When a serious subject like drug addiction is tackled by a TV production crew, it’s not just the people on camera who become affected by what unfolds. Below, check out Gone Too Far Producer Sarah Sisson’s notes on what it was like to film Gary’s story…
I became personally invested in Gary’s story right from the beginning. Our cameras were covering him at his worst, and that called for a lot of trust on both sides. We formed a tight bond pretty quickly, and I became close with his mother as well. When we weren’t shooting, I was on the phone with them. I’m still in very close contact with him and his mom and will be sure to continue our relationship.
It was very difficult to shoot Gary while he was using. He’s such a great kid, with so much potential — it broke my heart to see him hurting himself in such a devastating way. The thought of him overdosing was always at the front of my mind, but I had to trust him. He was very honest with me about his limits and how much he could handle, and it was my job to document it, so I had to step back and watch. I am very thankful for the level of trust that formed between us.
Gary was pretty comfortable on camera right from the start. He allowed us into his inner world — one that he kept from most people in his life. He also took to Adam right away. Adam understood what Gary was going through better than any of us, and I think that really put Gary at ease.
Adam had a way of making everyone around him feel comfortable, but he had a significant impact on Gary. Gary didn’t really have any positive male figures in his life, and so I think knowing that Adam genuinely cared for him gave him the encouragement and confidence he needed to walk away from heroin. Adam was a shining example to him — of what Gary’s life could be, if he wanted it.
The last scene we shot with Gary and Adam was 26 days after Gary returned from rehab. He had relapsed on heroin by this point and told Adam about it during their meeting. This was devastating to all of us. We had all been on such an emotional roller coaster with Gary up until this point — witnessing him use, filming him through his painful detox and then experiencing the joy of seeing him sober and happy. To hear he had relapsed on heroin was really hard. I remember feeling so deflated. Adam talked to him, and Gary was honest about his relapse. By the end of the conversation, he agreed to go back into treatment. I think the whole crew breathed a collective sigh of relief that day.
One of the most moving moments between Gary and I happened the night that Adam died. Gary called me as soon as the news broke, and I was naturally upset. I was trying my hardest to pull it together and make sure that Gary was okay, too — but he was more focused on trying to comfort me. I thought, “Wow, here’s this kid struggling with his own grief and battles, and he’s focused on making sure that I’m okay.” That just shows you the kind of loving and caring person he can be.
I think the key to Gary’s recovery is going to be staying out of Connecticut. Connecticut is a huge trigger for him. If he stays in California and continues his therapy and group meetings, he has a real shot at lasting sobriety and living a happy and fulfilling life. We are all rooting for him.