I'm An Alcoholic: My Name Is..., TV review: If you're a secret drinker, newspapers may be just the place for you

Tonight's Channel 5 documentary offered all the inspiration you need to keep reaching for a mug rather than a bottle

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The Independent Culture

Here we are, two weeks into January, and those New Year resolutions already seem like a lifetime ago. But if you're struggling with Dry January, tonight's Channel 5 documentary I'm An Alcoholic: My Name Is... offered all the inspiration you need to keep reaching for a mug rather than a bottle. Featuring interviews with alcoholics at different stages of recovery, the format was simple. They talked to the camera; no questions, no interviewer. They just told their stories. And what a harrowing set of tales it was.

The thing that struck me most was how middle-class these alcoholics were. They weren't homeless people drinking on park benches but high-flying professionals. You could argue they were an extremely privileged lot as among them was a GP, a newspaper editor and a professional cellist. That's what made it so scary – not only did they continue to hold down careers while battling addiction, but many admitted that their jobs actually facilitated it.

Take the former Sun editor David Yelland, referred to simply as David, 52: "I was given the tools to be an alcoholic. Rupert Murdoch paid for most of my drinking… if you're looking to hide being an alcoholic, a great place to spend your career is in newspapers." For 31-year-old Rachael, it was her talent as a cellist, combined with crippling nerves, that spelt disaster. Fearing she would make a mistake, she drank to boost her confidence. But soon she was swigging from a water bottle filled with vodka during live performances. Believing she would be less nervous in a different profession she became a waitress. "And then I realised, it's not the cello, it's me."

Nik, 44, described how what started as a social habit accelerated into two bottles of wine before work. And then he became a publican. "For breakfast you wouldn't have a cup of coffee, you wouldn't have a bacon sandwich – you'd have a pint." These cautionary tales did, for the most part, have a happy ending. David has been sober for 10 years, Rachael for eight. And former alcoholic John hasn't had a drink in 30 years. Nik is 52 days sober. But the language each interviewee used was telling. Those who seemed to have dealt with the problem said: "I'm an alcoholic." But others skirted around it. Lucy described herself as "a non-drinker" and trainee counsellor Jonathan "chooses not to drink". Charity co-ordinator Leigh – who at the peak of her problem would force down vodka while throwing up – "used to have an issue with alcohol". This may be true – she has been sober for six years – but it felt like a cop-out.

But whatever their choice of language, their bravery in taking part must be applauded. All of the participants revealed intimate details about their lowest point – it was a million miles away from the social media generation who constantly over-share, but only ever do so through a glossy filter.

In contrast, BBC4 was blowing away those January blues with The Story of Scottish Art. Presented by artist Lachlan Goudie, this was a genuinely enjoyable look at influential 18th-centrury figures such as Allan Ramsay, Henry Raeburn and architect Robert Adam. Goudie – a sweet, open man – couldn't hide his excitement, describing Ramsay's sketches as "beautiful, stunning, exquisite".

It was impossible not to get caught up in his enthusiasm and his friendly demeanour really made you want to go for a pint with him. Or on second thoughts, perhaps a coffee would suffice.