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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Risky Drinking Review

Did you watch the Risky Drinking film? What did you think of it?

I liked the film very much. The fact that I advised HBO through an entire segment makes me unable to give an impartial opinion. Even though I like the film, after watching it for the second time, I realized that I am desensitized to the yukky parts of alcoholism. Hospitalization to detox and watching someone’s hands shaking is a bit ho-hum to me.

For me the concern was the 15-year-old boy taking care of his alcoholic father and the wife of the end-stage alcoholic who helps her husband go back into his job while in a drunken state. Those were the scenes that made me want to jump out of my seat and scream at the TV.

Let’s break this down by segment. In the first one, we see a young woman, Kenzie, who doesn’t do much drinking during the work week so that she feels comfortable binge drinking on the weekends. I know this is considered to be “fun” in her generation. But, I can’t understand why someone purposely gets drunk and begins the evening with laughter and always ends in tears. That’s not fun to me. But, I'm not a drinker. The fact is that binge drinking is just another form of alcoholism. I was disturbed with the young woman’s behavior while she was drinking and appalled at her reasoning for why it was all “OK.”

In the segment where a man, Mike, is having his teenage son visit him at his tropical island home over spring break was especially infuriating. The father wants the boy to come live with him rather than living with his mother in the states. At one point the father actually says he needs his son to come and help take care of him. What? What parent says that or expects that?

During this segment the man and his wife try to reconcile, but the effort ends up in a verbal confrontation. I was not shocked by the illogical reasoning that was spewing from the husband’s mouth. The inability to see how his behavior has ruined his marriage is a common trait among alcoholics. The scene could have come from any alcoholic home at almost any time. It’s not uncommon to those of us who have been a party to such arguments.

The entire time I was watching, I was thinking about that 15-year-old boy who has most likely seen this type of encounter between his parents many times over. I wanted to snatch the boy from inside my TV and run off with him to keep him safe. I wanted to make sure he had “normal” years of what is left of his childhood. On the other hand, how would I know what “normal” is since I’m the wife of an alcoholic?

Next, we have Noel and Rhonda. I’m not really sure what Rhonda’s function was in the film except that she was the introduction of Noel. I don’t think Noel is the only one with a problem in the group of women that share her happy hour enjoyment. My problem with Noel is that I did not see her drinking or drunk in front of her kids. I didn’t see her children suffering the way I know many children suffer. Maybe she is the tip of the iceberg and the assumption is that people will use their imagination to determine how bad things are. Unless you’ve lived it, I don’t see how anyone can simply use their imagination.

Noel was interesting because she used a new program called “Moderation Management” to help her control her drinking. It seemed to be working for her. I was happy her segment was in the movie because it reinforces my opinion that 12 step programs are not the only ones that can provide help to alcoholics. The fact that Noel seemed to be happy in her choice of programs and it was helping her, makes this segment worthwhile.

My personal favorite segment was the story of Neal. Maybe because I was the one who introduced the HBO producers to the couple. Neal’s wife, Kathy, has been a long-time follower of my blog and had written me many e-mails way before the film was even conceived. I believed they were the perfect candidates for filming. I was right.

Neal struggled through the film and yet was willing to have his life become an open book in order to show people how bad it could really get. What you see in the film is only a drop in the bucket compared to the reality of Neal’s life. What you don’t see in the film is the verbal argument between Kathy and the doctors at the hospital who did not want to admit Neal for detox. She takes a strong stand until the hospital agrees to take Neal into intensive care. I admire HBO for pushing the hospital administration to allow them to film Neal while he was hospitalized. Kathy and Neal stood behind HBO and between them they received their permission for filming.

I never wish anything bad to happen, but I had hoped the detox would be a bit more eventful than it was. Everyone was prepared for hallucinations and other horror factors, but Neal was fortunate to have an easy detox.

The most important thing for me to witness was the look on Kathy’s face as she attempts to get her husband to the detox center in Florida. You can clearly tell it was the last straw for her and I could feel her pain as I watched. Any alcoholic’s wife knows the look; knows the feeling of despair and sense of loss.

