BIG BOOK’S ADVICE ON ALCOHOL
Wife’s defence of Rhys-meyers risks denial of star’s problem 12-step ‘bible’ key to recovery
Still, you might be lucky enough never to have heard of it.
It’s called The Big Book – and it’s the alcoholics’ bible.
Written by AA founder Bill Wilson, inset, back in 1939, it’s still regarded as the original and best text ever written about the disease.
I thought of a line from it last week when I saw the pitiful pictures of Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers, sadly once again drunk, in Dublin Airport.
It was the fourth time in a decade the star had run into trouble publicly due to his alcoholism, despite repeatedly claiming he had got a grip on his demons.
One stark line from The Big Book reads: “The idea that somehow, someday, he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker.
“The persistence of this illusion is astonishing, and many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death.”
The disturbing photos of Jonathan, showing him dishevelled and staggering, are proof of the hold alcoholism can take on anyone, despite wealth, fame or family.
He is a man who appears to have it all. For starters, he’s gorgeous; demonstrating his other-worldly good looks as Elvis in the TV biopic, and playing a highly-sexed version of Henry VIII in The Tudors.
He overcame significant adversity to rise to the top – born in Dublin and raised in Cork, he had a difficult childhood, marked by poverty and his late mother Geri’s drink problem. He was expelled from school at 14.
But despite all that, he went on to become one of the most successful movie stars ever to come out of Ireland, chosen for roles by renowned directors such as Woody Allen, Ang Lee and Oliver Stone and acting alongside Colin Farrell, Scarlet Johanssen and Reese Witherspoon.
HBut her desperate response to the pictures of him drunk at Dublin airport showed she may be – with the best of intentions – a little too steadfast in her support.
Mara has been with Jonathan since 2014, two years after he split from ex-girlfriend Reena Hammer, who left him due to his addiction problems.
And it seems that, like many wives or partners of alcoholics, she has stumbled into the wellmeaning trap of “cleaning up his mess”, as addiction therapists describe it.
As someone who grew up with alcoholism in my family – like so many Irish people – her statement was heartbreaking to read.
Even in its brevity it contained many examples of what addiction specialists describe as textbook behaviour of those living with an alcoholic: shielding, denial, finding excuses, both shouldering blame and diverting blame, and acting as the fixer. She took to Guide Instagram to provide the world with the reason her husband fell off the wagon, telling of the couple’s awful loss of their second baby to miscarriage – simultaneously raising awareness of a real grief that one in four women experience at some point in their lives.
Mara told how “depression and past abuse” were contributing factors and “alcoholism, which he was born with”.
She defended him passionately: “He has been able to turn the hurt in his life into art and is the strongest person I know.
“I don’t know anyone who has been through what he has and reached his level of success.
“I was happy to come to my husband’s defence. I could not sit back and see him attacked by Darkness publicly during such a tender time.”
She took a calm but definite swipe at the person who took the pictures at the airport saying they were “in the wrong” and “concerned for the wrong reasons”.
But sadly, it wasn’t the first time Jonathan was seen worse for wear in an airport – he was arrested in both Dublin and Paris in the 2000s for public order offences. Also, he IS a celebrity, and in the era of the smartphone, everyone takes pictures of them, everywhere they go.
TYour fear for your family and future, and their health and happiness, means you accept troublesome behaviour, when in fact the experts say you must not ever do this – addiction or not.
Your instinct is to help them avoid being accountable for their actions, find excuses and reasons for their drinking.
You shield them from consequence, afraid they won’t cope.
On some level, you are in denial yourself, and so you cover up for the addict; everyone wants to believe the best of those they love. You might find ways to blame yourself, shoulder some of the responsibility, in an attempt to help them carry the load. But all this only enables them – allowing them to continue dangerous behaviour.
Addiction experts say a common theme of third parties is to make accommodations for a person’s harmful conduct, with the best of intentions.
But the practical effect is that the alcoholic himself then doesn’t have to – there is no pressure to change.
An addict will find any excuse to drink – you don’t need to provide them with one. Instead, you must make firm, unbending rules and enforce them mercilessly.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers has claimed he has given up alcohol countless times now, and it’s very sad to see him battling the bottle again. He has had a hard life and clearly has struggles and needs much support and sympathy. But maybe he also needs the hardest thing of all to give: tough love.
THE famous Alcoholics Anonymous ‘12-step method’ is outlined in The Big Book.
The 1939 text describes how to recover from many addictions, from alcoholism to heroin. AA
BATTLING DEMONS Actor Jonathan Rhys-meyers at Dublin Airport last weekend