As promised: Q & A with the Director & Executive Producer of “Surrender”.

​Interview: Mark Renshaw + Christopher Carson Emmons

Chris, as the director, you brought forth a patient yet striking visual narrative with this short film.  How were you able to achieve the vision you sought with the numerous effects shots and other stylistic challenges that the film required?
The team tried to achieve many unconventional things with this project, it is essentially a silent film from the point of view of an unreliable narrator (due to his alcoholism we see some things that are only in his mind) and is also a mental health and addiction awareness piece masquerading as a horror/thriller film.
I felt that showing literal manifestations of the main character’s inner demons throughout would help communicate why as an addict he consciously makes the wrong decision time and time again. The temptress character at his office is a living manifestation of the addict’s impulse to do the wrong thing while being aware it’s wrong, perhaps seeking ultimately punishment and intervention from external forces before the darkness inside completely consumes.
I also wanted the viewer to experience what a day in the life of this man was like from his point of view, in an effort to hopefully help them empathize with what otherwise may have been a deeply unsympathetic character. To me, the core issue of the character was a lack of self-love, which caused him to lash out at loved ones because he didn’t feel he deserved them and he simultaneously punished and medicated himself constantly for this with alcohol.
We tried with the visuals to thematically imbue a sense of not trusting the world around the lead character or the character himself early on. Even the water bottle he puts clear alcohol in is misleading, but alcoholics viewing the film would know that there are many ways such as this to disguise addiction. With the sound, we tried to really illustrate the decay inside this man physically and spiritually. Every time he takes a drink of alcohol, you hear the sound of his insides burning. The music is really the dialogue, which communicates most of the emotion throughout the journey.
Mark, as the writer and Executive Producer, you drew from some personal accounts when you envisioned—and eventually scripted—“Surrender”. Please tell us about your personal journey that led to the genesis of this unique and important film.
At the time of writing this, I’m three years, nine months and two days sober; not that I’m counting or anything!
I was a functioning alcoholic. I had a successful career, a fantastic family and a lovely home. At face value my life was perfect. I seemed like a happy, normal guy.
Inside I was dying.
Physically, mentally and spiritually, I was a wreck. I couldn’t cope with the real world, so I started to rely on something which took me out of my anxiety and into my own version of reality. The only thing keeping me going was the promise of that bottle at the end of each day. It became my solution to everything.
Eventually I had my rock bottom, I reached my jumping off place. To quote from Pulp Fiction, “I had what alcoholics describe as a moment of clarity.” I admitted defeat, reached out for help and began my recovery.
When I wrote “Surrender”, I wanted to encapsulate how it feels to exist as a functioning alcoholic. I wanted to show how different they are from the stereotypical, drunken tramp-like figure most people imagine when they think of an alcoholic. My goal was to highlight how ordinary they appear at face value, as well as how deceptive and manipulative they can be.
The main character, Dave, isn’t me, but he does represent key elements of my battle with the booze. “Surrender” also drew on many shared experiences I’ve heard from alcoholics over the past few years.
However, I wanted to avoid a potentially dull narrative were we simply observe a character drink heavily and wind up in trouble. I initially wrote about a guy who existed in a completely isolated world when he was sober. The only way he could cross into the ‘real world’ and interact with people was to take a drink. This would allow him to operate normally for a while but he would eventually spin out of control and wind up back in the ’empty zone’ when he woke up.
After reading this script, Chris suggested that I try a more horror-based approach, in which we could see his fears, anxieties and all his inner demons materialized. I loved this idea. And thus, “Surrender” was born. 
What do you hope audiences leave with after viewing “Surrender”?
Chris: My hope with this film is that people take a moment to question what the differences are between someone’s surface demeanor and their inner lives. What is the person who publicly seems happy all the time really thinking and what does this temperament do to their soul? What are the depths of compassion the person you deem awful or irredeemable is actually capable of?
Functioning alcoholics are often masterful at seeming like they have it all together, which makes them incredibly difficult to diagnose let alone get to seek treatment. It is an internal struggle that I think deserves examination and awareness.
The film unapologetically presents an addict who is self-destructive in all aspects of his life on his road to rock bottom. When presented with the concept of rehabilitation by his wife, we end the film on his response, which is simply “How?” This is one of the most important questions we should all be addressing about addiction, and it is my hope that the film ultimately contributes to that dialogue.
Mark: This may seem strange but I would like viewers to have a strange taste in their mouth when they watch “Surrender”. I want them to be hooked into Dave’s journey but be slightly uncomfortable about the ride. 
Dave represents the ‘Yet Factor.’ I drink a bit too much, but not during the day…yet. I drink but at least I’ve not lost my job…yet. Well, I’ve passed out a few times but I’ve never woken up in a strange place…yet. Etc.
My hope is that anyone struggling with addiction, both personally or through someone they know, will identity with Dave’s struggle. When they get to the end of “Surrender”, I want them to realize that no matter how far down the ladder they may have fallen, they can always climb back up. I also hope that they are as curious as Dave as to how this can be accomplished and seek the help to do so.

