Another pop star dies young. In the 60s that was nothing out of the ordinary. In the caring, sharing 21st century it is a tragedy. Today’s death of blues singer Amy Winehouse, aged 27, has hit the news and Twittersphere, offering a welcome relief for many from the stale and depressing tales of phone hacking and the imminent demise of News International.
In reality she was a one hit wonder, with one super album, Back to Black. A generation took her to their hearts, especially those middle class girls who began knocking back the vodkas at 12 and reached a steady state of alcoholism by 14. Her life became such a train wreck it made them feel like they were in control of theirs.
Britain has a real problem with alcohol. The media talk about drugs and alcohol, while alcohol is itself a drug and the most destructive of the lot. Forget heroin and cocaine, neither come close to the cost to society of the demon drink. The big problem is alcoholics are often called “heavy drinkers” and that hides the fact that they have gone beyond the point of no return.
One of my mates at university became an alcoholic and then a heroin addict when the beer was no longer enough of a suppressant for his feelings. He eventually gassed himself with the exhaust from his Father’s car in a suburban home in Merseyside. He was a brilliant medical student, and had just graduated near the top of his class.
Another friend, who began drinking heavily at university became an alcoholic and was told that another week’s drinking would take his liver past the point of no recovery. He finally listened and gave up completely. He now has to live in a remote village in the Lake District to keep him away from his “mates” who would have him drinking again within a few weeks, and in a wooden box within a year.
We worry about nuclear power plants, flooding, mugging and a thousand other things, but alcoholism is the massive hidden problem in today’s society. It is hidden by a media full of addicts, by an advertising industry with its nose in the trough. It is hidden by jokes. It is hidden by three thousand years of the socialisation of drinking.
We now have people with dementia as young as 30, caused by alcohol rotting their brains. What are we going to do with them for the next 30 years before they die? Alcohol is too cheap, too much of a crutch to too many people, and there is too much money to be made from it. I’m having a beer as I write this – my first for about a week. I’m enjoying it, but it’s just one drink. I’m glad it doesn’t have to be two or three to satisfy me. Maybe I’m lucky I’m not the addictive type.
Do you know anyone who has got an alcohol and drug problem? I’d welcome your comments if you’d like to share your views.