Churchill said about Russia in a radio broadcast in 1939, “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key”
If you substitute the word Russia for Paul Gascoigne you will not be far wrong. But the phrase “but perhaps there is a key” is a debatable one, this instance.
If dealing with the disease of alcoholism or mental illness, which are often cohabiters’ of the person concerned, there is no simple key, which will unlock the devastatingly destructive behaviours and allow the individual to recover. It is without doubt a disease of denial, something that tells you whilst you are doing it that it is the answer, the crutch, the only thing that maintains some resemblance of balanced mental health.
An intolerable battle
I just thought that if I didn’t drink then things would be ok, and admittedly that is the start. But if you take away the drug which at a level helped, it has to be replaced with an alternative. Otherwise, like me, you’ll walk around like a bomb waiting to fuse. A dry drunk. A drunk who doesn’t drink but writhes and seethes, battles with true sober feelings and emotions, a person on the edge because as destructive as it was, the drug helped to keep some of the madness in the head at bay.
Unmedicated with alcohol, the volcano starts to erupt, gently at first and then it becomes an enduring flow of unstoppable lava.
It took me many years of getting support and help, much of it provided by The PFA, for me to realise that I could not beat this opponent. I am a winner, highly competitive, very proud and have battled the world since my teenage years. Nothing could beat me if I worked and focused hard enough. Nothing that is, but alcohol.
Acknowledging the issue
I first started working with Peter Kay when I was twenty-two and I was in trouble. I did not feel the problem was alcohol. It was fucking life. Peter never lost faith in me, suggesting but not telling me. Getting me to use my brain and read, engage in debate about achievement and the psychology of men. But the day that things changed for me was as a result of several more “anger” incidents where alcohol had been the catalyst. It was only when I accepted my condition, my need for support and the horrendous realisation that I had to ask for help and could not do it alone. Only then did this scared, frightened but arrogant man become teachable.
Paul Gascoigne is currently at the jumping off place. He cannot live with a drink but cannot see life without it.
Fact. The PFA have funded nearly half a dozen treatments and detox for Paul over the years. They have been paying his rent for several years, quietly and without fanfare. They’ve provided the very best psychotherapists and psychiatrists. He went to the same clinic as me, The Sporting Chance, whilst being mentored and supported by the then Chief Exec Peter Kay. He left a month later drug and alcohol free.
He has been diagnosed with everything down the years from bi polar to post traumatic stress disorder. At one stage he was believed to have been on 13 different drugs, many of which would have left him comatose.
Maybe the loud voices calling for financial support towards Paul should learn a little more before berating those organisations within football for apparently not supporting sufficiently. I am informed, because I took the trouble to learn and find out that most top professionals in the field would not have advocated further treatment at this stage. Arizona is a nice place to be this time of the year, but what has changed? What will change?
Several players have publicly given to the PG fund merely to appease their conscience, if, tragically Paul did not make it. If nothing changes then nothing fucking changes. If Paul wants help then that is a different story, but the George Best story is too similar. Paul is in love with GAZZA. In The SCC, I know that people where not allowed to call him Gazza and he not allowed to refer to himself by the name. Both seem to have also been addicted to fame.
I have been told that Paul, only accepted to go to treatment this time if the country he would rehab in, was of a good climate, so as he could get a ‘good tan’. I was staggered when I was told this.
The treatment centre in Arizona will be delighted with the £30,000 that will be coming their way via the very public money raised, but what on earth are the PFA to do when a lesser known player comes forward looking for help? It sets a precedent. Is the PFA going to keep signing these cheques because Gary Mabbut goes on Sky Sports news?
Are the newspapers going to fund rehab for everyone they have every written about?
Are the players who so public ally stepped forward with cash offerings, going to do so the next time a player has an issue?
Remember too, the PFA helped fund The Sporting Chance when Tony Adams opened it in 2000.
I am not the biggest fan of Gordon Taylor and in the last few months, have been critical of him personally. The one thing I am not able to criticise however is the organisation itself.
The GT issue with me, is just that between me and him. To be fair to Gordon the welfare of his members is paramount to him, he seeks advice from experts like Peter Kay to ascertain the best way forward for each individual. I am not talking about giving up on Paul, luckily for me a few people never gave up on me for which I am eternally grateful. Without any doubt, I would not be playing professionally today, enjoying life, living sober with a good partner, becoming a better man and father.
But tough love is a better approach; let Paul start to take actions himself with the hands of support around him. Let’s not rely on special funds because he was a special player it sets a dangerous, unsustainable precedent.
Offer Paul a choice. If he agrees full support, full support should be offered. If not, stop paying his rent and funding his lifestyle.