Life had now really begun to freefall.
On top of my vast alcohol addiction, trying to fend off debt collectors, and keeping some kind of structure to my son’s daily routine, the stress became too much for my husband and he had a heart attack. With the consequent surgery, quadruple bypass, obviously he had been a time bomb, the inevitable ousting from forever house was delayed. How I functioned on my ration of wine and brandy with all that the too-ing and fro-ing to the heart hospital, school run and other daily nightmares, was an unbelievable feat! Which, with the madness I had, each time I was able to cope with a day, I would reward myself with booze.
On top of this major medical emergency, my Mother was also failing fast, years of drinking had eventually caught up with her, and a home had to be found. Even though I could see the sorry state she was in, a once pretty and funny woman, now reduced to hideous swelling from organ failure, grimly dour and bitter, I still would not put the bottle down. I had fair warning, but still that devil got me. She died, and I was drunk at the funeral. Shameful, and am still appalled with myself about that day.
It was to be my final curtain, and my husband through pure determination, and no help at all from the medical profession found me a rehab, not too far away and not madly expensive. It was partially funded by the state, and within a day of finding it I was whisked off, simply terrified and screaming blue murder that I would stop for the thousandth time. I didn’t want to leave my little boy, and with the paranoia that seemed to have surfaced, truly thought that I might never see him again.
I live in Yorkshire, and this place was just like Wuthering Heights. In the hills outside of Bradford, and of course as with all alcoholics, everything, good, bad or indifferent is a drama. The front door creaked open and there in the hallway, was Mr David Crabtree, a small man with twinkly brown eyes, but a serious and stern persona, who was about to become my salvation. Once I had been scooped up, that was it. For the first two weeks, I would not see a familiar face.
To say that the clients were a mixed bag is putting it very mildly. Me, sort of crazy upper middle class thirtysomething, another lady who was almost Nun like in appearance, and at first extremely quiet, a man with madder eyes than mine, who was weeping in a corner, another male, young and bloshy, and finally a gay ex nightclub owner Tony, with a penchant for cross dressing/drag, so he for just pure personality, was to become my major ally.
Dave Crabtree could see that I was suffering from withdrawal as soon as I got unpacked, and duly medicated me. At first I suppose I thought it was going to be a bit like a very discipled kind of hotel, with staff being kind and patient. But we were all to do chores and reading, along with various talks throughout the day. Naturally none of us wanted to be there, my colourful partner in crime and I became determined to cause respectful chaos. Dave was having none of it, and one night, when we had decided to get some extra pudding from the kitchen, sugar cravings were huge, took Tony’s best party dress away from him, and my mascara. We both wept and he laughed, and said that we were both a pair of queens, and both wearing masks. I just cried and cried more than I had for years. Exactly what Dave had wanted me to do.
There would be no more games in this place. Once I realised that he took no prisioners, and that I was going to be broken before I could be mended, he became far more truthful and revealing about himself. In fact more truthful than anyone I had ever known. He too was an ex alcoholic, with a story so sad and desolate that by comparison I felt like a fake. He had had a very successful career, until the drink wiped him out, and his surrender came when he woke up in a bus shelter wondering who had peed on his leg. It was him, he had laid all night in the cold, homeless and urinating on himself. Once he had told his story, he changed my tune and my friend’s. We were simply awestruck, how this neat, efficient brusque Yorkshire dynamo, could ever have been a skid row, paper bag boozing bum. I think we also both fell in love with him a little!
The first week was uneventful. We were all full of librium and quiet coping with the withdrawal. But by the second week, character began to show. I was always so used to looking after people I thought I could start being Mother hen to this crowd. Tidying, and washing up, taking control of the kitchen. The young bloshy one seemed to be getting agitated by me, building into a crescendo where he threw a big steel stew pan across the kitchen aimed at me. Tony saw it coming, rugby tackled me to the floor and the pan soared out through the kitchen window. One flew over the cuckoo’s nest was becoming a reality in deepest darkest West Yorkshire. The Nun flew at him with a broom, Mad Eyes jumped on his back executing a kind of heimlich manoeuvre, and Dave crashed in with a hyperdermic. The whole incident was sobering…
It was quite obvious that I could no longer stay at this place, I am and was a tough cookie, but in a forced drug induced docile state, it was too much. Dave knew it, but was not going to let me walk. Instead, he came to me, a 60 mile round trip each day for four weeks, to get me well. I shall never forget that effort, and I shall never forget the belief he had in me to come through this dreadful disease and go forward to make my life worthwhile and positive. He will always have a very special place in my heart and soul.
The rehab was closed mainly because of lack of funding, and the ad hoc way it was run, but Dave had gone on to multi-millionaire status owning and running a group of care homes.
I started to live in real time and face a very big mountain to climb. The first week of being sober alone was terrifying.