 “Surrender” to Win

 I was contacted a while back, and asked to view a short (14:04 minutes) film and consider sharing it with my readers. I watched it at the time and I knew it would be very helpful to many of my Tribe, and probably eye-opening to many others. 

I just watched it again, and added it to my “watch later” list on YouTube. It’s that kind of piece, in my opinion.

I don’t believe in coincidences, and I’m not organized enough to have had this pre-planned; so, on this, the last weekend of 2016, I offer you this short film. Please, tell me what you think of it, and share it on any social media you use. 

Next, a Q & A with Mark & Chris, the Executive Producer and Director of this award-winning video. 

What do you think? Is it true to your experience? Do you relate to the feelings portrayed? 

Written in my apartment above the Tea Room. 

Just don’t drink. Or use, or hurt anyone!

For the last few weeks, I’ve been noticing some more emotions coming up than usual, for me. I mean, the Thanksgiving-to-New Year’s time of year is almost universally difficult for many of us to get through. 

I’ve been thinking of when I was younger, like maybe middle-school age or less, I had a conversation with my Dad in which we talked about me being depressed. I think I’m really not alone in the kind of reaction I received: “You? Depressed? (Laughter) What do you have to be depressed about, little girl?! You have a nice home, food, clothes and 2 parents who love you!” And he wasn’t wrong. But he wasn’t entirely right, either. 

As a very small child I learned to be “PERFECT”, because when I stepped out of line -even accidentally- I was going to pay a painful price. Dad had a hair-trigger temper, and he punished me with his belt when he was ANGRY. I was terrified of his anger my entire life, and even now I have a lot of anxiety when a man raises his voice in anger. 

I later learned that I had had A.D.D., which looks different in girls than in boys. I was called a daydreamer, or space cadet. I got in trouble for talking all the time, and it was next to impossible for me to get all my supplies and homework to where they were supposed to be without forgetting or losing something. 

At the time, these traits just infuriated Dad, because he was sure that I “had to be doing it on purpose”. Then I heard “stupid, lazy, doesn’t pay attention, lazy and doesn’t even try”. 

I was reminded of that situation when I heard recently of a relative of mine, in reference to his teenager being depressed, saying things like Not going to medicate and Counsellors are a waste of money. It really bothered me to hear that, because that kind of thinking has cost far too many people struggling with addiction and/or mental illness their lives. If you see that your child is miserable, with no obvious reasons for it, why wouldn’t you do whatever it took to at least find out WHY? 

News flash: mental illness and addiction are things that our kids are PRE-DISPOSED toward. It’s not an entirely hereditary issue, but it makes the odds of developing addiction/mental illness go up about 100%. It has been proven that children with untreated mental illness are several times more likely to develop a dependancy to drugs or alcohol.  And, p.s., telling someone to “suck it up” or “snap out of it” DOESN’T WORK. 

