Tag Archives: Russell Brand

An interview with Arthur Cauty maker of ‘A Royal Hangover’

A Royal Hangover

A Royal Hangover

There is an incredible film called ‘A Royal Hangover’ that has just been released in the UK. The film examines the cultural relationship the British have with booze. Directed by Arthur Cauty, a non-drinker he has been fascinated with the relentless pursuit of drunkeness the British have always pursued. Abnormal drinking has been so normalized in our culture that if you don’t drink you are seen as some kind of weirdo or freak. ‘A Royal Hangover’ reveals the ugly truth behind the delusion that alcohol=fun. This movie is a game changer for a country and a government still in denial about the effects and reality binge drinking is having.
Here is my exclusive interview with the director.

1. What motivated you to make the film?
My motivation for the film lies mainly within the fact that I personally don’t drink, and not only that, but I just never really ‘got’ the appeal of drinking. A lot of people instantly confuse this with abstinence, but there is a big difference – It’s not like it’s against my morals to drink, I just don’t do it for the fact that I don’t find it appealing, much in the same way I don’t participate in the Great British sport of cricket because I find it incredibly boring.

British drinking culture is something I’ve always found fascinating and slightly bizarre. It’s all around you, wherever you look. It’s completely embedded in our culture, in our history, our politics. Some of our most popular TV shows are based around pubs, and then there’s the 18th birthday, weddings, religious ceremonies, all these key life events, marked with alcohol. It’s like the blood in our veins; it oils society, and lubricates us socially. For someone like myself, someone who feels they are outside of this culture looking in, it just looks ridiculous.

So there was always that idea in the back of my head. But it wasn’t until I started travelling around Europe, the USA and Asia, that I realized how strikingly different our drinking culture is in Britain. I started looking into it further, and it became immediately apparent that we have a serious problem with alcohol in the UK – a problem that nobody seems to want to acknowledge or do anything about. And that’s where the idea for A Royal Hangover was born.

Director Arthur Cauty

Director Arthur Cauty

2. What do you hope the film will achieve?
I hope A Royal Hangover will help people all over the World to better understand the harms of alcohol, and for the UK especially to start to develop a healthier and more logical attitude to alcohol as well as other drugs. I know this is not a problem indigenous to the UK, but I do feel that alcohol is more ingrained in British culture, compared to many other countries. To not drink in Britain, is to be ridiculed.

If this film manages to help any number of people to think about how they, as well as the people around them, use alcohol, I’ll feel like I’ve done my job.

3. Do you have personal experience of alcoholism and alcohol abuse?
I actually barely have any experience in drinking alcohol at all. I’ve tried it, but I’ve probably only drank a few pints of alcohol over my whole life. I just never really liked it, or felt the need to drink it. People would say, “you’ll learn to like it”. And I thought ‘Why? Why would I want to learn to like something I find disgusting?”. Take hot chocolate for example – I found that instantly delicious. I didn’t have to ‘learn’ to like that. And so the concept of learning to like alcohol was completely lost on me.

I have however grown up with 3 brothers who didn’t seem to have the same difficulty with enjoying alcohol as I did. I grew pretty accustomed to seeing them throwing up all over themselves, getting into drunken brawls, and even ending up in hospital on occasion.

Whereas I have been fortunate enough not to have any experiences with alcoholism or alcohol abuse myself, the same cannot be said for certain members of my family. My uncle John, who actually features in the film, drinks 2 bottles of whisky every day, and suffers from Wernicke’s encephalopathy, also known as ‘the disease of alcoholics’. He is essentially bed-bound, and doesn’t eat, can barely walk or do much of anything other than drink. He has brain damage, hearing and vision loss, as well as a myriad of other ailments due to his drinking. What is perhaps even more tragic is the effect this has on his wife and 15-year-old kid whom he lives with. They are literally prisoners to his addiction. I’ll never forget turning up at the house for filming, and my uncle not even knowing who I was. He thought it was the first time we had met.

