My life has unquestionably been enriched as a result of my passion for wine and my life`s work in the wine trade, yet the one stain on this tapestry, on the drinks industry itself, is the disease we call alcoholism. It is an affliction I have not suffered personally, but one I have witnessed close to – so I know something of the misery it can cause. We, in the trade, take the matter very seriously. The Portman Group, founded in 1989 by the industry`s key players to promote responsible drinking, continues to do a fantastic job. As a licence holder I am committed to following the group`s code of practice and to doing my utmost to prevent underage drinking, drink-driving and alcohol abuse. Every licence holder in the country has this charge. Yet the scourge of alcoholism is persistent. Any one of us can succumb when we are vulnerable, and some are innately more susceptible to addiction than others. Still others may simply get caught unawares, regularly drinking too much without realising the implications until they are bitten. And excessive drinking can happen as a result of loneliness, unhappiness and even pain. Unfortunately, whatever brings them to the addiction, inevitably the person with a serious alcohol problem becomes a bore, a burden, and a cost, to family, friends and society. Drinking heavily may well bring the afflicted some solace, but eventually the addiction is enslaving, and he or she is variously ebullient, loud, confused, defiant, angry, regretful, emotional, resentful, unhappy. We try to reason with them, but that is to assume they are rational. Alcoholics can rarely stop drinking of their own volition. In fact, what is required is professional help. If you are worried about your own or someone else`s drinking, you can call this free national helpline in complete confidence: Tel: 0300 123 1110. Alternatively, there are support groups in most towns, including support groups for affected family and friends. After all, they are victims of alcoholism too, by proxy. Details of support groups are available on the NHS alcohol support website.