Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Two things

There are 2 things I want to post about tonight but maybe one can wait until tomorrow. We'll see how long part 1 gets!

Last night I watched a documentary made earlier this year which followed 4 alcoholics during and after their stays in hospital, and after the documentary there was an interview with the doctor and a couple of other speakers on drinking in the UK.

Of the 4 people the documentary followed, 2 died during the making of it. One was a young single mother who drank, she said, out of boredom. She didn't consider herself an alcoholic because she didn't drink every day. She did binge drink, though, on a very regular basis. She was brought into hospital after a binge because she was vomiting blood and had lost 4 pints before she even got to hospital. She made it after that binge and said she wouldn't drink 'as much' again. But she did, and a few days later she was dead. She was 23.

The other person who died had been sober for 10 years, but the damage he had caused to his liver prior to that could not be repaired. Because he had been sober for so long he would have been considered for a liver transplant but his condition deteriorated so quickly that there was no time to even get him on the waiting list.

The third was a man of 29 who was drinking 2 bottles of vodka a day. The whites of his eyes were completely yellow. When he got drunk he self-harmed, and his chances of survival were only 50/50.

The last person was a woman of 43. She said herself she looked 63 and that was generous. After 8 weeks in hospital she swore she'd never drink again. Within hours of going home she was back on the vodka and, although she says she's happier and drinks less than she did, her mobility has been affected and she now walks with a frame.

It was a 'sobering' film, and although it showed the very depths of these people's lives, ultimately I don't think it will have any effect on the watchers' drinking habits, because these people were 'extreme'. It is too easy to look at these people and say, 'Two bottles of vodka a day? No wonder they're like that! I don't drink that much.'

I think the film would have been far more shocking, and ultimately have had more impact, if they had shown a handful of people who thought their drinking was 'normal' and looked at the health problems that was causing. A huge percentage of the population, according to a survey I read today, are far more worried about diet, lack of sleep and too much stress than they are about drinking, yet the number of alcohol-related illnesses is climbing every day, and drinkers are getting younger.

If I'd seen a documentary about someone who drank the same amount as I used to (which I considered a bit above normal but hey, I was used to it, I could handle it) and then found out the health problems that were already underway, I may have given up or at least cut down years ago. Programmes about extreme behaviour don't do anything for self-awareness, they just widen the gulf between 'them' and 'us', and make it harder for 'us' to identify with the problem.

I'll get down off my soap-box now and save my other news for tomorrow!


Mary Christine said...

I agree with you. Unfortunately, with the denial that goes along with the disease, no one ever thinks they are "as bad" as that. Did they show anyone who was successfully sober in AA? (There really are a couple of million of us)

Shadow said...

hey! if you look at the 5 predominant drinking patterns, 80% of the population would be an alcoholic without realising it. they are (very briefly):
ALPHA: to relieve emotional/physical pain, dosn't loose control and can stop at any time.
BETA: when you find yourself in a 'culture' of drinking: reps who are expected to wine and dine clients, hopitality industry where you host dinners etc for clients...
GAMMA: less alcohol needed to reach level of intoxication, loss of control (cannot stop after 1 drink), physical and psychological dependence exists.
DELTA: maintaining a certain level of inebriation all the time, maintaining an 'all day glow' rather than becoming intoxicated. easy to hide.
EPSILON: abstains from alcohol for long periods of time, followed by binge drinking for no apparent reason.
now if you look at that, most of the people i know could be alcoholics.... scary.