4. Binge drinking has now been utterly normalized in British culture, after making this film what steps do we need start taking to reserve this?

I personally believe a lot of it comes down to how we educate our children in the UK. We’re hardly taught anything in school about drinking, in fact I don’t remember ever having a single lesson about it. I think education about alcohol and other drugs in schools is severely lacking. It makes me think of that famous sketch in South Park – “Drugs are bad, you shouldn’t do drugs, and alcohol is bad, you shouldn’t do alcohol”. That pretty much sums up alcohol education in schools here.

Aside from that, I think their needs to be changes in government policy, more restrictions in advertising, and less sensationalist and more responsible coverage of alcohol in the media. That would be a good start.

5. It seems to me that in our popular culture we have a massive glamorization of alcohol abuse, celebrity culture is awash with it. In the USA ‘not drinking’ is perfectly acceptable but in the UK it is seen as abnormal or extreme, something to be ridiculed. Any suggestions on how we can begin to ‘re-brand’ sobriety as something aspirational and acceptable?

Yes, I totally agree. To not drink in Britain is to be branded a weirdo basically. I myself have never had a problem with feeling like a weirdo – I used wear tights, paint my face, and body slam people for fun, as a former attempted pro wrestler.
Now, I’ve come to quite enjoy the funny looks I get when going into a bar and ordering a coke. It doesn’t bother me. But I can understand how it might bother others to feel like an exception. Peer pressure is such a huge factor when it comes to alcohol, especially for young people. If more people like myself – whether that be parents, brothers, sisters, friends, or people in the public eye like Russell Brand – actually felt comfortable about standing up and saying ‘I don’t drink’, this would encourage so many others to feel ok about doing the same, and be a step towards developing a healthier attitude towards alcohol as a culture.

Arthur Cauty with Russell Brand

Arthur Cauty with Russell Brand

6. Any plans to take the film into schools and youth clubs?

I think the film could be really useful in schools, in showing children an honest and balanced depiction of alcohol, so it’s certainly something we will consider. The first step though is to make an impact on the film festival circuit.

7. Please tell us how people can see the movie when it is released?

You’ll be able to see A Royal Hangover at film festivals internationally. We have literally only just finished the film. In fact, today is the first day in 5 months where I’m not in the edit suite! We’re planning to premiere at the BFI Film Festival in London in October. All screenings will be announced on the website, on our Facebook page, and on twitter.

8. Are their plans to show it in the USA? Although the alcohol culture is different, there are a lot of similarities in college campuses, where alcohol abuse is normalized and encouraged.

There are definitely a lot of similarities in college campuses, but I feel that outside of that, and the whole Spring Break culture, the US is quite different to the UK when it comes to alcohol culture as a whole. I think in general, attitudes towards alcohol in America tend to be a bit more logical. People seem to grow out of it to a degree, whereas in Britain it’s like the whole country is a college campus, and we’re all students going mad on alcohol.

Yes, we are planning to show the A Royal Hangover in the US. We believe the film has a lot of international appeal, as although it’s based on British drinking culture, a lot of the film’s content can be applied to other cultures.

Russell Brand stars in A Royal Hangover

Russell Brand stars in A Royal Hangover

9. What are you up to next?

Trying not to get assassinated by the drinks industry? There are a few exciting things on the horizon which come to think of it I probably can’t talk about. I’ve got a couple of short form projects coming up which will be a nice change of pace after having spent a year and a half (and counting) on A Royal Hangover!

