Is This the Most Beautiful Ad Ever Made About the Throes of Addiction?

Recovering addicts' love letter to those still suffering

Prescription drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50.

To raise awareness about the opioid crisis happening right under our noses, Malibu, Calif.-based Alo House released an ad addressed not to the public at large, but to people still suffering from addiction.

Created by agency Paradam—who name, interestingly enough, means “an object which reveals itself only to those that know how to see it”—the resulting short film, titled “This Is the Journey,” follows a young man through the silent struggle of going clean. What resonates is how it well it transfers the itchy, abject listlessness of rebuilding yourself from the ground up.

The film is narrated by recovered heroin addict Bob Forrest of Thelonious Monster. Alo House’s founder, Evan Haines, is also a former addict. So, what’s striking about “This Is the Journey” is that it’s told from the perspective of experience: While it doesn’t speak to everyone, the people it wants to address—addicts, but also their families—will feel the message profoundly, creating a “paradam” in and of itself.

Below, Haines responds to a few of our questions about his own journey through addiction, the founding of Alo House, and what the ad means to him personally.

AdFreak: Tell us about the size and scope of the opioid crisis in America. Who does it impact?
Evan Haines: The opioid crisis killed about 65,000 people last year, and probably more this year. It’s now the leading cause of death for people 50 and younger. It is shocking. It affects a complete cross section of humanity, and does not discriminate whatsoever.

Its causes are many—an out-of-control, for-profit pharmaceutical industry; untreated trauma and adverse childhood experiences; plus a general sense of meaninglessness and a lack of purpose, I think. … But as my favorite addiction thinker, Dr. Gabor Mate, asks, “Not why all the drugs, but why all the pain?”

Most if not all addiction is about the addicted person’s attempt to soothe their pain. I also think it stems from a deep-seated, ancient need to feel a union to this world and the universe, to feel at home, and to have a sense of wonder and mystery. We need to feel inspired, and a lot of us use drugs and alcohol to achieve that feeling.

How did you become an addict?
I grew up with addiction all around me. Both of my parents were addicted and suffered from mental health problems. I grew up around a lot of chaos and was a really stressed-out little kid. I personally fell into addiction when my mom died by suicide when I was 14 years old. But that was just the last straw. I had suffered from a lot of adversity as a child leading up to that point.

What was the recovery process like?
Drugs and alcohol served me fairly well for a long time. I didn’t even realize that I had a problem, in fact, until I was 31 years old, when I found myself “coming to” out of a blackout, sitting on a curb in handcuffs. I had crashed my car into another car with a person in it at 70 miles an hour on Sunset Boulevard.

I could have killed someone. Thank God everyone was OK. With that experience, plus going through L.A. County Jail and being sentenced to a 12-step program, I was changed forever. I remember thinking, “I just want to find out why I’m so angry, I just want to learn how to be comfortable in social situations, and I just want to be useful.” I got all of those things and so many more. I haven’t had a drug or a drink since Nov. 1, 2005, and I now have a life beyond my wildest dreams.