He speaks from personal experience when dealing with problem drinking and alcoholism. He rightly states that the focus of media attention seems to be on the very public binge drinking culture prevalent in the younger generation in Britain today. Those endless newsreels of the falling down drunks littering the streets of many inner cities and towns across Britain every weekend. However he believes there is actually a bigger problem with hidden middle, professional class drinking. Given I was not too dissimilar to Mr Campbell in that I was a functioning drunk for years with a good job that I outwardly was doing well in, two cars on the drive of a nice suburban semi-detached house, two kids, long term marriage etc. Your typical alcoholic. No? Well yes actually, whilst there is no sweeping generalisation of an typical alcoholic a lot of people I know who are now in recovery fitted closer to the stereotype I've just described when drinking than the unwashed, homeless, park bench occupying drunk many have as a mental caricature of an alcoholic.
It was this group of people that the programme focused on. Those that "have a couple of large glasses of wine to unwind in the evening". Even that level is beyond what is considered safe by the medical experts, especially if consumed every day. A consultant from Southampton also pointed out with 24 hour licensing and the overall reduction on alcohol costs when compared to per capita incomes of the last couple of decades we have adopted a European culture of wine with meals both at home and when out but also continue to have our "let's get wasted at the weekend" British culture as well. He described it as "the worst of both worlds".
As interviewees related their stories I just sat and nodded as I would if hearing a "drunkalog" at an AA meeting. In part almost everyone who talked on the programme told a part of my story too. Another (if ever needed) affirmation that I am an alcoholic.
Some stats given in the programme...
- 41% of professional men drink more than the recommended daily limits
- All major causes of death in the UK are in decline (this includes heart disease and cancer etc.) by rates of between 20% and 60% except liver disease which is rising at a rate of 100%.
- Liver disease now claims 100 lives a week in the UK
- 9,000 people die a year from alcohol related illnesses
Just pause and relate last one to something you can think of.. That is considerably more than the average attendance at a Gillingham FC home game. It is approx 17 times the entire population of my daughters school.
One very eminent medical type described it as a "crises", an "epidemic".
Now as you'd expect I have a particular view on my alcoholism. I tried desperately, and with complete failure, to regulate my drinking for a long time, the last year of my drinking was a constant battle to "drink like a normal person". For whatever reason I cannot do that. All that was happening in that last year was I was moving from a daily drinker who "topped up" to an irregular "binge drinker", where the quantity consumed and effects it may have were getting less and less predictable.
In the end finding a solution (the AA programme) which was total abstinence has been for me a practical workable solution. In the Panorama programme others at a rehab, no doubt not dissimilar to the one I went to, were now also convinced total abstinence was the best option for them. Mr Campbell had been "dry" (sic) for 13 years but had started to "have the occasional drink" now and then. He said he liked the control of saying "no" but admitted openly that it was a struggle to refuse that next drink. He also said his psychiatrist that has treated his depression thought his return to even some drinking was "a bad idea". Finally he says that during the making of the documentary he had "stopped again".
I can't speak for Mr Campbell obviously but my thought on his return to "normal drinking" was - "Why would you take the risk?" For me I never had a normal, good or balanced relationship with alcohol, I was never really ever a social, normal drinker - on certain days in certain situations yes I put on the front but behind that there was a craving and a yearning I had to feed at some point later... or before. Getting 5 or 6 pints in before the works social do was common for me so I could appear "normal". I consider me taking a drink again like playing a game of Russian Roulette - maybe the chamber will be empty; the drink will do nothing I'll walk away and order a cup of tea the next day - however what if the chamber isn't empty and it sparks of that craving for me to ignore all sense and start allowing drinking to dictate my ever waking (and sleeping no doubt) moment. Planing when to drink, hiding that, not being where I ought to be, letting people down, lying, risking my life and others through reckless acts such as drink driving... etc. etc.
A very thought provoking programme which was closer to home for me than many in more ways than one... one of the interviews was filmed on a bench in a square no more than a long cricket ball throw from my current work office!
If you have found this post because you believe you have a problem with alcohol I urge you to get help. AA in the UK has a 24 hour help line manned by volunteers who are recovering alcoholics call 0845 769 7555. You can look at the AA website information for newcomers. Alternatively talk to your GP or look for Alcohol Services provided by the NHS in your area.
Also at the top of the blog there is a link to a page about My Drinking Story which if you are interested in how I got here might provide a little enlightenment.
Finally all comments are approved by me before appearing on this site publicly. If you wish to say something to me anonymously and not wish it publicly please do so - just indicate that you want me to delete the comment.