You can see the trailer here:

A Royal Hangover – Review

A Royal Hangover

A Royal Hangover

A Royal Hangover is a film that is long over due. With wit and insight it creates an alarming and frank portrait of Britain’s binge drinking problem.
Interestingly, Arthur Cauty is not some reformed alcoholic on a mission to alert his fellow man about the evils of drinking. But a young British guy who just never liked the taste or effects of alcohol. I mention this because such is the normalization of abnormal drinking in the UK that ‘not drinking’ just because you don’t care for it, is seen with suspicion and as something that is just plain weird. Cauty has been considered ‘weird’ his whole adult life and became curious as to why so many people in Britain drink abnormally and call it fun despite so much evidence to the contrary.
Russell Brand stars in A Royal Hangover

Russell Brand stars in A Royal Hangover

In may respects ‘A Royal Hangover’ begins the necessary process of dismantling a faulty belief system that has enabled binge drinking to entrench itself so much in our culture. The documentary starts with a brief history of British alcohol habits and then compares our relationship with booze to that of other countries. Our problem with alcohol is not unique but our cultural relationship with alcohol is.
There are similarities in the Spring Break/College campus culture in the U.S. But ‘not drinking’ is far more accepted by the wider population there than it is in the UK.
The film highlights how open container laws and less public acceptance of public drunkenness has curbed the eruption of inebriation that British towns centers endure every weekend.
The movie takes us into the ‘belly of the beast’ as it were and there are several scenes taken from an average Saturday night in Britain. It makes for unpleasant viewing. I am a reformed alcoholic, so for me it was like looking at myself 20 years ago and it wasn’t pretty. The participants adamantly state they are having ‘fun’ and ‘there is nothing else to do.’ However, it is clear to the viewer that as people lie passed out in the street and groups wobble by clinging to each other spouting nonsense that this really isn’t the definition of ‘fun.’
British towns prepare for the onslaught of carnage the nighttime economy unleashes. Local health services and policing are focused on limiting the damage that is wrought on an average Saturday night. To the point that 50% of the violent incidences that police deal with are fuelled by alcohol. At one point the film crew were so alarmed by a young man who was passed out covered in vomit that they called an ambulance. The paramedics arrived and then dismissed the potential patient as ‘just drunk,’ they had seen it so many times before they didn’t even raise an eyebrow.
The film creates a convincing picture of British culture that supports, encourages and celebrates alcohol abuse on every level. Try buying a birthday card for an 18 year old that doesn’t have a reference to getting drunk. Or celebrating an event without everyone assuming that alcohol abuse is necessary for the event to be enjoyable. It’s impossible.
With commentary from Russell Brand and various professionals throughout the film they convey the point that the reason behind our alcohol abuse lies in the ‘numbness’ that alcohol promises. It is this aspect of binge drinking that needs further examination in our culture. Why don’t we want to feel anything?
Arthur Cauty with Russell Brand

Arthur Cauty with Russell Brand

The film does offer solutions to the problem of binge drinking by outlining how research has proven that tax increases on alcohol can limit some of the damage drink causes. Minimum unit pricing can be effective in reducing the amounts people drink. Limits on advertising would also prevent the alcohol industry creeping into all areas of our lives. Alcohol certainly has a place in our culture but drinking and being drunk has come to dominate our free time, our celebrations and has redefined what the word ‘fun’ means.

The message that ‘A Royal Hangover’ conveys so brilliantly is just how silly the British really look in their pursuit of doing something so dangerous with such delusional abandon. It clearly lays out the answer is not prohibition but balance. Our culture needs to reflect back alternatives to binge drinking such as moderation. Being ‘alcohol free’ in 2014 Britain must be like being a vegetarian in the 1940’s – who had heard of such a thing? Now vegetarians are catered for everywhere and no one bats an eyelid. Why can’t ‘not drinking’ be seen the same way? What’s the problem?
The alcohol industry, that’s the problem. The self-regulated alcohol industry that lobbied the government to reverse its decision on minimum unit pricing. An industry that relies on us consuming as much of its product as possible to be profitable.
An industry that tries to insist that it’s only a small portion of the population that has a problem with alcohol and any regulation would unfairly impact the large amount of drinkers that enjoy its product sensibly.
Once you have seen ‘A Royal Hangover’ you will be unable to believe that anymore.

