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.

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Step 2 – Build a relationship with your alcohol key worker

The key worker is key. This is what I learnt from nearly a year of engagement with our local drug and alcohol service. Your key worker is your advocate. If she or he is not behind you, actively engaging not just the alcoholic, but you, the carer, then things can fall apart rapidly (more on this in a later post).

The first thing I did when Ben was admitted to the service was ring them to speak to the person who assessed him. Ben had given him permission to share any information with me – a boon, as this has allowed me to keep tabs on how his treatment has been progressing (or not). It has also allowed me to intervene when necessary. When I phoned the first time, I asked about their methodology. I wanted to know what we could expect from the service, projected timelines for treatment, types of treatment, etc. And they told me.

Ben and I were lucky at the beginning. His first alcohol nurse/key worker – Bianca –  was passionate about getting him healthy again. Both she and Safar, the alcohol worker who assessed Ben, were very concerned about him. Ben was thin, quivering and completely devoid of self-confidence (sadly, nothing has changed).

Bianca made a point of speaking to me and keeping me informed of Ben’s case. Whenever I phoned, she gave me as much time as I needed to vent or ask the questions I needed to. She breathalysed him every time he went in to see her and reported his readings to me each time we spoke. From the beginning, she said he needed to be sent into detox. She was – rightly – extremely concerned for his health and she wasted no time in getting him prepared for treatment.

One day, she found he was over the limit when he drove in to the clinic, and confiscated his keys. Ben rang me at work to tell me that the car was at the hospital where the alcohol service is based. He said he thought the reading was wrong, but Bianca had taken his keys anyway. He sounded genuinely puzzled – but this was just another manifestation of his delusional mindset.

When I went in to collect the keys, Bianca took time out to speak to me. She wanted to know how much I knew about his drinking (not all that much, as it turned out). At the time, Ben used to keep his cases of beer in a padlocked shed outside. Only he had the key to the shed. He never let me go in there – and perhaps I didn’t want to. Anyway, it was she who insisted that I demand the key to the shed as a symbol of his commitment to being honest with me from that point forward. She also suggested I hold on to the car keys. I followed her advice and it worked.

When I asked Ben to show me the shed and insisted he be honest with me from that point forward, he agreed – and he stuck by that… well, sometimes. I also took the car keys, although even then, I was stupid enough to believe him when he claimed he didn’t drink during the day time, and that he rarely drank and drove (“and certainly never with Rosie”). He was still taking care of Rosie at that point. So, I guess I was suffering from my own delusional mindset.

That would soon crack and peel away, like paint on a bathroom ceiling. But it would take a few more weeks before I finally accepted how serious his condition really was.