Andrew has spent almost one year at a faith-based rehab. Just when he's almost ready to move forward, he offers the other churchgoers his testimony of one of his worst moment before treatment. But Andrew is shattered when the congregation seems to judge him harshly. Full of shame and self-recrimination, he makes a plan to escape the rehab community, undoing all the progress he's made so far.
But Rob, the teenager that Andrew has mentored for the past few months, uncovers Andrew's plan, and will stop at nothing to save Andrew from relapse.
Written and directed by Luke Wissell, this incisive short drama explores the connection between shame and addiction via intimate, naturalistic storytelling. It focuses on a key moment in one man's journey out of addiction and abuse, leading to a decision that serves as a fulcrum between moving forward or spiraling back down into past emotional patterns.
The writing is on the spare and evocative side, but that approach works here because the story explores on feelings like guilt and shame, which often fester in silence, and how those underground emotions fuel self-destructive decisions and behavior. The storytelling also weaves in glimpses of the relationship between Andrew and the young teen he takes under his wing, which also offers insight into the rehab experience itself.
Actor Luke Mulquiney deftly evokes both the vulnerability that Andrew experiences during his testimony, as well as the helplessness and shame when it provokes outrage. But the alchemy of perceptive writing and subtle, precise performance is particularly insightful into how the incident confirms Andrew's worst fears about himself -- an image of himself based solely on his past, full of mistakes and regrets. Those deep inner fears make him want to flee the rehab facility, likely back to a life of substance abuse medicating his self-loathing and self-hatred away.
But the true lesson of "If I Quit Now" is showing the value of community and friendship with accepting yet exacting peers in the process of recovery. When Andrew is reminded of his lowest points, Rob and the rehab community are there to both hold Andrew to a higher standard and believe in the man who showed him generosity, kindness and acceptance at Rob's worst point in life. We can't escape the past, but we can learn to forgive ourselves, make amends, and work toward a better future. But as Andrew learns, we can only do that by moving forward, not running away.