BBC Casualty – portrayal of AA

First I want to applaud the BBC for dealing with alcoholism in a mainstream soap and for dealing with it with a working professional rather than just having that person as a washed up park bench drunk.

For those that haven’t watched here’s a quick catch up.  A doctor in the series has gone through a lot of trauma over the last year.  He has smuggled a refugee boy into the country and tried to hide him.  His ex wife died in an accident.  Anyway – he turned to the bottle for comfort and found himself in trouble.  So he went to AA.  At AA he met Ciara who was struggling too.  They started a relationship.  He found out then that she was married.  She then comes into the department again – he thinks because she is drinking again but she actually has an ectopic pregnancy that needs emergency treatment.  And yes it is Dylan’s baby.  But Ciara says they can’t make a go of their relationship.  So sadly Dylan relapses.

This brings us to this week’s episode where we find Dylan drinking alone on his house boat, ignoring calls from friends and work and in a downward spiral.  His father arrives claiming to be 103 days sober and wanting to have a Step 9 discussion. Dylan wants to go to the pub.  He cajoles his father into drinking with him.  They have a fight – his Dad hit his head and is in a bad way.

So whilst I applaud the BBC there were so many things with this portrayal of AA I thought I should put something on this blog at least.  Firstly whilst many do the steps quickly in AA I think many of us with experience would be surprised with someone 100 days sober trying to carry out  a step 9 with anyone – let alone someone as important as their son.  Step 9 is after Steps 1 to 8 for a reason!  You need to have got yourself ready.  Anyone with a long term of drinking will take some time to get better.   Step 9’s are difficult (see below for explanation of the step).  I made my Step 9 with my daughter who I live with every day when I was 8 years sober.  1 – I needed to be ready.  2 – she was then 16 and able to understand better.  3 – the right moment and timing needed to present itself.

The point where Dylan demands his Dad drinks with him is an example of why doing this early would be a bad idea.  Dylan’s Dad, if more experienced in recovery would have recognised that he needed to work with Dylan to get him off the drink if he could.  Not gone to the pub with him (due to the risk to himself being so newly sober) and waited – the Step 9 can be done when it is better.  This wasn’t a good time.

To rewind a bit earlier in the story – sexual relationships between AA members are not recommended until both are very sober.  In fact any new relationship is considered an unwise thing is the first year – I joke with sponsees that should be actually a decade.  I know some who recommend getting a house plant first…. can you care and look after that?  After success there then consider a pet.   Look after that for some time then maybe you can think about the skills needed to nurture and love another human.

But then we wouldn’t have had the story – so I accept this is all drama and therefore it needed these catalysts to get to the point where we hope Dylan now has the epiphany that he nearly killed his Dad and him with his drinking.

I just want to put it out there that AA does not demand these things to be done, certainly not rushed but not avoided either.  However as AA’s tradition 3 says “The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking” you don’t need to even follow the programme if you don’t want to – although I suspect the vast majority of AA members would recommend that you do if you want sustained sobriety.

Steps explanation..

Step 9 – Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.  The “such people” are from Step 8 – Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all

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About furtheron

Music and guitar obsessive who is a recovering alcoholic to boot
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4 Responses to BBC Casualty – portrayal of AA

  1. I thought that AA didn’t like their organization used for entertainment purposes? Aren’t they a sort-of secret society (out of necessity) who don’t like their affairs discussed?

    As far as the accuracy of a portrayal, remember; it’s not a documentary.

    • furtheron says:

      AA has a lot of tradition about not pushing itself too much – Tradition Eleven—Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.
      Some would argue with me that this blog breaks that tradition – I disagree as I’m not promoting it I just put it out there in my little neighbourhood of the internet.
      However as you say this is a drama not a documentary but I just worry that portrayals like this can encourage people as much as discourage people to seek out AA.

  2. Ainsobriety says:

    I think it’s important that AA and addiction be portrayed in mainstream tv, even if it is not always realistic.

    I’m going to look up the show. My only though is that if it was really true to life he will probably drink more now that he hurt his dad and will hit a harder rock bottom.
    I expect tv will not allow for him to spiral too far down if he is the main character.

  3. annastk76 says:

    That they portrayed an alcoholic who isn’t the end stage stereotype I think is a huge bonus and a step in the right direction. I think to accurately relay everything that addiction is and does and how it looks in all its guises would be impossible, especially when it is a side arch in a story rather than the story line itself. Plus, as someone has pointed out, it needs to fit the story so dramatised in a way that might not be super accurate. I haven’t watched this, so this is just in response to your post – might go look it up though! The other thing I think is important to bear in mind is that we’re all different – I know some people who only started working step 1 after YEARS in 12-step programs (a good friend of mine who recently collected her 6-year chip has just begun working the steps), and others who were on step 4 a couple of months in! Both I suppose unusual in that as with everything there’s usually an average or “this is how it normally goes” and so one shows a longer time than others to get going and the other very fast progress, but it does show that our paths to sobriety can differ massively yet be equally perfect. Each to her own, I say and the only person who can say with certainty when the time is right is… ….you.

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