The Cirrhosis Society.

Nigel’s face was pockmarked and ashen. Yellowed with sickness and decay. You could see in his eyes that he never stood a chance. That he was never going to make it. When he died there was a sense of inevitability, perhaps relief, about it all.

Somewhere beneath the purple blotchiness of Toni’s face, beneath the puffy disfigurement, you could see her youth. See her face as it used to be, just a few years previously. Fresh, glowing and optimistic. Her death was more difficult to accept. Twenty six is not an age to die after all.

Mark though, is not much older. At twenty nine, his skin and eyes are the colour of melted butter. A sickly, deathly, terrifying pallor. The colour of painful death. It will take a miracle of sorts if he is to pull through this.

Vanda has seen it all. Been through it all. Her eyes have a look of tired wisdom about them. She knows what she is doing to herself. Understands where it all will lead. But the demons in her head won’t leave her be. Haunted and tormented, self destruction seems like a good way out.

Four faces, four lives, four alcoholics. All documented in Paul Watson’s fly on the wall film, Rain In My Heart.

Four lives blighted. Two of those lives extinguished. Right before out eyes.

The clinical dispassion of the camera lens could do little to diminish the sheer horror and sadness of it all.

These were people in the depths of despair. Vulnerable and lost and utterly abandoned in a society that seems increasingly disinterested in the plight of the weak.

During the discussion that followed the transmission of the programme, it was difficult at times to ascertain whether the spokesmen for the government and the drinks industry had actually watched the film.

Their positions were cold and clear and heartlessly out of touch.

Alcoholism is a choice made freely. No one is forcing the drink down people’s throats. If someone decides to drink to excess, then it is not the fault of the state, or of industry. Such abuse is a personal decision, and as such falls outside the realm of our responsibility.

Measures proposed to tackle the growth in alcohol abuse in the UK – simple things such as raising prices or indicating the amount of units on labels – were dismissed as (politically) unworkable or simply too difficult to implement and introduce.

So it was that the demons that spawned this disease in the four cases filmed, were deemed personal tragedies, personal choices.

And as is always the case with the personal, society can be absolved of responsibility. We cannot legislate for individuals, for such is the way of things.

It is true, of course. We cannot always take responsibility for the actions of individuals. A degree of personal responsibility is required of us all, if we are to function as a society.

The problem however, is that the increasing level of alcohol abuse in the UK is a sign that something is now seriously wrong and that sooner or later, some sort of intervention or action is going to be required.

Children as young as eleven are now taking up beds in accident and emergency rooms, poisoned by alcohol.

Twenty six year old women are dying of cirrhosis of the liver.

Lives are being ruined before thay can even start.

And why?

For extra tax revenues at the treasury? For a healthy profit and loss at the distillery? For a good night out on the town?

It seems improbable that any society should turn a blind eye to such overwhelming and preventable destruction, and yet this appears to be happening in the UK.

People are literally drinking themselves to death and no-one seems prepared to do much about it.

It’s as if the country has been possessed by some mass hysteria, some vast delusion. As if, beneath the wild drunkeness, lies a demonic beast that has possession of the national soul.

But just what is it that is troubling this island? What demons are there that we have to wrestle with as a nation?

What is it that we are hiding from? Struggling to come to terms with?

Why this national mania for obliteration? Why this self destructive melancholy?

Because that is what is at the heart of this disease. It is a malaise, be it personal or cultural.

Look into the eyes of Toni, Nigel, Mark or Vanda, and you will see it there. That disconnection with the world. That lost, terrifying loneliness. That hopelessness that must be obliterated.

And if we shrug this off as something personal. If we dismiss that haunted gaze as the sad culmination of some individual tragedy, then we are seriously wrong.

Take a walk down a UK street on a Saturday night and you will see that look on many a face.

Behind the rowdy laughter and the chaotic merriment, it is there. That disconnect. That anger and seething frustration with something that always seems just out of reach, just beyond our understanding.

Britain is merrily drowning its sorrows with a gay abandon, and Paul Watson’s harrowing film gave us an intimate and personal insight into just where that may take us all.

3 thoughts on “The Cirrhosis Society.

  1. Jen says:

    Hi Phil,

    Yeah it was very sad to watch. I could really sympathise with them. Alcohol is so readily available and the drinking culture in the UK is so strong that you take it for granted that any meet up in the pub, any dinner, any party, is going to involve copious amounts of the stuff.

    I’ve tucked away a fair bellyfull in my time, that’s for sure…

    It’s so easy to go from social drinking to problematic drinking…as this film showed 🙁

  2. What a powerful sounding movie. Industries like alcohol and tabacco seem to feel like it’s their products are not addictive nor is their advertising seductive. Sure, not everyone has a problem with drink but there certainly are many who do and there could be some action on their part to not glamorize it so much.

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