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I am a Netflix fan; actually I’m more like a super fan. I watch Netflix more than I watch regular TV and because of that I’ve discovered some amazing shows. One of my most recent discoveries was a show called Nurse Jackie, and it originally aired on the paid cable network Showtime from June 2009 to June 2015.

I heard a lot about how good Nurse Jackie was, but since I didn’t have Showtime I could never watch the show. As soon as I heard it was on Netflix however, I binge (no pun intended) watched all 7 seasons of the show over the course of a week!

Nurse Jackie was a comedy-drama starring Edie Falco (of The Sopranos), as Jackie Peyton, an emergency room nurse at fictional All Saint’s Hospital in New York City. Jackie is a very high functioning drug addicted nurse struggling to find the balance between the demands of her hectic job and a range of personal dramas. Jackie has a penchant for taking Vicodin, Percocet, and Xanax or any other opiate she can get her hand on to get through the day. She starts out hiding her addiction well from both her family and coworkers, but over the course of time as with most people with substance abuse issues, her world slowly starts to fall apart and spiral completely out of control.

In my opinion, Nurse Jackie is the most honest, realistic depiction of addiction and how it affects the family, friends, and basically anyone in the person with the addiction’s path I have ever seen on television. How real you may ask? So real that my husband, who has 15 years of recovery and was watching the show with me, had to stop watching. So real that during several episodes, I alternated between being extremely angry and literally crying at how bad Jackie was treating her family. So real that I had to stop watching one episode and come back to it the next day because I was so upset at how easily Jackie was able to manipulate her friends, and how willing they seemed to be to believe her even though they knew something was not right!

What Makes This Show So Real

For both my husband and me, Nurse Jackie brought up a lot of emotions and an eerie sense of déjà vu. While the substance of choice for my husband was not pills, Jackie would break open the pills and snort them and for him that was a very vivid reminder of his past cocaine use. There were a few episodes where he had to get up and leave the room while they were showing her using because it was a little too real for him. There was another episode where Jackie’s daughter talks about how her drug use affected her, and that was a tough episode for him to watch as well because it reminded him of the letter that our daughter wrote to him years ago asking if his addiction was her fault.

For me, I could relate on a very deep level to Jackie’s family and friends and the range of emotions was almost too much to bear. As I said before I went back and forth between being angry, sad, frustrated and absolutely amazed at how easy it was for Jackie to lie, blame others, manipulate, and have no regard for anyone or anything other than getting high. She was pathological in her desire to use no matter what, and it brought back some very painful memories for me. As the seasons went on and Jackie spiraled more and more out of control with her addiction, I remember actually yelling at the screen for her to just stop and think about her family, why was she doing this, why can’t she just stop…like I said this show is extremely realistic!

While Nurse Jackie was difficult to watch at times, it was also very therapeutic. It was actually beneficial for me to cry during certain episodes because I could very much relate to what her family and friends were going through and I could release that pain through tears, or even yelling at the screen. I could talk to my husband about what I was feeling during a certain scene; he could explain to me Jackie's thought process from the mind of a person with addiction, and we could process our feelings right then and there.

I can’t express enough how powerful and important Nurse Jackie was for me to watch. Seeing Jackie slowly and deliberately tear down everything and everyone she loved and not care was a reminder of how insidious addiction can be and how it can completely take over the mind, body and soul. It changes the person you know and love into a complete monster and someone you don’t even recognize anymore. What I loved about this show is that it showed this in all its agonizing detail; it didn’t try to glamorize it or sugarcoat it. You stepped into the life of a person with addiction and you rode the rollercoaster to hell with her and her family and friends.

Nurse Jackie provided a raw, unflinching look at addiction and is must-see television for those who want to get a glimpse of what millions of us deal with every day and are fighting so hard to get under control.

Nadine Herring is a virtual assistant and owner of Virtually Nadine, an online administrative support company. She is also a blogger that specializes in writing about addiction from the family perspective and community building & organizing. She is a family addiction advocate, community activist, Boston Celtics fan, runner, and owner of a small animal kingdom consisting of 2 dogs and 3 cats (all rescues).

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