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Our View: Power of storytelling

Local documentary offers inside look at resources, recovery

We believe in the power of sharing stories, especially when they are homegrown, artful and shed light on problems that affect our families and communities. A local documentary, “The Flow We Find,” brings home personal stories of heartbreak, death, redemption and health. Earlier in the week, The Durango Herald ran a story about the film, which follows Durango-area community members impacted by substance use on a five-day rafting trip along the Colorado River.

The film, screened last night at the Durango Independent Film Festival, commands our attention because we’ve heard or read about some of these stories in recent years. It’s impossible to turn away, even when it’s difficult to watch.

The river trip is led by All Forward Adventures’ Rafting 4 Recovery program and the Durango chapter of Young People in Recovery. Part of the beauty in this film, beyond the canyons and river, lies in film director Shane Shooter Nelson’s choice to destigmatize recovery by localizing substance abuse – it’s all right here – and sharing opportunities for help and resources. Nelson is also owner and founder of All Forward Adventures. The cinematographer is 20-year-old Taylor Gretz, a former student at The Liberty School.

Cruz Baca’s story will likely be familiar. Baca was arrested and sentenced to two years in community corrections and 10 years’ probation after a 2016 hit-and-run on College Drive that seriously injured two people. Without giving too much away, his story about the incident, his recovery and life afterward has a full-circle, restorative quality to it.

And there’s the natural environment, a character in its own right, proving its power, doing its magic. “The wilderness is honest,” said Nelson, a licensed school psychologist, in the Herald last week. “It doesn’t have the capacity to lie to you ... Nature is so pure and raw and it cuts right to the core of a person, directly to the root of the problem. That core of the person is also the root of the solution.”

The experience of the river trip has its own methods and outcomes, and requires participants to be fully present. Self-examination is a big part in this work toward change. Activities, including hiking in silence in the dark, push participants to look deeply inward. There are many routes toward recovery. Floating down the Colorado River, leaving behind day-to-day habits, worries, pressures and triggers seems like a good one. The backdrop of the river and the desert environment is easy on the eyes, too, and welcome to moviegoers after engaging in these personal stories.

“The Flow We Find” captures the humanness of addiction, the lingering affects of trauma, the hopelessness and despair we sometimes feel.

The work behind this film is important and timely, especially with the uptick in substance use and abuse during the pandemic. The uncertainty, isolation, fear, and general sadness and weirdness around COVID-19 contributed to a worsening substance-use crisis throughout the United States. More than one in 10 adults have reported starting or increasing use of alcohol or drugs to cope with the pandemic, according to JAMA Network Open. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics reported an estimated 28.5% increase in drug overdose deaths in the United States during the 12-month period ending in April 2021. More recent data is yet to come.

Creating meaningful relationships is significant to recovery. We appreciate an inside look at local programs and resources that generate community support, and investment in substance-abuse services and prevention. We’re interested in places to go, things to do, new ways to move through the world while on this journey. We welcome personal stories that help someone take that first or second or 20th step toward better health. Making hyperlocal art about it is even better.