Tonight ITV will air a documentary, Being Paul Gascoigne, which will struggle with addiction and explore the ups and downs. The documentary has received large amounts of publicity and will undoubtedly be viewed by many. But what is likely to be running through the minds of those watching? Is it pity for a man once so great whom has been brought so low? Or perhaps disdain for someone who seemingly had it all and threw it away? Certainly it may produce doubt about whether he will ever manage to conquer his demons. So the question I am exploring, is does Paul Gascoigne deserve sympathy?
This is something I have discussed with friends and colleagues over the past couple of days, and perhaps unsurprisingly, I found that those who did not work within the addiction field were much less inclined to feel sympathetic. As a close friend put it, “it’s sad that he has this problem, but he’s had more chances than most to get sober.” A part of me can agree with his logic when I consider the amount of people I speak to who have been waiting months for their local drug and alcohol team to offer even the most basic of help. However, I also can’t help feeling that whilst yes he has had more access to help, he has also had access to more resources to aid his addiction. After all, he was an extremely high-paid footballer for many years, and so funding his addiction was not a problem for a long time. His celebrity also meant that there were always people willing to buy him a drink or lend him money. The publicity has not only provided him with support from those who mean well, but also attracted the attention of those who are not acting in his best interests, those who will look to take advantage of him.
That is not to say that I don’t think he is not responsible for a lot of what has happened. He obviously did not choose to become an alcoholic; nobody ever does, but what he has chosen is to pick up again time after time, and for that he must take responsibility. Whilst in rehab and through attendance of AA, he has been given the tools necessary to remain sober, but it seems he just isn’t able to put those tools to good use. He recently said “The pain’s like I know probably in the future I am going to drink again,” which could be viewed as either realistic or pessimistic. Personally, I don’t see why he can’t stay sober in the future – there is an abundance of help and support available to him, but from the way he is talking, it seems that he has already given up on ever achieving long-term recovery – “At least I know if I did pass away through it I wouldn’t be in this pain all the time.”
Regardless of your opinion on Gazza as a person, it is clear that alcoholism is a horrifically destructive disease, and one you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. For this reason, I keep him in my prayers and hope he proves his critics wrong. Being Paul Gascoigne airs tonight at 9pm on ITV1.
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