Dear Mr Gallagher,
In a recent front-page story in the Sun Newspaper (Fresh-faced Ant McPartlin leaves rehab after month of treatment following booze crash nightmare, 28.4.18), your reporters revealed that Ant McPartlin had left alcohol rehab after a month. Thirteen days earlier, he had appeared as a broken man in court, facing the consequences of his actions and the story you published seemed to suggest that a miraculous transformation in Ant’s life had taken place.
What is being rehabilitated here isn’t Ant himself, but his career and the money it has generated for himself and countless others. The Sun newsdesk is full of intelligent and insightful people who surely cannot believe for one moment that many years of alcoholism can be fixed in a month — however, this is what is being inferred to the wider public and to Ant himself.
The reason for this letter is to highlight to you and your staff the dangers inherent in your reporting. Addicts are masters of self-deception and constantly at the mercy of permission-giving thoughts that will convince them that they’re fixed now, have learned their lesson and can drink normally again. Ant will never be able to drink safely again, and with any luck he will have learned at least that fact while in rehab. However, he is in the position of being famous — and therefore constantly bombarded with messages that reinforce every permission-giving thought he has.
One only has to look at the stories of Charles Kennedy and George Best to see how this process ends. If you aren’t careful, your reporting will contribute to a similar fate for Ant; for this is a life threatening illness that kills thousands of people in the UK every year. There is a different story to tell here however, as the Sun has been a huge part of Ant and Dec’s career since the days of Byker Grove.
The Sun could act as the good friend who tells uncomfortable but necessary truths to those it features. If there is ever a time for Ant to hear these truths, it is now. Perhaps one of your columnists might remind Ant of what alcohol has cost him so far, and the gravity of his drinking. Your newspaper might call Ant and the PR machine that surrounds him on the steadily-developing narrative of ‘business as usual’.
Your newspaper might at the same time speak up for those among its readership that are affected by addiction, and encourage a spirit of honesty and debate about the illness. Whilst only Ant can decide his fate, it is vital that he hears the raw, unvarnished truth from as many voices as possible.
His addictive nature will encourage self-deception. The Sun and the rest of society must not encourage that.
Wynford Ellis Owen
Specialist Counselling Consultant to CAIS & Living Room Cardiff