This fly-on-the-wall documentary followed the family of former football star Paul “Gazza” Gascoigne as they tried to help him kick his alcohol addiction. It started with a trim but haggard looking Gascoigne moving into his former wife Sheryl’s house after a period in rehab.
The 12 days he stayed there were punctuated with angry outbursts, extreme mood swings and obsessive compulsive behaviour – everything in his life must add up to 13.
Despite that there were the flashes of the old Gazza, joking with his and Sheryl’s son Regan,12, and her other children Mason,18, and Bianca, 21.
After storming out of Sheryl’s home it wasn’t long before Paul had fallen off the wagon and back into the chaotic lifestyle of the alcoholic, except that instead of drinking on the streets he hung out with celebrity friends in exclusive bars and hotels.
In between drinking sessions, he bombards Sheryl and the children – who are only able to find out about his whereabouts through stories in the tabloid newspapers – with abusive phone calls. The toll this takes on the children is particularly sad. Mason stays up all night in case Paul phones at 4am: “I worry all the time what he’s up to: is he drunk, has he been arrested, or robbed.” But Regan has given up on his dad: “I’m not going to waste my tears on him.”
The severity of Paul’s situation is highlighted when the manager of the rock band he is with phones the family to express concern for his well-being. It prompts Sheryl and the children to make one last ditch attempt to help Paul, tracking him down to a hotel in Portugal. With advice from an addiction expert, they confront him only to have their pleas returned with abuse.
While depicting the damage an alcoholic parent can do to a family, the programme also showed how some people aren’t equipped to deal with fame. As Mason said of Paul: “He’s lost. He only knows himself as Gazza, not as a caring person or a dad.”
Click to watch Surviving Gazza