Brilliantly described by Neil Kinnock as a gregarious loner, I and any one of my ex-alcoholic friends could spot the problem from the other side of a crowded room. Untreated alcoholism is a death sentence. It claims everyone from iconic young singers to middle age politicians. They either give up, or their body gives up on them. The problem is, alcoholism is a malady of the mind for which alcohol is just a symptom not the cause. It needs to be identified when we're kids - a long time before we've even smelt a drink.
Speak to anyone who knew Charles Kennedy and they say the same thing, an outsider, and amazing performer, slightly lost. He was, as those same people will tell you, a leader who both his party and the public trust.
Us alcoholics often say about our own, 'we lay in the gutter looking down on people'. And such was the way with Charles Kennedy. It was clear to everyone that this charismatic leader who actually increased the his majority in his general election, just need to do one thing. Stop drinking. We watched like concerned parents helplessly through our television screens as a man blundered his immense political fortune away. And then true to style with all alcoholics, sought to distance himself from the new regime that replaced him and specifically Nick Clegg's decision to form coalition with the Conservative party. Looking back that may have been wise - although I don't think it was the coalition destroyed the liberals it was tuition fees (it was Charles Kennedy who originally proposed the scrapping of them). But that's another conversation.
As anyone who's ever had any involvement with someone afflicted with drink or drugs, there is nothing anyone can do for someone who is not prepared to help themselves. Charles wasn't prepared to give up drink when his career was falling to pieces. And why?
Alcoholism is a disease that tells you that you haven't got a problem. You are the only one who can't see it. You become divided from your friends from your family and from reality in a drip drip process that is so insipid and take so long that it's impossible to tell when the problem started.
The truth is the problem starts at childhood along time before an individual picks up a drink. It is a deep insecurity and the alcohol itself is the medicine to that insecurity. Alcohol makes us funny at parties, a better conversationalist over dinner, naughtier in bed and without it most alcoholics are easily identifiable because they simply don't know how to operate. It is commonly believed that the pressures of fame turn people into alcoholics but this is completely untrue, alcoholics seek fame because it is yet another drug. People like Charles, and if I'm completely honest people like me, feel more comfortable on the stage than in the audience. We don't feel comfortable, we don't feel good enough, being normal. Unless you get to the root of this problem and identify it and deal with it, this problem kills us.
Charles was a giant in politics who was unafraid of running against the tide for his convictions. I can firmly say that alcohol is a drug that far too often eclipses the natural greatness of people both inside and outside of the limelight. One day, the 'life and sole of the party' no longer goes to parties. The medicine we took to be social, becomes the poison that isolates us at home. The alcoholic who used drink to balancing his fears and his moods, now struggles to raise even a smile when drinking. The light goes out behind the eyes and eventually, it goes out permanently.