This is a must-see film for anyone who suspects that they may be drinking too much. But for me the real story is in the family. It is the teenage boy and his mother and the wife of the seemingly immortal alcoholic. That’s the true story of how extensive the damage can be amidst the chaos of alcoholism.

After watching this film, be sure to visit the website and read where these participants are now. You will find it to be very interesting.  http://www.hbo.com/documentaries/risky-drinking/synopsis/where-are-they-now.html

I was supposed to have been listed on the resource page of the website for this film, but alas, I seem to have been left on the cutting room floor. For the family and friends of alcoholics, there is a new forum site open and waiting for your participation. It's a baby forum so please be patient while we build our membership. Go go https://oarsfamilysupport.weebly.com/.


Anonymous said...

Loved this program...so true to life, unfortunately!

Anonymous said...

Loved this documentary!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this premiere. The young girl who ended up crying after each drunken episode was really sad. She definitely needs to get her scene together - I think she thinks she's having fun but it looks like anything but fun and will end pretty badly eventually.

I felt bad for the 15 year old boy visiting with his father. He looked so lost to me. I think the father is a good role model for his boy-- what NOT to be!!

The Noel scene is pretty commonplace nowadays I believe. Not good but. On Monday. I think there are s lot of unhappy wives, mothers and homemakers that cope with life with booze. There's so mNy "jokes" about it- but it's anything but a joke.

The scenario that hit home most for me was the last one with Neal- more end stage and headed to detox. His poor wife looked exhausted. It's interesting because he looked sick but the documentary didn't portray the half of it. Yes he had tremors in his hands but I'm sure his daily life is a horror show at home. I'm sure he falls, pees his pants and is just so sick all the time. Either drunk or detoxing. Headed for death's Door.

Hope there is a second part so we can see how they're doing. Great to get the word out on this growing public health disaster.

Doug Wingert said...

I think that telling alcoholics that they can learn to moderate their drinking is a really great way to get super rich. You just tell em exactly what they want to hear, charge them or their families who love them and are willing to do anything to help a shit ton of money with the promise that they can learn how to drink responsibly and you make a ton of money. Their cycle of misery and sufferring will go on endlessly until they eventually die and the people who love them will suffer along with em. Maybe they'll kill some innocent people while they're driving drunk but what do you care you can blame it on their lack of self control cuz they just wouldn't follow your moderation program.

I did read a follow up about Noel that was encouraging though. Apparently, moderation just served to "piss her off," as it would any alcoholic. So, she decided to go to an abstinence support group (AA most likely but they don't say it).

If you are not an alcoholic then you will be able to moderate your drinking but if you can't despite obvious negative consequences then you are an alcoholic and abstinence is the only solution. If you don't think you are an alcoholic then by all means try to control your drinking but if you can't please consider abstinence so that you can stop your suffering and more importantly the suffering of the people you love.

Jill said...

There was no update on Neal on the HBO page. Do you know how he's doing?

Doug Wingert said...

Sorry, I don't

Immortal Alcoholic's Wife said...

I interviewed Neal last week. Watch for the blog post coming soon!

Jodi Purdy-Quinlan said...

I am concerned about Neal? How is he doing. So sad.

houndmama4wv said...

I just finished watching the documentary a few minutes ago. My husband is very much like Neal. Seeing his struggle broke my heart. I very much relate to his wife.

Tangerine Sky333 said...

I just watched this program a few hours ago and I was dismayed that AA was only mentioned briefly two minutes before the end of this two-hour documentary on alcoholism. Yet the moderation scheme was given almost three minutes of air time in the first hour. I'm thinking that the producers did well in presented true alcoholic behavior, but little else.

In the "Where Are They Now" follow up, I was pleased to read that Noel found AA, but no mention of Neal, whom I feared was dead.

Jorgo said...

The link was broken for where are they now:

Here is the correct one: