Drinking To Oblivion: Louis Theroux’s sobering new documentary

Drinking To Oblivion: Louis Theroux’s sobering new documentary

Returning to the UK, Louis spends hour with problem drinkers. The results are impossibly moving

For his newest documentary, Drinking To Oblivion, Louis Theroux has embedded himself at Kings College Hospital in south London. Hes been interviewing patients whose alcoholism has put them in A& E and those at their penultimate destination, Kingss liver division. FYI, giggles are very thin on the ground, but if youve got the emotional fortitude this is an engage and pretty mind-blowing bit of television.

As the title indicates, this isnt your typical hand-wringing over whether an extra glass or four of Chablis poses a dilemma. The subjects we gratify Aurelie, Joe and Peter among others have all at some phase gone very hard in the dipsomaniac paint. Were often told that the roughly 10% of people who struggle with real addiction( as opposed to semi-comedic, shh-its-fine, occasional binge drinking) vary between the rest of us. Were told that their genes carry markers which, knocked about by misfortune or bad selections, will have them in the grip of addiction before you can say: Better make that a doubled please, barman. Whats striking here, though, is the paper-thin space between the ribald problem drinkers we all know and love, and the habitual alcoholics marriage be embarrassed to be seen at a bar with.

Louis Louis with Joe.

In the liver unit, Louis gratifies Stuart, whose distended stomach is being drained of 10 litres of what can only be described as organ dishwater. Stuart is asked to list what he would drink on an average day: four or five pints, he responds, a couple of bottles of wine. Louis says that the sensible thing may be to choose one or the other. Its hard to believe that all that stands between normal Ocado drinking and a place in the liver unit is saying both, but here we are. Once you start insuring a bit of yourself in red-faced street drunks it gets harder to fold your limbs, harden your mush and tut about self-control. Watching Louis can feel like hes snatching away our chance to moralise from the sofa, but Ive got a sneaking suspicion many spectators will recognise the jokey way Aurelie responds to a nurse giving her a firm but fair bollocking on the deteriorating nation of her health. Yes, her spleen and pancreas may be enlarged, says Aurelie, her liver may be moving on to another stage of disease, but at the least she fees her vegetables.

Louis Louis and Aurelie.

For some, it might be hard to see how boozing could be more appealing than, say, actually being alive on Earth. But watching Louiss conversations remind us that demise factors heavily in the slide into addiction. He doesnt live their lives any more. Thats the new idea, says Peters girlfriend Mariana with the weary detachment of someone whos spent years mopping up after an addict. Later, when Louis observes to Joes doctor how difficult it is not to be drawn into his exasperating orbit of chaos, she reminds him that mothering wont assistance. Then you learn about the death of Joes own alcoholic mother when he was a kid and it pokes you in the sides like a red hot pin.

The patients who feature in Drinking To Oblivion all seem particularly vulnerable to the jolts life has a habit of raining down. They are also resigned to a deep self-hatred. I am trying to locate, in my Rain Man internal library of moving TV moments, a piece quite like the moment Aurelie calmly mentions to her doctor that she believed, at this stage of her alcoholism, shed already be dead. Her disappointment is barely hidden. It seems the only person for whom it isnt blindingly clear that sweet, lovely Aurelie deserves better is Aurelie herself.

Sunday, 9pm, BBC2

This article was revised on Sunday 24 April to give the correct spelling of Aurelies name.

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