Wife’s de­fence of Rhys-mey­ers risks de­nial of star’s prob­lem 12-step ‘bible’ key to re­cov­ery

Irish Sunday Mirror - - NEWS - BY LARISSA NOLAN

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

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