This weekend I saw an amazing play. It is the second play in the “Elliot Trilogy” and is called Water by the Spoonful. I was encouraged to see it based on my recovery background and all that I knew going in was that it had to do with addiction and recovery. In 25 years of attending the theater in LA I have never seen something so powerful and moving. It was like watching This Is Us in person.
The story revolves around a family that has been torn by addiction. In the opening act we find that the matriarch has died and this causes an awkward and strained reunion between the family members. The central characters are a mother who is in her 10th year of sobriety from cocaine and a son who was raised by an aunt due to the mom’s drug abuse. As newcomers to the family all we know of mom is that she runs an online chat room for people in recovery from crack addiction. She is the rock for the group and in many ways the hero for the people in the chat room. Act II reveals the estranged relationship between the son and mother. Watching the struggle of the two of them is painful because it is so real. The playwright does an exquisite job helping us to see the perspective of both characters and understanding that there are so many layers to addiction and recovery. She also shows us that our Forever Family can strengthen us so much because they came to know us after we began our recovery. Even if they live with us through a relapse, they didn’t live through our initial down slide so the wounds inflicted are often far less personal.
The play takes its name from a poignant scene toward the end of Act II where we learn that Olivia allowed her baby daughter to die of dehydration because her crack addiction. The baby had the flu and was supposed to be fed a spoonful of water every five minutes in order to maintain hydration. After a fight with her son Olivia relapses and we see her slowly feeding water to an imaginary child. I sat with tears on my cheeks watching her pain and knowing that I have done things like that in the past. That desire to “fix” it is so strong. The need to undo the wrongs of the past can be overwhelming. It was so raw and so real. And then at the end we see the characters moving not past, but through the struggles together. They lean on each other. The find the strength and somehow manage to break cycles and..