Brilliant article on Gazza by Jimmy Greaves. |
These are not the uplifting, heartwarming words you will want to read about stricken Paul Gascoigne.
Youíll want to read that a man who is regarded as a national treasure can fight back from the brink to finally win his battle with alcoholism.
Those are the sort of words people use when they know nothing about the hideous illness Paul is living with.
I spent some time with Paul a year or so ago, when we appeared in a series of theatre shows together. And, as an alcoholic myself, I have to say I was very wary about the idea.
But Paul had not had a drink for about a year and the excellent people at The Providence Projectsí rehab centre in Bournemouth were with him, believing that performing on stage would aid him and, as it happened, Paul did his turn and the shows went well.
Yet he still seemed fragile. I still believed he was on the edge of a relapse. The problem was that people kept coming backstage and asking him to do this appearance or that after-dinner show and Paul seemed reluctant to say no.
In fact, Paul is a prime candidate for alcoholism because he wants to please everybody all the time. He wants to be the centre of attention and, like all of us to some extent, he dearly wants to be loved.
People talk glibly about clubbing together and getting him to a rehab centre in Phoenix, Arizona, to help his ďrecoveryĒ. Iím sure these people are well-meaning and will enjoy being thought well of for trying to help.
But people all too often want to help alcoholics at arms length, on their own terms. You cannot help an alcoholic on your own terms.
So, if you want a dose of reality, let me give you one. There is no recovery from alcoholism. You can recover from a heart attack. You can cure cancer and mend broken bones.
But alcoholism is an incredibly complex mental illness which never leaves you. It doesnít matter that Iíve not had a drink for 34 years. For me, itís still about not having one today.
You always have to be acutely aware of it. That mental process is like having to screw on a wooden leg every morning. Youíd rather not have a wooden leg but without it you know you will fall in a heap.
When you are down, when you are lonely, that is when you want a drink the most.
And Paul Gascoigne is a very lonely man. That is the heart of the problem.
He may return from Arizona having dried out but he still wonít be sober. Probably only an alcoholic can truly appreciate the difference between the two.
To learn to live as normal a life as possible with alcoholism, you have to have a supreme bloody-mindedness Ė and Iím afraid I do not think Paul possesses that.
George Best, one of the few British players to rank above Paul in terms of genius, was a good friend of mine.
I knew George in our playing days and I also performed a number of theatre tours with him.
With no disrespect to Paul, George was a far brighter, sharper man than him.
He was a far more together, a more rounded human being Ė but the drink killed George.
After a number of successful theatre appearances, we were due to play a gig in Bristol when I heard that the venue had cancelled because they had heard, correctly, that George was back on the booze.
It shocked me because I did not expect George to drink again. It also shook me because I felt that this time it would kill him Ė and it did.
I fear Paul will die if he carries on drinking but itís not about merely prolonging his life. He needs to find a purpose, a quality of life.
Iím afraid I canít see any light at the end of the tunnel for him. I donít see the hope. And I donít detect the necessary bloody-mindedness within him.
As a footballer he wasnít bothered about winning, losing or drawing.
He wasnít bothered about grinding out a 1-0 win. He wanted to entertain. And he still does. He wants to be the life and soul of the party.
He enjoys the talking appearances but some people close to Paul think it doesnít matter if he has a drink as long as he is sober enough to be coherent at the next dinner show, when thereís £5,000 at stake.
Paul, as I mentioned, was a genius as a footballer. Others may have achieved much more in the game but Paul was genuinely touched by God.
If you are a genius as an artist, a songwriter, an author or an actor, say, nobody tells you at the age of 30 or 35 you canít do that any more.
That the career which brought you wealth, fame and admiration is over and you will have to find something else to do. It leaves a hell of a hole in your life, I can tell you.
I donít know exactly when Paul descended into alcoholism but, for me, a significant factor was the end of my top-flight playing career.
There is no tried and tested way of surviving with alcoholism. You have to find your own path.
You have to wake up one morning, shaking like a leaf and puking, and realise that you donít like the world you are living in and that the world doesnít like you much either.
I went to a rehab place in St Johnís Wood three or four times and it was all warm slippers and hot baths, pay your bill and head back out into the world again.
It was not until I woke up one day in a mental hospital in Essex Ė in a room of people sitting around farting, shaking and talking to themselves Ė that I had the reality check I needed.
I havenít had any counselling since but every alcoholic has to take their own path. Nobody can instruct you.
Whether itís going to AA or other counselling. Whether itís finding God or talking to the trees in your garden, you have to find your own way.
I believe Paul was getting the best help possible at The Providence Projects but nothing they could have done would ever have been enough on its own.
When I stopped drinking in 1978, I had just separated from my wife because I realised how miserable I was making her and our children, who were young enough to be at home but old enough to be impressionable.
I knew I wasnít a very nice person and I wanted to be better.
Luckily for me, my wife and I got back together again soon after and I could gradually get my life back into some sort of order.
I was enjoying playing non-league football for Barnet, with no pressure, and I had a job selling knitwear for a friend, again there was no stress and I could work at my own pace.
It was not for another three years that I felt ready to go into a full-time career in television.
That was my path and, as I write, I havenít had a drink for more than 34 years. Though Iím bloody-minded enough never to be complacent about it. Iím luckier than Paul.
On a football field, Paul could always plot a course through an oppositionís defence with some mazy dribble or piece of magic. In life, sadly, I donít believe he possesses that same vision.