I have always had a soft spot for Adrian Chiles going right back to the mid-nineties when he did a programme called ‘The Working Lunch’ at a time I first started out running my own business.
Since then he has done a host of radio shows, MOTD 2 and various TV programmes, including the excellent Blacks v Whites documentary a couple of years back.
Amongst a host of establishment presenters who knew only of Eton and Oxbridge, to me, Chiles was a breath of fresh fair and I was genuinely disappointed when he temporarily sold his soul to ITV and their perpetually shit sports and daytime shows.
Anyway, Chiles is back next week with a documentary called ‘Drinkers Like Me’. This has caused quite a stir with some feeling empathy with his revelations and others taking on a holier than thou attitude that more or less confirms Chiles as an alcoholic.
What will be interesting for me is that hearing Adrian Chiles speak about this has allowed me to once again, analyse my own booze habits and why, in recent years, I have been deliberately avoiding social events where I get drawn into drinking to excess because it results in feeling listless and irrationally depressed for 2-3 days after.
The problem I have is that I like drink but I don’t like being drunk beyond tipsy and I have long realised that booze acts as a depressant in me. For up 48 hours after a boozing session, my anxiety is that bad, a chest pain is suddenly a heart-attack, a creaking stair in the middle of the night is a burglar, and late payment from a client means they are going bust.
I don’t feel embarrassed about that because most of the time I am sober and in control of such irrational thoughts. The sad thing is that it has curtailed my life somewhat, because if I am invited to a social event I end up with a ‘If you can’t beat them join them’ attitude as there is nothing worse than being sober in a room full of inane, drunken chat.
As a result, I don’t bother going to most boozy events at all these days, carefully choosing occasional ones that will end up with me drinking. I do this by planning ahead with meticulous detail in preparation for the misery and anxiety the hangover will offer me.
I was diagnosed with mild depression in my late twenties and I had an awful period where I was dealing with panic attacks and anxiety. Many doctors would have stuck me straight on the ant-depressants, but fortunately, my GP decided to look into my exercise and alcohol intake. Hey presto, problem identified, if not entirely resolved (as I didn’t stop drinking completely) but at least I didn’t join a country seemingly addicted to pills that were, at the time, available like sweets.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t equate every case of depression to lifestyle but it will take a lot to convince me that if you put poison into your body and don’t burn it out with exercise, you are not making yourself a sitting duck for what Winston Churchill called the ‘Black Dog’.
Where I feel empathy with Adrian Chiles is that he can’t see a future where he is not having a couple of pints after work or before a West Bromwich Albion match, followed by a bottle of wine with his dinner. I am totally with him on that is it seems like normal behaviour for a 50 year old bloke.
The trouble with that is the level of drinking is that it adds up to what can be quite dangerous amounts. Chiles for example, has mild liver damage, mild depression, high blood pressure and a hernia, all of which are related to his years of consuming alcohol. There is no doubt I also drink in excess of what is recommended and I regard myself as in reasonably in control of my drinking habits.
The truth is, I am probably bullshitting myself and the only thing I am really in control of is what level of booze it takes to bring on the anxiety and how I will deal with it. The step after that is to reduce the daily intake and to have several days of abstinence at a time. I do have one or two booze free days a week and I hope that one day I will take on board how great I feel the day after abstinence. However, to give up booze altogether?
Anyway, whatever the case, I am not trying to sound like some sort of alcohol evangelist, I don’t care a stuff what other people see as careful drinking habits, or whether they think I am too careful, or not careful enough, it is all about individual choice.
What I do think is that Adrian Chiles has been quite brave to bring to the fore that there are tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people out there, who see others as alcoholics without looking at their own dependence and the effects on their mental and physical well-being.
That’ll do for now…anyone fancy a pint?
BBC2’s Drinkers like Me: Adrian Chiles airs on Monday 27th August at 9pm