Stumbling around a hotel foyer on crutches, in clothes he'd apparently been wearing for days, empty gin bottles in his pockets, confused and in tears. Gazza once again slides into the hellish pits of alcoholism.
Apparently onlookers were shocked and upset by this sight. As they were over six months earlier when he displayed the same tears and desperation at a charity night that sparked public outrage. Outrage so big, so vocal, it had him on a plane to rehab just days later.
Gazza got sick, very sick. Intensive care sick. Then he came back. Back from a coma, Back from rehab. And back onto our TV screens. We saw him all better. All fixed. Making a pledge to take it one day at a time.
And so we all felt a bit better, didn't we? Everyone likes a happy ending. Gazza was obliged to give us one. All of us. The friends that paid money in good faith for the best treatment available. The fans who sent him well-wishes. The media who kept us all up to date with columns of his dramatic Lazarus-like resurrection from addiction once again.
Here's the thing though:
Gazza is unlikely to make it this time. Gazza is very near death right now. The very end of end-stage alcoholism. Soon. Very soon. Sadly. And when he does? We will still all be shocked. Because it makes us all a bit vulnerable doesn't it? When someone so strong, with such professional brilliance disintegrates right in front of us. When we can chart his progress and see first hand how a nation can let this happen to one of our best-loved public figures, and keep letting it happen. How?
By inviting someone so insecure in their sobriety to social events with massive alcohol consumption. By sending him to rehab centres and believing they are cure-alls. Then watching in disbelief as he starts destroying himself anew after a few short months. By pretending this sort of hing does not happen. By living in denial about how many people Gazza represents. That he is far from the exception from the rule-but part of a growing epidemic.
Because the truth is:
Rehab centres have a 15% success rate for the first year after a person leaves. After that it goes down to less than 5%. After that? You don't want to know. Trust me. They don't work. Not in the way we want them to, not in the way we need them to. Not right now as things stand.
They are very good at one thing though;
Peace of mind. Peace of mind for the devastated friends and family of those left behind. Those who have watched this disintegration of a beloved family member. The torture of it. The indescribable heartache, The gut wrenching fear that every new day brings. Every potential for a binge. An accident. An overdose. None of that exists in rehab. It goes away. For a few weeks or months there is respite from the endless fear. A person can sleep soundly at night knowing their loved one is safe, warm, cared for. That they are sober and rested. Right now.
You get flashes of their old self back. Get to hold a conversation with them, the real them. Not the twisted wreck addiction has bent them into the shape of. Whilst in rehab there is peace, moments and moments of it.
Doesn't everyone deserve that? Who cares if you have to buy it? It's worth any cost even if it is fabricated. A suspended illusion for a brief moment in time.
When someone gets out of rehab and starts drinking again - and sadly so often they do - it's a statistical probability. When they do eventually die, when it is finally over, the family and friends have a grain of comfort. A tiny one. That they did everything they could. That they gave their loved one the gift of peace, just for a little while. A routine. A place far away from the chaos their life has become. Sometimes that's all any of us can do. Buy our beloved's some peace.
Gazza had that. He had somewhere safe and warm, he had friends visit him. He heard everyone's well-wishes and he was compos mentis enough to appreciate them. He knew he was loved. By everyone. All of us. He had the peace of mind and the emotional capacity to feel it. He was okay. He was safe. His world was ordered and nice. He was looked after.
In that sense? Rehab really did work.
In that sense?
Everyone did everything they could.
All of us.
Gazza is so loved by so many. And if he does make it through these next few weeks, then it will be because someone decided to buy him a little more peace somewhere safe. And there's nothing wrong with that. But if he doesn't? Then it will be sad, for all of us who will miss him a great deal.
Sad because he will not be the last.
Not until we start treating alcoholics with methods that actually work.