Alcoholic legend's rehab body map reveals his inner torment

By Lunar Loops · May 23, 2006 ·
  1. Lunar Loops
    Classic tabloid fare from one of their favourite story fonts....Gazza:

    By Phil Taylor, Associate Editor
    IT LOOKS like a child's drawing. But this startling ‘body map' reveals the catalogue of physical and mental torment suffered by Paul Gascoigne.
    And last night, staring at the life-size picture, the soccer legend sighed: "How I survived all that I'll never know. I'm lucky to be alive."
    In an exclusive interview with the News of the World, Gazza told how, depressed and suffering, he ended up in rehab in America last Christmas.
    Talking for the first time about his year of hell he recalled: "I was asked to write all the stuff I'd done to myself over the last four or five years through drink and drugs.
    "Then I had to stand in front of 12 people and talk about it for an hour. It's scary—I've got the full set of problems.
    "It's not just the booze, it's the panic attacks, bipolar disorder, the purging—it's everything I have to deal with every day.
    "For me to be alive it proves that there really is a God."
    Gazza told how during a therapy session at Arizona's famous Cottonwood clinic he was made to lie on the floor as a fellow patient drew his outline.
    Then in a mis-spelt scrawl, shaky with emotion, alcoholic Gazza, 38, painfully listed every part of his mind and body damaged by drink and drugs. On the map Gazza scribbled in black ink: "Could not take any more. Fell to ground. Held a Bible and asked God to save me until I got to Cottonwood. Dead. Life unmanigible. Anger."
    Listing his demons he wrote: "Anxiety. Panic Attacks. Purging. Mood swings. Anxiety. Claustrophobic. Alcoholic. Addict. Balimic. Depression. Bipolar. Food issues. Purging. Blood. Weight Loss."
    By the childlike drawing of his head, he added: "Drink led to: Sleeping pills. Blackouts. Abusive language. 12 hours in jail."
    And of his symptoms, he wrote: "Drink led to rashes, scratching, shakes, numbness."

    Puffing on a cigarette, the ex England hero revealed he considered SUICIDE, turned to a VICAR for help, sought comfort in BOOZE after George Best died, became BULIMIC because he hated his ‘fat' body, and takes DRUGS every day to control mood swings.
    He also told how a therapist warned him at Christmas: "Stop drinking or you'll end up dead like Bestie."
    His voice trembling with emotion, Gazza said: "I was visiting my parents in Newcastle when I felt suicidal for no reason.
    "I had a panic attack and felt I couldn't breathe and was going to pass out. It was horrible.
    "I'd had enough of life and I wanted to die. I didn't know what to do. So I knocked on the door of a local vicar's house.
    "We sat and had a cup of tea and a sandwich. He was there for me and we just talked. The vicar stressed I had so much to live for. He brought me to my senses. We said the Lord's Prayer afterwards. It was a nice feeling. I really think God helped me that day."
    Gazza hit rock bottom last December when he was sacked as manager of non-League Kettering after a 3-1 defeat and a row with the chairman.
    He recalled: "When I got back to my hotel after the match I had some wine and sent him a text saying, ‘I'm the manager. I pick the team. If you're not happy, sack me.'"
    The chairman did just that.
    It's claimed Gazza was involved in 37 booze-related incidents in his 39 days in charge. He denies being drunk on the job but admits knocking back brandies when Bestie died. He confessed: "I was very upset. People said I was like him and over the years he became a friend. I had a couple of brandies to numb my feelings.
    "But, like any alcoholic, one's too many and 50 is not enough. It started a chain of problems that resulted in me being locked in a police cell."
    Two days later Gazza secretly drank wine at a fund-raising event for a drug and alcohol treatment centre and was arrested after a bust-up with a photographer.
    He said: "One minute I was manager of a football club. The next I was banged up in a police cell with just a bed and a potty. That scared me.
    "They took my clothes away for forensic testing and I was given paper pyjamas. I then started suffering from claustrophobia. It was just like a panic attack. I felt I couldn't breathe.
    "I asked the police if they would open the door a little bit, but they said they couldn't.
    "I tried to stay as calm as possible as I lay in the dark. But I was locked up for 12 hours and didn't sleep a wink all night."
    Gazza flew to Cottonwood soon after and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder—or manic depression. It is the main cause of suicide in the UK.
    He said: "I was shattered. But after 29 days' treatment I did feel better.
    "They gave me medication and I talked a lot about George Best. I knew that in my bad days I was worse. George liked to drink wine. While I was playing in China I'd get through FOUR BOTTLES of whisky a day.
    "I knew if I carried on drinking like that I'd end up dead."
    Yet days after leaving Cottonwood, Gazza went on holiday to Dubai and drank on the plane there and back because he was scared of flying.
    He added: "Out of boredom while I was there I ate loads of comfort food and put on a stone. When I looked in the mirror I was gutted. One minute I was slim. The next I was fat.
    "I hate being overweight. It takes away my confidence and self-esteem.
    "When you've had 30,000 fans calling you ‘fat bastard', it gets drilled into your head a lot."
    Gazza panicked when he returned to England and booked into Champneys health resort for a punishing exercise and diet regime. He had just cigarettes for breakfast, worked out all day, ate jelly babies for supper...and lost half a stone in four days.
    However he confessed: "I went from eating everything to eating nothing, but I still felt overweight and bloated. So a couple of times I stuck my fingers down my throat to make myself sick. The truth is, along with being an alcoholic and bipolar and suffering from panic attacks, I have an eating disorder.
    "There can't be many people in Britain who have to cope with all that."
    But there is one bright spot in Gazza's life. What has helped him fight back from the depths of depression is being reunited with his son Regan after a heartbreaking year apart.
    He lost contact with the 10-year-old lad after his bitter split with ex-wife Sheryl and it affected him badly.

    "I had been sending Regan cards and texts but I hadn't seen him for over a year," said Gazza.
    "Then I was watching my brother play darts in a pub last month when my phone went off.
    "I heard a small voice. It was Regan, saying how much he missed his dad. It was the best news I'd had in years.
    "I could tell he was emotional and I spoke to him for ages. I was crying my eyes out.
    "Next day I picked Regan up from school, took him to my hotel and we went to the gym together.
    "Then we went and played bowls and he beat me 10-8! He stayed overnight and we watched a film together. It was great seeing him.
    "This is the start of the next stage of my life."
    Next week Gazza will play for an England celebrity team captained by Robbie Williams against a rest-of-the-world side for ITV 1's Soccer Aid. Ant and Dec are the hosts.
    But he has decided against travelling to Germany for the World Cup, even though he is optimistic about England's chances.
    Gazza details his journey through therapy in a new book which he has dedicated to the memory of his hero George Best.
    Asked if he is now cured, he admits: "No. I never will be.
    "I am much more aware of what I need to do to stay well and I have the support if I need it. It's about keeping sober, pacing myself so I don't get too stressed, and making the right kind of choices about my work. "I don't know what I am going to do with the rest of my life. But I'm feeling positive for the first time in a long, long time."

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