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How Rue Furthers the Conversation About Addiction in 'Euphoria'

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Since its release in 2019, “Euphoria” has attracted over 13 million viewers. The show is appealing for a variety of reasons, mostly because it feels relatable in all the ways most television shows aren’t. The show explores drugs, sex and relationships in a way that’s refreshing and, honestly, more realistic than 99 percent of what’s on television these days.

However, because the series revolves around Rue and her battle with addiction, the show has started an endless stream of social media chatter about Rue’s problems and her behaviors as an addict. While some people may find it acceptable or even a little funny to make comments about Rue and her addiction, the reality is this: Rue may not be real, but your friends who live with addiction are — and they’re not laughing about your posts.

In the United States alone, 19.7 million adults battle addiction. Furthermore, nearly half of all people have at least one friend or family member who is either in active addiction or in various stages of addiction recovery. Some of these people are very open about their addiction history, while others are not. In fact, I’d venture to guess that for every friend or family member you know with an addiction history, at least one other loved one silently battles their addiction without you realizing it.

Many of us rarely stop to think about the power our words hold, especially when we think we’re just making off-the-cuff comments about a fictional character’s actions or spewing about how “annoying” Rue is when she’s actively engaged in her addiction. However, your friends who live with addiction see those comments, and no matter how recovered they are, those comments can sting more than just a little.

When people fill social media with posts making fun of fictional characters because of their health conditions or experiences, it places undue judgment on individuals who may relate to aspects of the character’s personality. In the case of Rue, people who live with addiction may interpret a post condemning Rue as also condemning them, since they see Rue as a portrayal of themselves. For someone in early recovery or active addiction, this can lead to lowered self-esteem, increased feelings of inadequacy or fear, and even relapse.

I think that, instead of attacking Rue’s behaviors because you see them as problematic, a better approach would be to start an open-ended conversation with loved ones who live with addiction. Although these types of eye-opening, honest conversations can be hard to start, they can also provide numerous benefits for everyone involved. Who knows, you may learn a thing or two just by asking a simple question related to a recent episode.

For example, instead of attacking Rue for her recent relapse, we can use this moment as a learning opportunity about what relapse looks like and how loved ones can help support relapse prevention measures their friends and family members who live with addiction may have in place. Similarly, we can use moments where Rue struggles during sobriety to discuss how early sobriety feels and what may or may not cause people in early recovery to feel uncomfortable. Honestly, with a show like this, the possibilities are really endless.

Whether you live with addiction or not, you must remember that addiction isn’t a “choice.” It isn’t something you can just “recover” from overnight. In fact, many of us who live with addiction spend our entire lives dancing along a fine line to maintain sobriety. Recovery isn’t a straight line at all, and we’re human — just like those who do not live with addiction. Shows like “Euphoria” aren’t meant to show a glamorized view of addiction, and we can use these messy moments to take a step back and really learn about people who live with addiction. After all, chances are at least one of your loved ones sees themselves as Rue, whether you do or not.

Image via HBO Max

Originally published: February 14, 2022
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