Whatever it is, it’s not working

This is what I say to Ben when he tells me that the day rehab programme is having a beneficial effect. I have to ask myself, how do I evaluate benefit? How does he?

Last night, I withheld the key to the shed. I didn’t do it deliberately, it just sort of happened.

Ben was lying in bed with Rosie, telling her a story, and when he got up, he left a few things behind: his cigarette lighter, house keys and shed key. I’m not sure what made me hang on to the shed key, but a few hours later, Ben was poking around the room, checking under the sheets with a flashlight. When I asked him what he was looking for, he said he thought he’d lost a piece of paper.

‘A piece of paper?’

‘Yeah, they gave me a piece of paper today. Something to do with my funding.’ That would be the council funding for his rehab.

He was checking every piece of detritus on our bookshelves, opening his empty cigarette packets to see if anything was in there. Eventually, he asked me whether I had a key to the shed. He claimed he needed something because he wanted to prepare the bathroom doors (the knobs have come off from both the bathroom and toilet doors). The suggestion was ludicrous, of course, but I followed him downstairs and watched him take an extension cord out of the shed (I didn’t ask how the extension cord would help with the doors). He then said, ‘Just leave the key in the kitchen.’



It was raining. It was 11 o’clock at night and I was in my pyjamas. I decided to check the other shed. Flashing the torch inside, I found one unopened but dented can of beer hidden behind a bucket, and a pile of empties, crushed behind sheets of plywood.

He said the empties were from ages ago. As for the unopened can, I know it wasn’t there on Sunday morning. He said he couldn’t remember putting it there. I told him I knew the can hadn’t been there on Sunday morning, and that it therefore had to have appeared between then and now. He insisted he couldn’t remember.

What does all this mean?

I think he is still physically dependent on alcohol. Why else the compunction to keep a stash of beers in the shed? I think the reason why he is so resistant to residential rehab is because he can’t drink there. He’s comfortable at the moment, having figured out how to keep drinking while pretending to everyone that he is committed to rehab. The reality is that he is only harming himself.

I drew a line after the last time I found him drinking. Last night’s episode only served to reinforce my decision. We talked for a long time, into the early hours of the morning. I asked him why he drank, what goes through his mind when he does, whether he is already thinking of having the next beer while he’s drinking the one in his hand.

He said that he drank because he had no one to talk to. That he always thought of the next beer and the next, as soon as he had one in his hand. That it was only oblivion that stopped a drinking episode. And that ultimately, he is just waiting to die.

This, in the broader scheme of Ben, is actually progress. Ben rarely talks about anything relating to himself. The fact that he carried on speaking, probing his motives, is a sign that day rehab is starting to pay off. But Ben is seriously ill. He is also lying to the rehab centre. Any progress he is making is almost immediately erased by his maladaptive behaviours.

Friday is our counselling session. I don’t know what to say, or rather, how I’m going to say what I have to. One thing is clear: I won’t be colluding in his lies.