Alice’s addiction

One of the story lines present day followers of “The Archers” will be well aware off – is one to do with Alice’s alcohol addiction (check out here for background).

While these days, “the Archers” is the only soap I follow, I note a recent tendency in many TV/Radio soaps to introduce topical subjects that raises emotions, presumably to boost viewing or, in this case, listening numbers. A few years ago, the Archers scriptwriters managed to keep a storyline to do with domestic violence going for over two years and the general view they did so superbly well. It is a matter of wait and see of course, but I think they are going to have similar success when it comes to Alice’s alcohol addiction, and as before, listeners are kept on tenterhooks.

There are many factors involved in this intriguing story as one might imagine, and like all good stories it has taken time for the plot to develop this far. As a synopsis: Alice is the youngest daughter of Brian and Jennifer Aldridge and is married to Chris Carter, a farrier. The signs of a developing addiction problem have been around for over a year. It has caused many disruptions. Recently, her giving birth to a premature baby: Martha Jasmine has added a new dimension. She has tried to fight her addiction and even gone to detox – but unsuccessfully. She has hidden it from her family, except for Chris, and few others know about it. She lacks confidence and self-esteem. As for what triggered her addiction in the first place, it is difficult to say, given it seemed she had much going for her although one senses a degree of entitlement and she was spoilt.

I mention this story, not just because I am an Archers fan and enjoy sharing my thoughts with fellow fans, but because this is one of its more plausible as well as fascinating story lines, and one with an important message, and resonating with my own experience and perspectives. For the characters in the story, who do know about Alice’s addiction, there is broad recognition it is an illness. As for her behaviour, it distresses those around her as well as herself. For those who are unaware of her alcoholism, but who see signs of unusual behaviour and that something is not quite right, there is a degree of bemusement. For those kindlier disposed, there is often a desire to be supportive, especially now that little Martha is on the scene.  

Alcoholism is perhaps the most obvious examples of addictive behaviour, but there are others: drugs (including legal highs), gambling (made easily available) and sexual (notably online pornography). More people have an addition problem than we care to imagine and affects all sections of society, including people of faith, and untowardly affects those close to the “addict”. My own father has been dead many years now. He was a kind man who cared for his family. But he had a problem with alcohol for much of his adult life. In some ways, he died unfulfilled, and like Alice had issues around low self-confidence and self-esteem. As for triggers, these were no doubt present but here is not the place to psycho-analyse. As for affects, these were a lot more significant and wider ranging than was generally realised at the time, and the pain and scars experienced by those close to him continued for years to come. And while we reflect on why addicts get and remain addicted, while there can be many reasons, one that often emerges is pain. Indulging in one’s addiction may bring temporary respite but at the price the addict becomes even more deeply hooked and wretched, while adversely affecting others, and in a perverse way accentuates the cry for help and justifies the self loathing often linked to the addiction.

The other significant personal experience of addiction – mainly alcohol but also drugs, concerns the homeless and is often linked to mental ill health. As for the chicken and egg question, the best I can say is that addiction and mental ill health are closely linked and, in my experience, half of the homeless people I come across are affected by one or other or both issues. Sometimes, if not present when someone becomes homeless, they develop after they become homeless and, without over analysing or making rash judgments, these often remain not dealt with. The tragedy associated with many with an addiction issue is great, including an inability to make progress in life, unsocial behaviour, unwanted cravings, the effects on relationships, and all too many premature deaths. And yet in many cases, the “addicts” (at least when sober etc.) are some of the nicest and most perceptive people you could ever wish to meet.

Back to the Archers, we wait with interest to find out how the Alice story is going to develop. Realistically, based on analysing similar cases, the outcome could turn out to be tragic. Just as I hope my homeless “addict” friends will turn a corner and recover, I know that may take time and sometimes never. Obviously, I hope it will turn out well for Alice and her family – and in that case it is up to the script writers. And while my front line homeless activism is less these days, I will continue to support folk who are addicts, including “tough love” and I will take my hat off to those who help addicts on their road to recovery, often having been “there” themselves.

Update 20/04/21: As I say, there are many facets to the Alice story and without going over the plot, which Archers fans will be well aware off, tonight’s twist is her friend Fallon has got on her high horse and told Alice she no longer wishes to be god parent to Martha – and this over her latest relapse and being made aware for the first time of her addiction. The rights and wrongs of her response and decision is up for debate but the interesting factor as far as I am concerned is the different ways we can respond to someone else’s addiction and to throw down the gauntlet that it be the right one!

Update 25/04/21: Following Thursdays (22/04/21) episode, this is what I posted on The Archers Anonymous Facebook page:

I am really pleased this post has given rise to some perceptive comments. Thank you. I have no doubt there will be further developments none of us can foresee, thoughts concerning which I will post on jrbpublicationsdotcom (I am not allowed to post links on this FB page – ed), along with this latest developments, which no doubt will happen. Interestingly, after posting this, the next evening we had an Alice and Chris exchange, interleaved with other Archers happenings. The synopsis of which is: Alice is feeling bad (sorry for herself?) and decides to leave (self hate can be added to lack of self esteem and confidence methinks) – to who knows where – for the good of Chris and Martha – ostensibly. Chris tries to stop her and it all gets emotional. Then Alice comes clean about making a pass at Chris’ best friend Harrison and now hurt as well as confused Chris says go and that is where we leave it – until the plot thickens on Monday. An all too human response and not divorced from real life, and one that no doubt will divide opinions on this page. In fairness to the TA scriptwriters – they are doing a good job (so guys if you read this – don’t let us down PLEASE). Can they reach the dizzy heights of the Rob and Helen domestic violence story, I wonder? They almost got there with their Philip and slavery story, but ihmo the story weakened at the end (as often happens). P.S. yes, I agree with Kate’s previous comment – pain and past trauma are key factors – but what is Alice’s pain and is there an antidote? We await an answer that may or may not materialise!


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