“You can’t just snap out of addiction”

At first glance you may think Paul Gascoigne and Lamar Odom have little in common. However, aside from their respective brilliant sporting achievements, both find themselves in the fierce grip of addiction.

My heart breaks for them equally.

Former NBA player, Lamar Odom (soon to be ex husband of Khloe Kardashian for anyone who isn’t keeping up with the Ks) has lost his way on the terrifying route to recovery.

This week, he vomited on a plane – allegedly due to drinking – and was escorted off. Later, he was seen leaving a Los Angeles strip club. Let’s not forget this comes seven months after he was found unconscious after an overdose in a brothel in Las Vegas, which left him fighting for his life in hospital.

He was also spotted drinking alone in May and at Easter. From the outside, some are finding it difficult to feel sympathy with the stop-start process towards a happier life.

Sitting on the flip side, I’ve found it hard to read comments this week from people snapping, ‘he should have learnt his lesson’. Yes, in an ideal world, addiction would be as easily flicked off as a fly, Lamar’s overdose would have been a wake up call, he would have drawn a line and started a new chapter – all the things that people are saying. Addiction doesn’t work like that; it’s buried deep underneath your skin and affects all of your senses. Flippant clichés simply don’t apply. You can’t snap out of addiction.

Over in the UK, former England football player Paul Gascoigne has been photographed climbing out of a taxi to buy alcohol. He’s visibly ill, barefoot and his dressing gown has fallen open.

Paul Gascoigne has talked openly about his battles with panic disorder, depression and alcoholism; his daily fight is very real. It makes me feel overwhelmingly sad just thinking about the hell of being stuck in that struggle. Anyone who thinks it’s easy to put down your bottle shaped emotional crutch and walk away is seriously deluded. I haven’t picked up an alcoholic drink in over a year but I don’t take that for granted.

Self-medicating is not a healthy coping mechanism that has fairy tale endings. However, we can’t progress to a world where people can be open about their tough mental battles and addiction, before we all challenge our initial reaction to seeing people struggle.

We can’t start to quash the stigma around mental health or alcoholism – and start to support those who need help – while judging or being entertained by their despair. Before we can begin to encourage those who are struggling to speak openly and seek help, we have to banish ridicule.

Both of these men are drowning in their own battles.

They both deserve empathy not judgement.