Recovery Rocks – Chip Somers

Chip Somers is the co-founder and CEO of Focus12 Treatment Centre in Bury St Edmunds UK. Focus12 was the first treatment centre I worked in, and it really did teach me everything I know.
Focus12 Treatment Centre
It’s an inspiring place, where no matter what they have done or how low they have gone, addicts and alcoholics are treated with the utmost love and respect.
For 16 years they have been putting lives and families back together.
Although they get lots of support from their patrons Russell Brand, Boy George and Davina McCall. As a charity they are always need to raise extra funds which is why I’m donating 15% of the proceeds from my book: ‘Why you drink and How to stop: Journey to freedom’ to help support the marvellous work they do.

One of the highlights of working at Focus12 is seeing all the former clients and families at the annual reunion.
I’ve attended these over the years and it’s extraordinary to see how former clients have turned their lives around. People change so much physically when they get clean and sober, that I often see former clients and can’t physically recognise them.
When an addict or alcoholic gets clean, it not only transforms their own lives, but the lives of the people who love them also.

I read about the statistics of recovery all the time and they paint such a miserable picture of failure. The percentage of failure is high, and yet when I go to a Focus12 reunion I see hundreds upon hundreds of people whose lives have been transformed.
So something’s working.
In fact, it’s working so well that Focus12 have had to regularly move the reunion to larger venues because they don’t accommodate all the people who have got clean and sober there.

There is a plaque on the wall when you enter Focus12 and it sums up the phillosphy of it’s program and the ethos of it’s staff:
“Treat a man as he were what he ought to be and you help him become what he is capable of being”

When you know Chip it’s hard to believe he was a hard-core addict who lived on the streets and would do anything for his next hit of heroin.
I’ve only known him as a respectable and humble recovering addict. Since getting clean and sober several decades ago he has tirelessly helped addicts and alcoholics turn their lives around

I’m so glad I can share some of his story here.


1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’
I was supposed to be looking after my daughter who had come to me saying she was hungry.
This was quite difficult for her to do, she was 8, I eventually managed to borrow a tenner of someone and went straight away and bought drugs with it.
Came home a few hours later to find my daughter crying and frightened as I had not only left her alone but without food too. I had met a few people in recovery by then so this action hit home hard.

2) What was your ‘moment of truth’ or ‘clarity’ that prompted you to get sober/clean?’
Doing Step 1 in treatment and seeing clearly for the first time in my life the way that my drink/drug use had devastated every area of my life and never benefitted me in any way.

3) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?
Good. A bit scary, I found social situations hard but I was so thrilled not to be using and having to hustle every day.
I felt a huge weight lifted from me.
I was desperately self obsessed but everything was novel, every experience was new and I started to realize I was not a piece of shit. People were kind to me and identified with me – that was very important

4) What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?
I have life. I have an amazing career. I have left a legacy of good things. I have a stable home. I have an amazing marriage.
I have incredible friends. I am never alone. I travel freely. I am the man I always wanted to be.

5) If you could go back in time to you when you were drinking/using what would you tell yourself?
“You’re not useless! You’re actually quite a capable man and people like you for you’

6) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?
That it is OK to be flawed. That actually knowing about my flaws and almost finding them humorous has relieved me of trying to be perfect and of course failing all the time. I have learnt I am kind and responsible with a gift for being able to inspire other people

7) What are your favorite recovery slogans?

Keep it Simple.
One day at a time.
Stick with the winners

8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’
Recovery rocks because if you are in recovery you can do anything you want to do. You can see the world, discover new things every day and be a feeling being part of society and at times, at peace with yourself.

Must read alcoholism blogs

This week I wanted to give you a round up of some of the cool stuff on the web that relates to alcoholism and addiction. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

Russell Brand talks about how yoga has helped change his life and fill the void that he used drugs and sex addiction to before. As usual, he talks eloquently and humorously about his addiction and how his spiritual journey has changed him. It’s only a brief video and you can watch him here.
Russell is also the patron of Focus12 treatment centre in Suffolk, England. I will be donating a percentage of the profits from my UK sales of ‘Why you drink and how to stop: journey to freedom’ to Focus12. I trained there as a therapist and can personally attest to the amazing work they do with addicts.

