Treating the Smoke and Not the Fire, with Darrell Hammond and Michelle Esrick

Season 1Episode 6July 12, 2019

From Darrell Hammond and Michelle Esrick, the duo behind Cracked Up, a discussion about how too often society treats the effects of childhood trauma instead of the cause.

Cracked Up is an emotionally arresting, trauma-informed look at the lifelong consequences when we fail to protect a child. Filmmaker Michelle Esrick chronicles Saturday Night Live star Darrell Hammond’s journey from childhood trauma, through decades of misdiagnoses of its effects, toward hope and healing. The duo talk about what drove them to make the film and how they hope it will help change the conversation about child abuse. As Esrick says, too often society treats the smoke—things like addiction and mental illness—and not the fire—the very experiences that caused them in the first place.

Topics in this episode:

  • What drove them to make Cracked Up (2:20)
  • What they didn’t know at the start of the journey (4:34)
  • Trauma is when your reality is not seen or known (8:04)
  • Telling a survivor’s story with respect and without causing them further harm (9:36)
  • A hunger to call out the bad guy, and to be believed (12:14)
  • The consequences of trusting your own reality (14:23)
  • The haunted house—the shock a simple thought can cause (23:18)
  • Trauma, substance use, and addiction: Treating the smoke and not the fire (28:25)
  • The investment in disbelief. It’s hard to shatter images—and monsters hide in the light (35:23)
  • Public policy: What would you like to see changed? (39:38)
  • How to set up an educational screening of Cracked Up (41:35)
  • Our next episode topic (42:00)


Cracked Up movie website

Darrell and Michelle, NPR radio interview on WNYC (at 34:25)

Darrell’s book about his experiences

Dr. Bessel van der Kolk and The Body Keeps the Score

Dr. Nabil Kotbi

Penny Dreadful

With Dr. Jacob Ham in “The Long Arm of Childhood Trauma” episode of the Road to Resilience podcast

Dr. Vincent Felitti, co-principal investigator of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study

Dr. Bruce Perry

Host an educational screening of Cracked Up

Resources on the Cracked Up movie website

And the $10 million we’d like to see the government spend is to give the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funding for research into preventing child abuse. Learn more about that in our interview on “Child Abuse as a Public Health Issue” with Dr. Elizabeth Letourneau.

Transcript to come.