Movie Review: Pleasure Unwoven by Kevin McCauley

Kevin McCauley is a pioneer in the field of addiction treatment and his full length movie set in the beautiful national parks of Utah has a mission: to change your opinion about the nature of addiction…

“Addiction begins as a disorder of genes and pleasure and ends as a disorder of choice.” – Kevin McCauley

Kevin McCauley has made his mark in the field of addiction treatment by tirelessly educating the world about the Disease Model of Addiction. More recently, he collaborated on the creation of the Applied Recovery model of support offered at the groundbreaking LeMont Michel facility in Sandy, Utah.

Pleasure Unwoven is a Visionary Movie about the Phenomenon of Addiction

In Pleasure Unwoven, Kevin McCauley becomes very creative in his portrayal of Addiction as a Disease. The craggy and beautiful trails of Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park become a metaphor for the primitive midbrain while the plateaus of Zion national Park represent the brain’s frontal cortex. There are colored hoses and liquids to represent the brain chemicals glutamine and dopamine. Even Modernist French writer Marcel Proust’s fascination with the intense pleasure of eating a Madeleine cookie is used to help the viewer understand the progressive nature of addiction.

Why the focus on Addiction as a Disease?

Kevin McCauley devotes almost the entire movie to proving the notion that addiction is a disease and not a choice.  This is such an obsession for Kevin because the distinction should change how society’s perception of an addicted person and more importantly how society reacts to the transgressions of an addicted individual. Namely:

If addiction is a proven to meet the criteria of other treatable medical conditions like diabetes or a broken leg, then instead of putting alcoholics and addicts in jail, we should put them in treatment.

During the film, the viewer is treated to incredible visual imagery and a lush soundscape (provided by Kristin Erickson). Kevin McCauley walks through the beautiful national parks of Utah explaining to his viewer the scientific building blocks of the Addiction as a Disease Model.  The information may be too clinical at times for the average layman, but Kevin does touch on and make clear simple concepts like why genetics increase the likelihood of addiction and why a person who is an addict cannot enjoy simple pleasures like going to Disneyland.

The creativity that Kevin displays in using props and imagery to prove his point to the casual viewer is very clever and turns a very scientific discussion into something palatable.  In the end, the point is driven home that addiction is a disease and addicts deserved to be treated as if they have a treatable medical condition akin to a broken leg.

Yes, Kevin McCauley has organized Intoxicants into their own periodic table. There is a sound logic behind the organization.

What About the Solution?

No one except the most ambitious and well educated doctor with an agenda would dare try and debate Kevin McCauley on the point that addiction is a disease that warrants humane treatment.

The rest of us who don’t want to belabor the issue want to hear the solution. There is one brief monologue near the end of the movie where Kevin McCauley talks about the components of recovery:

  • stop taking drugs
    •    learn to cope with craving
    •    learn how to manage stress
    •    participate in recovery on a daily basis.

The end result is: “the power of choice is restored…and normal pleasures become pleasurable again.”

Paving the road to help people to regain the “power of choice” is what Sober Living by the Sea and other treatment centers are in the business of doing.

Kevin McCauley can and should explain what he feels the components of a successful regimen for recovery are.  I am sure he could also explain the detailed inner workings of the brain and how it benefits from each activity.

In Kevin McCauley’s extended lectures, he touches on components that make up a program of recovery with the best likelihood of a long term successful outcomes.  Components of the program of recovery Kevin espouses include these ingredients

  • accountability (i.e. drug testing)
  • a long term commitment to receiving treatment
  • medical oversight and therapeutic support
  • physical activities
  • esteem building activities
  • daily rituals
  • fellowship with others in recovery

With regard to the importance of fellowship, Kevin did not get to discuss the importance of 12-Step support groups in his film Pleasure Unwoven, but if you are familiar with Kevin McCauley’s lecture series then you have heard him explain the benefits of participating in a 12-Step program like AA or NA. This is my favorite part of his lecture because to hear Kevin McCauley explain the benefits of 12-Step fellowship is to be utterly convinced of the value of support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous.

As an addiction industry professional I get so many phone calls from people who are desperate for “the answer” to their (or a loved one’s) addiction. How often do I give people my take on what “the answer” is and have them tune out when I discuss the spiritual component and the benefits of 12-Step programs?  If I could explain to the medical benefits of each part of the recovery program we offer at out treatment center as well as Kevin McCauley can, then their doubts would be unfounded…

There is still another movie waiting to be made about the treatment of addiction and why the top treatment facilities in the world have arrived at a very similar treatment regimen in this day and age. I think Kevin McCauley is the man to do it.