I’m An Alcoholic: Inside Recovery, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, Narrator Eve Pope, Producer and Director Jemma Gander.


Alcoholics Anonymous is 75 years old. The first meeting was advertised in The Financial Times (other newspapers wouldn’t allow such advertisements) and held in The Dorchester Hotel in 1947. Around 5000 meetings take place every day in the South East of England. Deepfake technology allows some of these alcoholics to tell their stories.

I’m already familiar with them. I’ve been to a meeting with my brother, Stephen (SEV) who was an alcoholic and read The Big Book. Last week somebody asked me when he’d died and I had to think about it. He was born in 1959 and was 35 when he died. So I guessed it was 1985.

When I did the eulogy at Bob’s funeral a few years ago, I told the tale of how he’d a fish supper in front of him and a bottle of Buckfast, when I found his body. The message was it wasn’t that bad. But it was for his mum.

AA makes demands on its members. Anyone that has read my longer story, Ugly Puggly, knows how badly written it is, but also how funny that cultish behaviour can be. But here it is literally a life saver. Admitting you are an alcoholic and you need the help of a higher power (whatever you want to call it), is the first step of 12. It takes a lifetime. It makes a lifetime. It is a lifeline, but not everybody can cling on. Amen.  

Gram Seed (2008) One Step Beyond: One Man’s Journey From Near Death to Life.

free-to-use image (google)

An epiphany is a moment of sudden insight or understanding. Gram Seed, the bad seed, died and came back to life. You know how the story goes. He was lost and now he was found. He was drunk on the Lord Jesus.

This was one of Robert’s books. For a reader like me – a short read of a few hours. The park bench were Gram Seed decided was the best spot to drink himself to death, I know it well. It’s there on Dumbarton Road. On the square, across from the corner shop and Macs. A busy thoroughfare. Robert’s flat, 8f Dunswin was near the station and entry to Dalmuir Park. He didn’t stay in the house. He could never be himself. Haunted by demons as Seed was. Hail, rain, wind or snow, Robert could be found on that bench.

He got lifted by the police a few times. They even jailed his dog, Max. I had to go up to the station and get Max out. Robert went back to the bench, in the same way that Seed did. No earthly power could stop him.  

Drink was Seed’s thing, just the same as it was Robert’s and so many more lost souls. He tried but he couldn’t give it up. Then he gave up trying to try. Bad Seed knows that story well, he lived it. Died it.

The consultant said to his mum they wanted to switch the life support off. Her son was brain dead and if he lived he’d be a vegetable and paralysed for life.

I’d have turned the machine off, no question. Any of my relatives, any of my loved ones, turn the machine off. DO NOT RESUCITATE is what a protocol I’d hope was written into the end of life stuff.

Seed’s mum wouldn’t agree. He’s only thirty-three, she argued, give him a chance.

Robert was black with death the last time I saw him and I hope he’s resting in Jesus.

Religion is a bit like our first attempts at sex, we’ve grown ashamed of it. Biblical references like a waterless cloud blown by ill wind nail pretty much what I think about the moron’s moron, or any Tory, especially the new-old breed of liar (and odd-on to be elected for an extended stay) Boris. I have heard, as Balaak heard, a donkey speak and it was hee-haw, hee-haw.

Do I believe in God? The answer is yes and no. It’s an embarrassing question that Gram Seed is only too happy to answer. His mission is to convert prisoners, those people like him that didn’t give a fuck about today or tomorrow or the next day. I wish him well and many blessings as the thirty-two physical marks of Buddha.

Robert flirted with religion. AA meetings and the higher power. The Big Book. The Bible. He chatted with Jehovah Witnesses. Promised to visit their Kingdom Hall, but never did. He talked to all kinds of people that passed everyday on that bench. People liked him. One of them gave him this book. I don’t know if he ever read it. I’m reading it for him. He spoke to the woman that does the ground in St Stephen’s, asked if he could go inside and sit a while. A shrine of The Crucifixion, Jesus on his Cross, is in an island arbour of plants in one of the walls. He noticed that it had been painted or newly varnished. Who knows what he was thinking? Certainly, not me. RIP.   

Shirzad Chamine (2012) Positive Intelligence. Why only 20% of Teams and Individual Achieve Their True Identity.

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It would be unfair to suggest I read Positive Intelligence with an open mind, or even read it, rather I flipped through it. I did read today’s report in The Observer by Harriet Sherwood, the headline of which is Top cleric says C of E reforms risk making it a ‘suburban sect’.  How does that apply to Shirzad Chamine’s New York Time’s bestseller?  Well, I’d argue that Positive Intelligence (PQ) which measure the percentage of your mind that is sabotaging you as opposed to  helping you is pseudoscience or just plain bullshit. ‘The great news is you can improve your PQ.’ You can minimise the Judge that rules your life and increase your Sagacity and empathise more. Win-Win. In other words, do unto other what you would do to yourself.

I’ll quote Sherwood here on the Church of England’s plans, but they could apply equally to PQ:

There seems to be no sagacity, serious science or spiritual substance to the curatives being offered.

Make no mistake Positive Intelligence tells you, like the Church of England or indeed Alcoholic Anonymous’ Big Book, how to turn your life around. Read, for example, the account of ‘Peter an entrepreneur’. He had wanted to make $10 million before his retirement. He was offered $125 million for his company, but turned it down because his college buddy had been offered $330 million. Late Peter became bankrupt. Peter is an asshole is the lesson I learned. I’m not great at empathising with people like him, but that is being judgemental. You need to ask yourself why you are being judgemental. Ask your Sagacity.

My Sagacity says fuck off.

Chamine points out in his research that ‘on average, able-bodied adults who become quadriplegic through an accident return to their baseline happiness’.

I thought I was poor and unhappy because I had no shoes until I met a man with no feet. Read that sentence again. Happiness has a baseline. Unhappiness too must have a baseline. I’m going to send away for one of those things you blow into when the cops arrest you and they say ‘sorry, pal, you’ve driving a car and you’re three times over the unhappiness limit’. You’re looking at a two year ban, put in the cells and beat up.’ Blow into the bag again. ‘look pal, you’re ten time over the limit, we need to cut your feet off and you’ve done this before so we’re cutting your fingers off. Are you happy now? See what you’ve made us do?’

If you look through Positive Intelligence peppered with stories that could have come straight from AA’s Big Book so you don’t need to read the PI book. ‘The Vicious Cycle’; ‘Women Suffer Too’; ‘Jim’s Story’; ‘The Man Who Mastered Fear’; ‘He Sold Himself Short’; ‘The Missing Link’; ‘My Chance to Live’; ‘Acceptance Was the Answer’; ‘Winner Takes All’.

I’m not asking you to read the Big Book or take the PI test, or read the New York Times bestseller. I’d just ask the kind of people that read books where they can slap themselves on the back and thing how they’ve created such a fine test and algorithm for measuring happiness to blow in that bag, pal and take a long hard look at themselves. Books are the answer because they can help us empathise with the other, the worker, the underlining, the refugee.

Anthony Trollope’s character had something to say in the nineteenth century in The Way We Live Now that has added bite in the twenty-first century. ‘People said of him that he had framed and carried out long and premeditated and deeply laid schemes for the ruins of those who had trusted him, that he had swallowed up the property of all who had come in contact with him, that he was fed with the blood of widows and children’.

Positive Intelligence is an argument for the placebo effect and for backslapping for those that own the top 100 US companies Chamine is writing and works for. These are not my people. This is not my book. Read. Read. Read widely and wisely. Then you’ll understand.