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Ok, back to the holidays. When I think of Christmas, I think of family get-togethers with lots of food and presents and all the adults getting hammered.  I don’t really remember much about my earliest Christmases, because PTSD. 

I used to have my ideas about what I’d like to happen, memories of what had happened in the past, and fears of how it was more than likely going to turn out, as I walked in the door. I knew what to expect, but not how to protect myself or my sobriety.


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Someone gave me some simple definitions once:

Anger: I’m not getting what I want.

Fear: I might not get what I want.

Resentment: I didn’t get what I wanted.

Those are possibly overly simplistic in this scenario, but they do fit.

Most of us have had unpleasant and difficult childhoods. I’m not trying to put the blame on our parents; they did the best they could. They may have come up in the same kind of dysfunction, or worse. 

The truth of the matter is that we learn the family “script” as children watching how the adults do things. If nothing changes, nothing changes. 

When we get together with old friends or family during the holidays, it may be with apprehension and great reluctance. Nobody knows how to push our buttons like family. Oddly, when we start making positive changes in our lives, those are the folks who may be the most resistant. It’s kind of like the family has a script with everyone’s roles established. Everything goes as usual until someone doesn’t read their lines. 

Or it’s like if you are dancing with a partner and you change dances mid-song. They’re going to want you to go back to the dance that you’d been rehearsing, even if it does look bad and feel worse to the dancers…

Anyway, it’s late and I’ve got to work tomorrow. 

I encourage you, if you’re doing anything tomorrow that gives you that old familiar pain, to plan ahead.

Be sure you have Recovering folks #s on you, don’t forget to pray in the morning and more, and keep your expectations low. Don’t expect yourself to walk through a bunch of drama and come out serene and beaming. Likewise, don’t expect anything from your family that’s not realistic for them. 

If Uncle Frank likes to have spiked eggnog starting at breakfast, then maybe it would be helpful for you to decide how to deal with him before you get to the party. If your Mom feels the need to treat you like a 10-year-old even though you’re 50 and have grown children, it could be a good idea to practice setting boundaries beforehand. And if you know that everyone will be sh*t-faced by 9pm, make your excuse when you arrive, (like I’ve gotta catch a meeting @ 8) and then it won’t seem so abrupt when you bolt out the door. 

Posted from my treehouse in the woods. 

Holidays in Sobriety

For those in early sobriety, this time of year can be fraught with potential (recovery) land mines. 

Workplace Christmas parties, family get-togethers that we can be under a lot of pressure to attend, and the increasing reminders of alcohol (& etc) everywhere can all be overwhelming. 
For many of us, just the thought of spending an extended period of time with our families can be a stressful proposition. Past hurts are revisited, and the family can be confused or angry at the sober person for no longer partaking with them…

What I know is that there are always AA/NA meetings. Usually there are marathon meetings on Christmas and New Year’s, which are back-to-back meetings for 24 hours. Christmas/Hanukkah will have events in church/temple, for those who prefer those instead of (or in addition to) 12-step meetings.

The biggest thing that will help you to make it through the next couple of weeks with your clean/sober date intact is to be PROACTIVE. Spend time with people who are also in recovery. Non-drinkers or users can be great people, but they’re not gonna be able to share with you their experience in celebrating the holidays sober, in spite of themselves. I know I went to at least one meeting for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s of my first 5+ years. 

If your recovery is your priority, you will be able to begin 2017 with the same clean date that you have now.

I am grateful for this new way of life, and for being able to be present for my family. I am grateful to be able to learn how to care for MYSELF, as well as others. 


See more every Saturday @ http://www.drunkless.com !

Life on God’s Terms

I am not, by nature, a patient person. Never have been. The evidence of my having grown some small semblance of patience is seen in my children: still alive, not maimed…

It’s interesting how patient I have learned to be in certain instances. For example, our neighbor has a roaming hen named Goldie. (I haven’t met a mammal yet that I didn’t love. Sure, some were easier to love than others, but overall, I love being with animals.)

