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From Grief to Action

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Rob and Susie Ruttan, and their neighbours, Ray and Nicky Hall never dreamed that heroin would be a problem they'd have to deal with. They live in the tranquil neighborhood of Kerrisdale, Vancouver and are founding members of a group called "From Grief to Action." They are intelligent, loving, resourceful parents who unexpectedly found themselves coping with the shame and guilt of having teenage sons who had become heroin junkies.

As they struggled to find resources and solutions for their children's problems they discovered other parents right in their own elegant neighborhood dealing with the same horrible nightmare.

The Halls and the Ruttans are two of four middle class Vancouver families whose lives are chronicled in the documentary From Grief to Action. The documentary follows them and their addicted children for 17 months as they deal with the personal trauma of trying to keep their kids alive and in treatment, while at the same time directing their efforts to change public policy.

In the beginning, the parents met to offer each other support, but quickly realized they needed to become politically active. Their efforts to clean up their kids were being thwarted by drug policies intent on criminalizing addicts instead of getting them the treatment they needed.

When the four families agreed to allow their lives to be documented, their children were doing relatively well. But over the course of filming two of the now adult children relapse badly - Gavin, the son of a prosecutor commits a robbery which lands him in jail, while 20 year old Johanna relapses and ends up on the streets prostituting to support her habit. Ross manages to stay clean of heroin through a daily dose of methadone but is constantly battling his cocaine addiction. 20 year old Kipp just recently released from prison tries to stay clean for the sake of his toddler son.

The families know the relapse rate for opiate dependent users is eighty percent but they live in hope both for their own kids, and others. As Nichola Hall says in her presentation to the Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs, "I think we represent the tip of an iceberg in Vancouver and probably right across Canada, parents, families and friends of people who are using illegal drugs but who come from good loving and comfortable homes." The documentary shatters the stereotype that drug addicts come from backgrounds of poverty, abuse and abandonment.

The documentary was directed by Vancouver filmmaker Nijole Kuzmickas, a volunteer "Big Sister" who joined From Grief to Action shortly after her "little sister" Melissa died from drug related causes. It was produced by Force Four Entertainment in association with CBC Newsworld.

View a printer friendly version of this page...Copyright Date: 2002 Length: 58 minutes Library Audience:
  • Parenting
  • Substance Abuse
  • School Audience:
  • Grades 10 - 12
  • Post-Secondary Education
  • Subjects:
  • Substance Abuse
  • Family Guidence and Health Studies
  • Formats Available:
  • VHS Tape
  • DVD