Well, a documentary with that title (aired a few days ago in the UK) was bound to catch my attention, wasn't it?
And you think I'd welcome anything in the mainstream media that highlighted the problems caused by alcohol addiction.
But, actually, no. It made me really mad. Because I think this sort of programme only makes things worse.
Well, the documentary focussed on eight interviewees (including the fabulous Lucy Rocca - founder of Soberistas.com) who, like all the ex-drinkers I've come across, were amazingly brave, honest and individual.
Almost the entire hour was spent lingering over the details of each of their 'rock bottoms.' Ruined careers, homelessness, emergency hospital admissions and so on, with moody lighting, gritty close ups and porn shots of booze. It was like being invited to watch a car crash in slow motion.
To an extent those stories help. I have huge respect for those people who told their stories so movingly in order to make others watching, whose lives are spiralling out of control, feel less alone.
BUT, interestingly, although the interviewees all confessed to being totally addicted to alcohol, and never wanting to drink again, only half of them described themselves as 'alcoholics.' They used expressions such as 'alcohol dependant' or 'non-drinker.'
(See my post: Are You an Alcoholic?)
Despite this, the documentary was called 'I am an alcoholic, and my name is....' encouraging, I believe, viewers to see the interviewees as 'sad people born with an unfortunate disease', with nothing at all in common with them, regardless of how much wine they were happily throwing back while watching.
The word 'alcoholic' leaves the impression that the people are the problem, not the booze, and that it's 'normal' to drink gallons of an addictive substance without becoming addicted, and 'abnormal' if you do!
One lovely lady, a professional cellist, talked about how she used alcohol to cope with performance anxiety. She used to buy bottles of vodka in the supermarket, and use their toilet to hide in while she decanted them into bottles of Evian.
She said "I know there will be people watching this who are addicted to alcohol, but they'll think I'm okay because I've never mixed vodka into bottles of water in a Supermarket toilet."
And she's right! All those 'rock bottom' stories only serve to reassure other addicts that they're not so bad really. Carry on! Crack open another bottle! That's what an alcoholic looks like, and that's not me!
Alcoholics Anonymous tell people to 'look for the similarities, not the differences,' but it's so much easier and more reassuring to look for all the tiny ways those stories differ from ours, isn't it?
But what made me really cross is that these amazing people had all managed to quit drinking and had gone on the live fantastic lives, achieving wonderful things. And how much time did the documentary spend focussing on that?
The last five minutes.
We were encouraged to come away feeling sorry for those poor alcoholics who'd had such a horrible time and could never drink again, when really we should be thinking What incredible people! I want to be like them!
When are we going to start seeing documentaries with titles like 'How I beat alcohol addiction and transformed my life'?
We need documentaries that show how anybody can find themselves addicted to alcohol, and how quitting isn't just a terrible hardship. Documentaries that encourage people to look hard at their own drinking, and see how much better life could be without it.
We need inspiration, not voyeurism.