Nobody with an interest in pubs and beer can afford to ignore the issue of alcoholism, an affliction that unfortunately takes hold of a minority who go well beyond just liking a drink. But it was interesting to see, the other week, a Panorama documentary (whose general message was frothing at the mouth about supposed “hidden” middle-class problem drinking) presented by former New Labour spin-doctor Alastair Campbell, who claimed that he had been an alcoholic, but had now managed to revert to being a moderate, social drinker.
This, of course, goes right against the core message of Alcoholics Anonymous, who have always held that the only salvation for the alcoholic is total abstinence, for life. For some people, that may be the cure, but I’ve always believed that, for others, it was possible to change from being a problem drinker to someone who kept it under control. This is a view echoed by Phil Mellows in this very perceptive blogpost.
If you look at the statistics on alcohol consumption by how rich you are, the wealthiest fifth of the population do indeed drink slightly more than the poorest fifth. Yet the poorest fifth are six or seven times more likely to die an alcohol-related death than the wealthiest fifth.Everyone who has a problem with drink has to find their own personal salvation, and it is dishonest to insist there is a single, one size fits all, cure.
This is because dying of drink is over determined by other factors such as depression, obesity, nutrition and social conditions in general. It would be reasonable to say that it's not the alcohol that kills poor people, it's the poverty.
Of course, middle class people die, too. But they have a much better chance of survival. And it explains, too, why they are better at 'functioning'. They also present well on television documentaries.