The Rev Richard Coles has called for more realistic and less glamourised depictions of alcoholism on TV as he recalled his late husband’s battle with excessive drinking that led to his death.
Coles, a vicar in Northamptonshire, said there was a need to restore “realism to a distorted picture” of “how we poison ourselves” for fear of romanticising a debilitating disease.
Speaking to the Radio Times, he accused the Netflix show Narcos of inaccurately depicting excess. But he praised The Archers for its portrayal of alcoholism, calling for more sensitive treatment of the subject.
Coles’s husband, David Coles, died in December 2019 at Kettering General hospital after what was initially described as “a long illness”.
“My husband David died of alcoholic liver disease just before Christmas 2019. He was 43, a clergyman, and a former A&E charge nurse,” Coles said. “Not an obvious victim, you might think, of alcoholism, but he had been drinking excessively since his teenage years, as a palliative – alcohol is the most readily available anaesthetic in the world – and as a recreation.”
On Narcos, he said he was a fan of the series as it “pulls no punches depicting the extremes of that [the drug] trade”.
“But if one of the aims of the producers is to alert us to the terrible consequences, there is an irony. The barons have all the trappings that come with wealth and power … and in these locations, they drink rare tequila, or even rarer Scotch, from heavy crystal tumblers …. But actually those luscious liquids, the ample rewards of sin, are far deadlier than the crack that paid for them,” he said, adding that alcohol was ahead of cocaine as the world’s deadliest drug.
Coles praised The Archers for its storyline on alcoholism involving the character Alice Carter, played by Hollie Chapman. “The account of her descent into the chaos that addiction brings, and the effect it had on those around her, was unsparing, and it became a talking point for Ambridge [the fictional village where the Archers is set] aficionados everywhere.
“Why? Partly because of the excellence of the writing, directing, and acting, but also because the story is such a familiar one, and touches so many, regardless of background, income, or fortune.”
Coles said people knew the dangers of alcohol but were “reluctant to admit them because it spoils our enjoyment of a daily pleasure for the vast majority who ‘drink responsibly’.”
He added: “But if we are to make realistic decisions about how we poison ourselves, we need the information, the hard facts, not the romanticised, glamorised, falsified version of alcohol that entertainment offers and advertising promotes. We need more Ambridge, less Guadalajara, to restore a bit of realism to a distorted picture.”