Recovery tools
Beth Burgess’s blog on how to deal with difficult people has some great strategies to use. She rightly identifies that alcoholics (drunk or sober) sometimes have trouble dealing with other people. Unless you want to go and live in a cave somewhere it’s a skill we have to learn. The most important takeaway being; ‘don’t take it personally.’ You can read more about what she has to say here.

Eating disorders and hating our bodies
I posted this on my Facebook page (if you click ‘Like’ you’ll see what I post in your newsfeed). I just thought it hit the nail on the head regarding women, food and body image. Nearly every female client I have ever worked with (and a lot of men) have had food issues to deal with as well as alcoholism/addiction. It’s so sad that so many women just hate their bodies. As the mother of a little boy I want him to grow up with a love of his own body and physicality as well as an understanding and appreciation of what a healthy female body is, i.e not half starved.

Alcoholism myths
I’m a big fan of Carrie Armstrong‘s blog on the HuffPost UK. I did a post about her a last week, if you missed it you can read it here.

Caroline Armstrong, Life after the chair, www.lifeafterthechair.com, photographed by Yohannes Miller, www.mydigitaleye.com, www.yohannesmiller.com, my digital eye, makeup by Thamina Akther

Caroline Armstrong, Life after the chair, www.lifeafterthechair.com, photographed by Yohannes Miller, www.mydigitaleye.com, www.yohannesmiller.com, my digital eye, makeup by Thamina Akther

Carrie is carving out a niche for herself as a Sober Girl who challenges the myths and stereotypes around alcoholism and alcoholics. In her blog this week she challenges the story of ‘rock bottom’s,’ she argues that a rock bottom actually just means death. Because lots of people believe that to be an alcoholic things have to be really, really bad before they stop drinking and get help, this myth is then preventing people getting help. I also think the ‘inspiration to get sober’ or moment of clarity’ is a much more positive and empowering statement. I think she’s on to something. What do you think?

Russell Brand focuses on addiction.

The original and unique Russell Brand spoke today at a parliamentary select committee today on addiction. Accompanying him was Chip Somers the chief executive of Focus 12 abstinence based treatment centre in the UK. (Full discloser: I trained as a therapist at Focus 12, it is an awesome facility with really dedicated staff. Hundreds of people have got clean and sober there over the years.)
Unlike the USA, the UK has a focus on harm minimisation as a primary form of treatment. This means in most cases, prescribed substances such as methadone are given to addicts as an alternative to using heroin. Thus minimising the harm of getting and using illegal drugs. Alcoholics are given drugs like anti-abuse that makes the alcoholic really sick if they drink alcohol. I think harm minimisation has its place; however in the UK all it seems to have done is replaced illegal drugs with state sponsored ones. Thus making the taxpayer the dealer. Sadly, abstinence from all mood and mind altering drugs, including prescribed ones, seems to be the very last resort for many treatment providers in the UK.
I have worked with many addicts and alcoholics who want to stop taking all drugs (especially the prescribed ones), they want to treat the root of the problem and overcome their addiction not mask it with other substances. As Russell charmingly points out, he became an addict because of “emotional and psychology difficulties and perhaps a spiritual malady.” Yet this is still not understood and there isn’t enough provision for abstinence-based treatment. The US is ahead of the UK in accepting that addiction is a disease and that abstinence is the only effective form of treatment for this disease. I don’t think this is the case yet in the UK where (judging from the comments left after the article in the Telegraph) people still believe it is a moral issue and a question of choice. This is not to absolve the addict or alcoholic of responsibility; rather it is absolutely their responsibility to do something about their disease. But they can’t do it alone. They need help. Lots of it.