Today Paul Gascoigne’s agent spoke out publicly about Gascoigne’s long-standing battle with alcohol, saying that he urgently needs help.

Obviously Paul Gascoigne is a man, and this blog is about women and alcohol.  However, a couple of things which are universal to both genders struck me about this story.  In an interview on BBC 24 his agent said he’d been absolutely fine about six weeks ago, but had started drinking again.  One of the things about alcohol problems, particularly severe ones, is that they are chronic, and can be relapsing, with periods of abstinence, followed by rapid re-instatement of drinking to previous levels.  In other words, people who fall of the wagon can soon find their drinking is out of control again.  Another thing is the statement in this article “he won’t thank me for saying it”.  Why are we so reluctant to bring up the subject of a person’s drinking, when we know it could be killing them?  Maybe we are in denial as much as they are.  Maybe we think it’s non of our business.  Maybe we want to avoid the conflict and worry that our relationship with the person will be damaged.   There is some evidence that confrontation, particularly when it’s by a group of people who care about the person drinking, and do in a way that puts the emphasis on treatment rather than blame, can be a catalyst for change.  However, for some people, this sort of confrontation from family members or friends can send them running to the hills, and increase a sense of isolation which may actually be detrimental.  As with many aspects of alcohol use and treatment, there is no single right answer.

Sheryl Gascoigne visits Downing Street to present a petition about domestic violence 2010

But of course there is a woman in the Paul Gascoigne and alcohol story: Sheryl Gascoigne, Paul’s ex wife.  Problem drinking affected her in a profound way, but it was not her drinking that caused her harm, it was her husband’s.  He committed acts of domestic violence against his wife which left physical marks the whole world could see, and almost certainly psychological ones it couldn’t.  Sheryl left Paul, and became a campaigner against domestic violence.   However, there are women who can’t or won’t leave men who abuse them, and reasons why are complicated.  Many of these women start using alcohol themselves as a coping mechanism, and find it spirals out of control.

So as you read the story about Paul today, also think about Sheryl, and the extended harm a person’s drinking can cause.

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