To say Freeform's new series, Recovery Road, isn't like other teen dramas is a massive understatement. Where most teen shows gloss over issues like addiction with a one-off "very special episode" about drunk driving or drug use at a party, Recovery Road places addiction front and center. The show is unflinching and heartbreaking at times as it addresses the disease of addiction and the reality of recovery as a never-ending journey of support, healing and self-discovery.
Based on the young adult novel by Blake Nelson, Recovery Road centers around Maddie (Jessica Sula), a 17-year old high school junior who manages to hide her alcohol addiction from everyone around her until she gets busted for drinking at school. With the help of Cynthia (Alexis Carra), a sympathetic guidance counselor, Maddie manages to avoid expulsion from school in exchange for detox and entrance into a sober living house for treatment. Maddie is confronted with the challenging task of balancing her daily teenage life with the struggles of coming to terms with her addiction.
What Recovery Road manages to do is give viewers a glimpse inside what it might be like living with addiction. We don't just see Maddie's struggles; we also experience the pain, lonlieness and sometimes denial of her mother (Sharon Leal) as she copes with her daughter's illness. Through Maddie and her fellow recovering addicts, we see the brutal, real-life consequences that can come with a life of addiction.
Where it might be tempting to write off Recovery Road as an extended After School Special, the richly drawn characters and strong performances are what make the show really stand out. Recovery Road is honest without feeling preachy, funny where humor is needed and very deeply layered. The show casts a light on addiction without assigning blame or turning the plot into a circus sideshow for leering audiences. And hopefully, with a show like Recovery Road in primetime, it can open up some very important and much-needed conversations about teen addiction.
Recovery Road premieres on Freeform (formerly ABC Family) January 25th at 9/8PM Central or catch the first 3 episodes now on the Freeform website or with the Freeform app.