Goldie is semi-tame, I guess, in that she will come close enough to take cat food from my hand, but she won’t let me touch her. I have positioned my hand in such a way that my fingers graze her breast feathers when she’s taking the food from me, and they’re so soft. As it gets colder outside, and  she is noticeably cold, I wish I could hold her and get her warm, but so far, she’s not ready. So far.

 In the case of winning over an animal’s trust, wild or just skittish, I have deep wells of patience.  I think it’s because of my own difficulties in trusting people. Heck, when I was just 9 or 10, I set out to win over several feral kittens. It took a little while, but not too long. And it was very gratifying when they finally allowed me to pet them. 

So, why does it come so easy to me to wait for a positive response from a chicken, yet waiting for God to move…not so much. 

I think the difference may be in KNOWING the desired outcome versus NOT knowing much about what the goal is actually going to look like, when it’s met. I know that I can very likely get Goldie to trust me. She’s already come close to hopping up the steps into the house! But, while I am convinced that God has my best in mind, it’s hard for me to know whether I will recognize His best when I get there. 

I’m thinking about currently waiting to be moved into a place (career) where I can put down roots and flourish. There are a couple of different things I am skilled at, but I guess my problem is WAITING for God to move everything/me into the BEST position. 

I have had 3 different employers in 2016, and I am longing to work somewhere that I can put my skills and experience to the best use. I have seen in my life proof of the verse that says that if I delight myself in the Lord, He will give me the desires of my heart. Yes, this is a thing I know. 
I just hate waiting. I’m sitting at the starting late revving my engine…and sitting…and sitting. 

The good news is, my trust is in the Lord. I wish He would  work in MY time frame more often, but none the less, I know that if I  don’t die from the an-tici—-pation, it will turn out to be perfect. 

And the fact of the matter is that His timing has always been perfect. 

I Recover Out Loud but I Still Depend On the Anonymity in Meetings

Anonymity is the spiritual foundation…an honest look at a common character defect, by my friend, Maggie Shores.

SOBER COURAGE

silenceI do not usually get angry and rant, but this has really affected me, and I feel that anonymity is a very important topic and I need to speak out.

As many of you may know by now, I am going through a nasty divorce, well, I am really at the beginning of it all but it has already become nasty. We have been separated for four months and it has been a horribly difficult transition for all of us, and a totally devastating blow right in the gut for me. Yet, I can already see that it has been the best decision I have ever made, and I only wish I would have made it sooner.

Nevertheless, the family is split, people have taken clear and definite sides, and I am truly finding out who my real friends are. Not to mention the fact that my soon-to-be-ex-husband is also in the…

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Why Do We Procrastinate The Things We Want Most?

Hey, gang, it’s time for another WONDERFUL Guest Blogger! As you know, I only share the best writers with you all, and this girl is no exception. Without further adeau, I give you Christine Hill

Why Do We Procrastinate the Things We Want Most?

By Christine Hill

I think one of the most useful skills that I learned in college was how to write a 10-page paper in one night.

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That’s right. I was one of those students. The major pity is that I kept getting away with it, so I really didn’t have much incentive to change my ways. Now that I’m an adult and there are certain things that simply CANNOT be put off (like the rent check) I’ve learned a little bit more self-regulation. But procrastination is still something I struggle with.

20% of the population considers themselves “chronic procrastinators.” And because it has such a major impact on job performance, tapping into our potential, and creative power, it’s the subject of an awful lot of research. For business start-ups and managers, especially, it can be difficult to decide when to “pull the trigger” and just put an idea into action. Amidst all the research, I think the most effective insights into procrastination are detailed by Tim Urban, author of Wait but Why.

