Joe's story: Alcohol destroyed my family, 15 years on

Joe Harrington | February 2019 | 5 minutes

My grandfather died when I was a child, having crashed into another car while drunk - his actions killed a 24-year-old woman. Could we have known this would happen?

Throughout a lot of my work, I come back to this idea of destiny; could an event have been foreseen? What actions could have taken place to prevent it from happening?

My grandfather’s mother committed suicide when he was five. He suffered from severe mental health issues his whole life, was on medication to stabilise his moods and, depending on whom you ask, was a heavy drinker who would drive home drunk from work.

But he’s also the same man who worked hard for his family. Who would refuse to buy dirt from a garden centre, preferring to dig it up from the local forest and drive it home. Who throughout his years working in London would stay late at the office and call in to the AA helplines, supporting callers who were suffering from suicidal thoughts. Who, over a period of 20 years, built a four-bedroom house with three bathrooms, a garage and a generous front garden with his own hands.

My film is trying to portray that conflict, the same one my family has been dealing with for the last 15 years.

It has caused so much pain. I remember at the age of eight reaching into the washing up bowl on Christmas Day and realising my nan had kept a full bottle of whiskey hidden under the bubbles. That was how she coped with the passing of her husband.

We need to talk about heavy drinking. Alcohol is a socially acceptable drug. Heavy drinking can be hidden easily, and it doesn’t necessarily impact heavily on other parts of your life, especially if you don’t want it to. It can make seemingly innocent and loving people do some of the most horrific and tragic things. This is the side of alcohol that I was trying to portray in my film.

Since making this film, it’s screened internationally and helped me gain decent recognition as a filmmaker. But it’s about more than that. I hope in some way this film makes an impact on whoever watches it.

You can see more of Joe's work here.