinn says, “I can plant that seed of recovery and then guide [people] along the way. But at the end of the day it’s up to them.”

Kennedy also talks with a group of men who work on the farm. They share their recovery stories. One explains how they did not come to the farm in the best time of their lives, but that connecting with the earth helps them move forward. Another says, “This place … brings us together to form a nucleus of community and love like we’ve never experienced before. And it teaches me the full value in life and what people have to offer, and if the solution is connection then you got it right here.”

After several exchanges, Kennedy opens up and tells his own story of heroin addiction, which led him into dark times. But he admits that he was ultimately inspired to recovery by the successful transformations of historical figures, including St. Augustine, who had been a sex addict and an alcoholic and recovered through his own spiritual reawakening.

Kennedy shares his conviction that people who believed in God got better faster, and their recovery was easier, which inspired his own path. Admitting that he was hesitant to believe in a higher power, Kennedy says that he “made an intellectual decision that I’m going to start to believe in God,” and he started “living my life as if there was a God out there” and “as if I had to behave by myself as if I was being watched.” Talking about AA meetings, Kennedy reveals that he continues to attend them today, saying, “We’re here to build character, which is enduring.”

Though the film focuses on individuals recovering from drug addiction, it hints at a greater national recovery at the heart of Kennedy’s vision for a society that sees so many people fall victim to such tragedies. At the close of the film, Kennedy speaks directly into the camera about his plan to finance “recovery farms” through a federal tax on legalized marijuana. He says, “There is hope for our nation to heal the scourge of addiction. We just have to make it a national priority, and when I’m in the White House we will.”

Soon after this live online event, discussions about the struggle with addiction endured by millions of individuals and families sprang up throughout social media. Comments from this discussion about the film on Reddit echo stories and sentiments from across the spectrum:

“My cousin died of a drug overdose when I was maybe 10 y/o.”

“Everyone’s family has been impacted by addiction.”

“Sure, Trump might exploit the fentanyl epidemic as a border issue, but he hasn’t expressed a plan to actually address those in this country who are already addicted.”

“This may be the video which gets my entire family on board. My dad overdosed 3xs on doctor prescribed fentanyl.”

Nikos Biggs-Chiropolos studied government at Georgetown University and interned for several Democratic elected officials and their campaigns, and for other affiliated groups. He then earned a master’s degree in urban studies in France, where extremely strict COVID-19 lockdowns led to his political reawakening and inspired him to try to help fix the broken two-party system.

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