For the next four weeks after detox, Greg managed remarkably well. I could see he was using coping mechanisms that he had learned at the clinic. He was also trying to rebuild his strength, had a huge appetite and insisted on walking the dog to improve the weakness in his legs and his general fitness. He even used to make it his purpose each day to walk down to the high street - about a two-mile round trip - stopping to have coffee and read a newspaper at a cafe halfway. Naturally I was suspicious that he might be stopping off at a pub on the way, because trust can never recover completely, but I would deliberately get up close to smell his breath and was convinced that it smelled of coffee and nothing else. I was quite impressed and began to allay my fears that he would go back to drinking. He wanted to be part of the family again and insisted on booking tickets for us to see a West End show. He got all dressed up in a suit and for the first time in ages looked very presentable indeed. Other people even commented on how well he was looking lately.
I tried to broach the subject of rehab - the second phase in which the alcoholic comes to terms with why the addiction first started and how to avoid returning to it. It would mean a six-month residential stay with no possibility of returning home for the first few months and then occasionally at weekends thereafter. But Greg was adamant that he would NEVER return to drinking heavily again. He had learned his lesson. He gave me his assurances. In any case, he did not much like the idea of being away from home for six months, cut off from the world, the news, the world wide web. Nor did he relish the idea of communal living with fellow addicts. He had put up with it for ten days but that was the end of it.
Then, at the end of those four weeks, we got a call from Jill, his sister, to say that their mother had taken a turn for the worse. For the best part of her life she had smoked heavily and had developed emphysema a few years earlier. She had spent the last two years not only house-bound but also chair-bound, as any effort, however small, such as getting washed and dressed, had exhausted her. For those two years, she had been literally tied to the end of an oxygen cylinder. But Jill now reported that her mother had overnight lost the use of her legs and was unable to stand. Much to Jill's despair,as she would have preferred to keep her mother close by in her own home, their mother would now need to go permanently into the nursing home she had stayed in for three weeks last year. Greg rushed there by car to see if he could do anything to help or at least be there for them. Kay and I remained in London, as Kay still had school to go to and I had the animals to look after.
Five days after my mother-in-law went into the nursing home, I got a call from an agitated Greg at breakfast-time. The nursing staff had gone into his mother's room to wake her up, only to find she had died in her sleep. Greg's words were punctuated with tears - he was clearly beside himself with grief and remorse.