8 days since detox

Ben has been alcohol-free for eight days now. He still doesn’t get to sleep until 4 or 5 in the morning, which means he is usually beached on the sofa for half the day.

But at least he doesn’t stink of drink. And I don’t have to worry about finding ‘anything’ in, on or around the toilet. He has also done a fair amount of house work since he got back – lots of laundry and cooking. He even bought a steam cleaner off of QVC – with the intention of disinfecting the putrid futon.

We’ve come around to the idea of day rehab, largely because we haven’t a choice. We visited one place down in Brixton. It’s run by people with decades of experience in the system, but they’ve only just set up, so things are a bit ad hoc. Equally, their day programme is not at regular hours – times vary from day to day. Which means that Ben wouldn’t have the kind of routine we were all hoping for. At least, that’s what it looks like.

We’re visiting another centre closer to home on Tuesday. Like the Brixton centre, it offers couples counselling. It also offers family counselling and they run a programme specifically for children – meaning that Rosie might be able to come with us when we both go in. I’m getting ahead of myself. First, we need to visit and get a feel for the place. Then Ben will make his decision.

The idea is for Ben to take the day rehab and see how he manages with it. If it doesn’t suit, he will appeal through his key worker. I did ring around to find out what happened – and by some coincidence, ended up speaking to a woman who had sat on Ben’s panel. She told me the usual – that their first port of call is always to treat a patient in the community. She also said, point blank, that residential treatment costs a lot of money and that they have a finite budget for the year. So that was that.

She did say that Ben could speak to her if he wasn’t happy with the day programme. If he had a persuasive enough reason, she would put that forward to the panel when he appealed.

For now, we’re taking it day by day. Every time Ben goes down to smoke a cigarette (at least 20 times/day), a hundred bats take wing inside my stomach. All those fears. All that anxiety.


Rehab day programme

The funding panel made its decision on Ben’s application for residential rehab yesterday. In their infinite wisdom, they have chosen to refer Ben to a non-residential, structured day programme.

This means that Ben will be returning home every evening from whichever centre. And every evening I will be wondering whether he has relapsed, what state he will return in, and whether I will finally lose my mind and kill him. The one thing I know is that I can never – never – see him with that glass-eyed, pissed expression again.

Ben is in shock when he receives the news (he had been travelling for more than two hours to an appointment that he was told was at one end of the borough only to find out it was at the other end, and then, once he got there, unnecessary), and I thank myself for being a paranoid control-freak, arranging for my friend to be with him.

I spend the whole tube journey back from work screaming ‘NOOOOOOOO’ over and over again in my head. It is a high-pitched, crackling scream that crushes every rational thought in my mind. I want to cry, but there are no tears. I am in public, after all.

Apparently, the panel based their decision on the notion that Ben has enough family support to warrant a day programme. Family support? That’s me – effectively a single mother and breadwinner with no extended family to rely on. A woman on the edge of breakdown.

I kick myself many times – in the ribs and in the head – for being so damn efficient at  intervening in Ben’s case with all and sundry. I should have thrown him out. It seems that I am being punished for being compassionate.

But I can’t do this. I know I can’t do this any more. I have reached the end of my reserves.

I want a copy of the panel’s report so I can rebut it – so I can tear its logic into nano particles. I am writing to my MP, to my cabinet minister, calling on our local service-users’ advocacy group – anyone who will listen. But first, I need to speak to Hanife.

So, yet another work day is blown to bits. It is 7:33AM and my head is already throbbing.

Assessing his rehab needs

Ben is out of hospital. He came out last Friday evening, groggy and irritable. I spent the whole weekend plus the last few days in a state of acute anxiety.

I watched Ben every time he went outside for a cigarette, and refused to let him go anywhere without a chaperone. On Monday, he had his community care assessment – his assessment for rehab – at our local NHS drug and alcohol service.

This was our make-or-break appointment. It was our opportunity to work with the community care assessor, Hanife, to build a case supporting Ben’s request for rehab. His case would then go before a funding panel which would approve or reject Ben’s application.

From the beginning, it was clear that Hanife was on our side. She had already been in regular contact with me. She tried to get the hospital to postpone Ben’s discharge to Monday, advised me on how to keep Ben busy post-detox, warned me it was(is) a dangerous time – where the likelihood of relapse is very high.

Hanife’s default position was that Ben needed residential rehab. We talked about why Ben felt he needed rehab, what his motivation was, what his objectives were. The complexities of his illness and treatment were unpacked. There was the urgent need to address his depression, anxiety and severe sleep deprivation. He needed space to explore his broken family relationships, and the time to rebuild his confidence and self-esteem.

There were questions about Ben’s ‘human capital‘ and ‘social capital‘ – government speak – all of which only reminded us that the funding panel’s decision to approve or not approve Ben’s application was governed entirely by financial concerns.  But Hanife seemed positive and ready to do battle with the panel in order to get what we needed. We felt we were in good hands.

The assessment took just over two hours. We came out feeling hopeful. Ben seemed less anxious. Nevertheless, I had set up a rota to cover the days when I couldn’t be at home with Ben. One of my friends came up from South London to spend the day with him on Tuesday. Another travelled from Cambridge to be with him yesterday, despite Ben’s protestations. ‘A bit unnecessary,’ he kept saying, acquiescing only to humour me.

We were preparing ourselves for a decision, which was due either this or next Wednesday. When it came, it unhinged us all.