Home   Contact Phil   

Phil Mellows is a freelance journalist living in Brighton  

Hear about the latest on this site at Twitter ... Read Phil's weekly pub news update on Fancyapint.com ...   
Phil on
Posterous ...    Phil's blog on the CPL Training website ...

        The politics of drinking

February 4, 2011



God and the demon drink

It astonishes me sometimes how my guilty suspicions are confirmed. Take the case of Wynford Ellis Owen. Owen is CEO of the Welsh Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs and a qualified addiction counsellor. Like many in this sort of position he’s had alcohol problems himself, nearly wrecking his life with drink before giving it up.

He was interviewed last week in the Western Mail, and gave his views on a Welsh relationship with alcohol that he said was “growing out of control”.

There’s a lot of this sensationalism about, of course, and the media loves it. It just kind of washes over me now. But something struck me as odd about Owen’s analysis which blames “reality TV culture” and a growing desire for material wealth.

“We think people, places and things will satisfy our needs but they never, ever do,” he says.

People, places, things… um… now… what else is there? The mention of material wealth is a bit of a giveaway, too. There is clearly a Christian subtext to Owen’s argument. He knows what we really need to get us out of our mess. God.

I posted a quick tweet to this effect, suggesting that this kind of thing isn’t helping. A blogger in the recovery community came back at me wondering whether I was being harsh. Perhaps Owen was merely expressing a sensitivity to the anguish people with these problems go through.

My guilt welled up. Who was I to criticise someone who’s been through what Owen has been through and chosen to dedicate his life to helping others in the same predicament? I certainly couldn’t do what he does myself.

So I went on the Welsh Council’s website to see whether there was any firm evidence that would make my position seem more reasonable. I found this horror, written and narrated by Owen himself. There is more, but that’s enough for me.

Now, I’m an atheist. But I’m not anti-religion. I hate the smug, pointless stuff that the likes of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have been putting out lately. Rationality is not as natural to humanity as they make out. And I respect people who find something in faith, something that might help them through alcohol problems, as religion has no doubt helped Owen.

But I take exception to someone in his position peddling his own personal beliefs as an over-arching solution. I’m sure he has other tools in his counselling toolbox, but you have to wonder.

There’s a mate of mine who’s currently grappling with an alcohol problem, and he’s a good atheist like me. Is god going to help him? I don’t think so, and there are many like him who must balk at the nonsense underlying the Owen – and for that matter the Alcoholics Anonymous – approach.

Unlike AA, but in common with other modern temperance campaigners, Owen also takes his religion into the broad political sphere. In a time when, as he says, public service cuts and redundancies threaten to deepen problems of addiction, his answer is that we’re really too hung up on material things.

Now I don’t feel guilty. Just angry.

Back to diary archive



Writing... Journalism... Research... Awards Judging... Pub Business Advice... Pub Crawls
Contact Phil