A vivid dramatization of the procrastinator’s struggle is the subject, both on his website, and in his TED talk. Check it out below. It will strike a dramatic chord with anyone who has found themselves panicking the day before a major essay is due.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arj7oStGLkU

Because so many people tend to procrastinate, it can be hard to share a one-size-fits all solution. Instead, I’m going to share a few different ways to look at it, and you can decide which one strikes a chord for you:

Connect with the Future Self

One study at Stanford monitored the neural pathways of subjects when they were asked to envision themselves, a stranger, and their future self. For some students, envisioning their future self was much closer to envisioning a stranger than to envisioning their current selves. Others felt a closer kinship and continuity with the future self. Can you guess which group held the worst procrastinators?

Many behavioral theorists believe that procrastination is caused by a disconnect between the current and future self. We prioritize immediate gratification over long-term rewards. There are a few ways that you can trick yourself out of this mindset, though. A study at USC found that when people phrase future plans and deadlines in terms of days rather than months or years, they’re more likely to take action quickly. For example, 3 months away feels a lot farther than 90 days or less. So, in order to connect with your future self, or overcome the divide:

  • Think in terms of days, or even hours.
  • Be realistic about your future expectations.
  • Make a habit of visualizing your future self and the consequences you’ll need to deal with.

Focus on One Step at a Time

Another study on procrastination observed that students procrastinated less if the deadlines were closer and the projects were smaller. In other words, dividing a big task into a lot of little tasks can motivate you to get a project done better. This might sound really obvious, but the science–and the actual implementation of it–is always more complicated than it seems at first.

Breaking down a large task into numerous small ones takes advantage of our natural tendency to value immediate gratification over long-term results. After all, it’s hard to look forward to the reward of working out every day when it could take months for you to start seeing results. However, if you start anticipating a reward that you get with every workout, it can be a lot easier to motivate yourself. Even the rush of completing a task can activate our brain’s reward center. So, in order to use your natural instincts to your own advantage, try breaking down large tasks into small ones with lots of deadlines. Instead of getting overwhelmed with a colossal task, take it one step at a time.

Confronting Fear

I saved this approach for last because for me, it’s the most striking and motivating. It boils down to one cold hard fact: we procrastinate to avoid pain. To be completely blunt, procrastinators let their life be ruled by fear. Look back at the Wait but Why illustration. Only when the fear of turning in nothing overwhelms the fear of turning in something crappy (i.e. the Panic Monster kicks into high gear) does anything get done.

Phil Stutz and Barry Michels shared an excellent parallel to help procrastinators overcome the habit. They theorize that every procrastinator procrastinates simply in order to avoid pain for as long as possible. Think about the things you put off; they’re unpleasant things that you don’t want to face. It’s a social situation that could be awkward, a time that you risk rejection, something that will require effort and sweat from you. Phil came to know the star runner on the High School football team and came to learn something profound. This boy wasn’t the star runner because he was better at running. He wasn’t stronger or faster than anyone else. He was the best because he ran toward pain instead of trying to avoid it.

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He knew that when he tackled someone, it would hurt for a minute, but afterward, he would feel on top of the world! So he learned to run toward pain because on the other side was his actual goal.

Megan Mcardle posits an interesting theory in her article “Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators.” She points out that kids who were good at English class tend to have a “fixed mind-set” instead of a “growth mind-set” and believe that tests and challenges aren’t a way to learn new things, but rather it’s a way to sift people into their fixed values. Therefore, the true fear behind procrastination is that ultimately, we’re not enough, and now it will be proven to everyone.

Therefore, when you’re tempted to procrastinate, you need to ask yourself one simple question: are you going to be ruled by fear?

Christine is a professional writer and an avid reader who’s passionate about storytelling in all its forms. At any given moment, she’s in the middle of at least three books on anything from human psychology to ninjas. Although she’s a marathon swimmer and enjoys camping in the mountains, she believes there’s nothing better than a carton of ice cream and a Dawson’s Creek marathon.

I need to tell you all, that during the time I was trying to get this post up, the biggest problem I encountered was, you guessed it, procrastination. (Thanks, God!) I guess this is a timely message for all of us. And P. S., Christine, I am a firm believer in the power of a pint of ice cream to make all things better. 🙂