AFF 2023: ‘No Matter What’ shows addiction’s impact on families

AFF 2023: ‘No Matter What’ shows addiction’s impact on families
SY PHOTO Cassy Bustos was the centerpiece of the ‘No Matter What’ documentary, following her journey. (Courtesy photo)

By Caitlyn Meisner |

“No Matter What” follows Cassy Bustos, a recovered drug addict and former prisoner, in her journey post-prison to rehabilitate her life documented by Gayle Nosal and Beret Strong.

The 48-minute film opens with Bustos in the present day at the transitional rehabilitation house she directs in Colorado. She talks with some of the residents and fixes up the house during her daily rounds. She sits with a few residents and starts telling her story, taking the audience back in time to the start of her addiction.

Bustos said she always felt like an outsider, but could never pinpoint what it was. Was it the fact she was Hispanic in a predominantly white area? Or something she’s suppressed?

The story of a normal girl in a normal family in suburban Colorado turns south when Bustos discovers meth at a young age. From this moment, Bustos’ entire life is changed. The addiction to the high consumes her day-to-day and eventually ruins her relationship with her family as she teeters on the edge of suicide and a worsening addiction.

Bustos’ fate worsens when she is charged, convicted and sentenced to six years in prison in 2014 for felony burglary and misdemeanor assault. She had gone to her old apartment with her friend, Christopher Hernandez, to retrieve her belongings when the altercation with the current tenants turned violent and Hernandez was killed.

Bustos was fortunate enough to take rehabilitation classes during her three years in prison – she was let out early on parole. She said in the film that prison turned her entire life around for the better, which is demonstrated by the changes she made in her life upon her release.

Throughout the documentary, Bustos’ family – mainly her mother and father, who remained supportive of her throughout her addiction and prison time – demonstrate the toll addiction often takes on one’s family. Bustos’ parents are tearful as they speak of the times they found her high and also about the frequent weekends when they visited her in prison.

Despite the odd animation scenes as Bustos and her family describe the pain of her addiction and fast pace of the film, the story and its message are powerful. Addiction doesn’t just affect the one who is addicted: it’s a disease that touches every single person in their orbit.

In a question-and-answer session with an outreach person for the film, it was revealed that Bustos herself was involved in making the film and making it accessible to relevant communities. The film has been shown multiple times to Bustos’ community, family and friends, in addition to conferences for addiction assistance and justice.

The transparency of Bustos and her family is what makes this film so easy to watch and fall into. Hearing and seeing the raw emotion from Bustos and her parents is captivating and tells of how far she has come in her journey to rehabilitate her life and relationships.