Waves of Grace.

Q&A with award-winning filmmaker C Joy on spiritual awakening, living with passion and purpose and the lifesaving women of Grace.

Meet C Joy, an actress, theater professor, "birth-mother" of GraceTheMovie.US and grateful 2012 alum of Hazelden in Naples, Florida. Inspired by a spiritual experience, C Joy created a film about recovery that, in its making and distribution, has become a vehicle for her own ongoing transformation. Spoiler alert: Hope wins.

Q. Your professional background is in theater. What inspired you to produce a feature film?

A. I have a Master of Fine Arts in acting, and I love creating characters and bringing them to life. The seed of making a recovery film was planted many years ago when I experienced the healing of my family. I surrendered on October 7, 2007, and picked up my first white chip. I was so excited to be sober that I wanted to make a movie to save the world from alcoholism! Unfortunately, I could not stay sober without doing the Twelve Step work with a sponsor to endure the emotional, financial and spiritual challenges of film-making. My binge drinking sabotaged most of my film career.

On November 25, 2010, I was sober and present for the passing of my father, and, exactly seven days later, I held my mother's hand when she took her last breath. I experienced God's grace in a way that would change my life forever. Several months later, I was told from my spiritual adviser that I would reach the masses with a message of hope. I knew what I had to do: Use my gifts and make this film! But first I needed to get well. My willingness to ask for help and get honest began on February 26, 2012, with treatment at Hazelden in Naples. Grace. was released on February 26, 2015. Now that's a grace thing!

Q. What are some of the key concepts about addiction and recovery explored in the film?

A. The truth is that alcoholism isn't about alcohol consumption; it's about self-deception, self-hatred, shame and never feeling that you're good enough. The truth is that there is a spiritual solution for this disease. The truth is that we are never alone if we trust God, clean house, and help others.

Q. Is there a particular character in the movie you identify with most?

A. There are parts of me in many characters: the walk of shame in the newcomer, the chronic relapser, the codependent enabler, and the caregiving sponsor. I actually play the role of Jessie, a colorful, tragic character who gets to the painful truth about addiction when she tells Gracie: "It hurts being like us. I've never felt comfortable in my own skin, so I drank—to be sexy. Did cocaine, to be thin. Tortured myself with plastic surgery to look young and beautiful and for what? I manufactured a woman I don't even like."

Q. What are you most grateful for in the making and distribution of the film?

A. A group I call "Women of Grace." I'm extremely grateful to my filmmaker/producer Sylvia Caminer for her integrity, professionalism and guidance through all the challenges of post production, distribution and educational outreach. I am thankful to the stars of the film: Annika Marks for her award-winning and powerful performance as Gracie, and Sharon Lawrence (Sonia), who carried the message of hope on and off the set by encouraging me to never give up on my dream. I hold close to my heart all my recovering sisters who reach out way beyond "the rooms" to help us newcomers.

Q. Who did you make this film for?

A. Most of all, I wanted to inspire young people by making sobriety attractive and fun. I also wanted to reach out to newcomers who might feel lost or intimidated by this strange new life of meetings and sponsors and slogans. Then, after listening to questions and comments from audience members following festival screenings, I realized the movie truly does have mass appeal and relevance because everybody is affected by addiction—the person with the disease, family members and friends, the entire community. The movie makes the subject of addiction approachable. It really gets people talking and opening up.

Q. Is that why you created a facilitator's guide to the movie—to get these conversations going?

A. Yes. Producer Sylvia Caminer and I recognized a huge opportunity to educate people about addiction and recovery by leading the conversation to the Twelve Step solution. Our team of experts (guide written by Philip Dvorak) created a six-module facilitator guide using brief clips from the movie to introduce discussions about key concepts in addiction and recovery: denial, surrender, sober support and relapse. I wanted to reach the person who feels all alone and hopeless—who desperately wants to live a different life but hasn't a clue where to start.

Q. If there were one piece of advice you could give to someone still struggling, what would it be?

Never give up. Ask for help. Take action and walk into an AA meeting because millions of people have recovered from this family disease and are willing to help you build a new life worth living!

Finding a way

A preview of GraceTheMovie.US
Gracie is all too familiar with waking up hung over, but this time her day starts with a mouthful of sand on a Florida beach, half-dressed and 1,100 miles from home—with no idea how she landed there.

And this time her father isn't going to clean up Gracie's mess.

When she's arrested for public drunkenness, Gracie is given a choice: six months in jail or 90 meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous in 90 days. Follow Gracie's painstaking transformation from her initial "leave-me-alone-I'm-not-hurting-anyone-but-myself" mind-set, to her first, awkward AA meetings and an ill-advised romantic relationship, to the tragic loss of a friend from her circle of support, to a life-changing revelation about her childhood.

With depth, charm and compassion, Grace. carefully unfolds the story of a young woman inching her way toward redemption.

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