Ben: Diary Of A Heroin Addict

I happened upon this while looking through the shows online at the ABC. Something about the concept dragged me in; Ben has been a heroin addict/poly drug abuser for over ten years, has got a handycam and decides to film as faithful a representation of his life on video as circumstances will allow.


What the television show gives us is an edit of what Ben had recorded. At this point I remind readers of just how much an editor can affect the story whether literary,audio or video but I am left with the impression that the material had been edited mainly with the purpose of revealing the person and their predicament played out within a family context over two years. There is very little footage that doesn't come from the primary source, restricted to a few short interviews with family members and close friends. Perhaps he embarked on his project after he lost his job. For three years Ben worked with a film production company which was an important part of keeping himself functional.


His vasculature is severely compromised but he has found his femoral vein so we are treated to many scenes where he shoots up into his groin, which doesn't bother me however I did wince when he was nodding off with the fit in situ as he fell towards the bed. This four times a day and some booze, pot and maybe pills on top; “at least I've stopped the crack” doesn't show a person who has found an appropriate routine of usage that allows for a promising life and Ben died of a cerebral haemorrhage in hospital during detox. His father, still working at the age of 71 largely because of the expense involved in keeping Ben, died nine weeks later.


A faithful and somewhat poignant video of a family captured through the lens of Ben's camera as much as they are by their familial love for someone who had always been a happy, loving and promising person who still manages to display these traits. We see him engage his mother in a sincere attempt to detox at home after his first attempt ended with him jumping from his upstairs bedroom window and injuring his ankle. Similarly we see him pleading with his father that he doesn't want him to work to support Ben and his problem. After hearing of a period when he was denied refuge in the family home when he was keeping his things in a garbage bag and sleeping rough in what amounts to a rather small, sedate and well manicured village in the English countryside created a new set of problems more beyond the control of the family and open to public scrutiny.


At the end, with the benefit of more than twenty years hindsight that Ben will never have, I found myself wondering something that seemed elementary. Despite several unsuccessful attempts to detox cold-turkey and although we hear of his methadone there is never any mention of Ben trying to achieve an adaptive routine that didn't demand total abstinence as the first step. His mother wonders if gaol, perhaps, might have done some good but characters like that usually don't get the benefit of prison because their drug addiction advertises a weakness that attracts predators.


It is poignant in the sense that we see a family dealing with what can be an intractable problem. Fortunately the family is intact and willing to support Ben but parents are a finite commodity and usually die some years before their progeny. If Ben had the good fortune of finding some source of insight into his problem whereby a viable approach to coping with it might be elucidated it would have been a different movie, with a happy ending I suppose but under present circumstances this is often unlikely.


Available on iView until August 13th 2016:-

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