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Tuesday, October 13, 1998 Published at 19:24 GMT 20:24 UK


What Gazza's going through

Rehabilitation clinics are the "last refuge of hope"

As Paul Gascoigne begins his first few days drying out in an alcohol clinic, someone who has been through the rehabilitation process tells BBC News Online what he can expect.

Nobody goes into rehabilitation treatment willingly. Even those, like me, who went voluntarily, do so in a moment of crisis.

It is the last refuge of hope before the total destruction of your life. And you have no idea what awaits you.

Inside a new world awaits, with its own language. Words and phrases like 'Powerlessness' and 'Unmanageability', 'Power Greater Than Me' and 'Relapse' are bandied about.

You are even given a new name. No longer Fred, or Peter or Kevin. Now it is: "Kevin, I'm an addict". "Fred, I'm duly addicted (drugs and alcohol)".

When I arrived at my centre I had never heard of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous; I had no idea that this was the cornerstone of conventional drug treatment.

We were taught to teach ourselves that we were powerless over drugs and that it was taking the first drug that caused the most damage. I learned quickly.

'I am somebody'

The day is long. It has routine, with affirmations in the morning, along the lines of: "Hello, I'm Kevin, I'm an addict. I have the right to happiness. I have the right to be loved. I am a kind gentle person."

We all finished the same way: "I am somebody."

Again and again throughout the month that phrase drummed itself in that we were not just worthless druggies.

In between all of this there was group therapy, also known as the Minnesota Method.

The Method is much copied around the world and is in use at The Priory, where Gazza is staying.

Tough love

The idea is that the group of which you are part does most of the work. "Trust in the Process" is repeated again and again.

You present course work on topics such as "How I tried to give up drugs before" or "The financial costs of my addiction" or "The damage I have done to myself."

Presenting such material is stressful. Tears are the norm. The rules are strict. You MUST NOT pass anyone crying a tissue. It breaks the flow and stems the flood of natural angst.

Such 'tough love' breaks down any final resolve that we can be social users or that drugs have not caused damage to our lives.

The rest of the group is then asked to relate often a brutal account of their own similarities. This bonds the group.

Through this process other issues lying behind the drugs and booze come out. Some relate to family or origin, some are personality traits, some involve horrendous events like multiple rape.

It seems no one in the room has had a normal happy upbringing and adult life, yet before long you feel normal within this group.

It is dealing with these and other issues that will take years of therapy if those like me are not to return to active addiction.

'The hardest thing I have ever done'

Within weeks you feel this is the only place you belong. The rules annoy you, the staff seem petty, the cost - at $10,000 for 28 days - is horrendous, but you rapidly realise this group of people actually care about whether you make it.

Many do not make it. One person I went through treatment with is dead. Many are back in rehab. The 30% success rate is optimistic.

It is, without doubt, the hardest thing I have ever done. I still attend NA or AA meetings regularly - not regularly enough, some would say - and I am trying to work to a programme.

I am aware that if I return to active addiction the likely ending is prison or death. I have tried one, sailed close to the other, and do not wish for the third.

After all, I am somebody.

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