Byline: Amanda Stocks
IT IS, on the face of it, a very modern Christmas scene. A meeting of adivorced father with his two grown-up children before each go their separateways for the holidays.
But this picture also captures the former ITN journalist Ed Mitchell at acrossroads. Unless he turns his back on alcoholism, which has reduced him froma media high-flyer into a homeless bankrupt, this could be his last Christmas.
The 54-year-old former ITN reporter, who graphically described his descent intodrunkenness, divorce and debt in last week's Mail on Sunday, has been given thechance to turn his life around.
The day after Boxing Day, he will embark on a 28-day rehabilitation programmeat The Priory clinic in London.
The treatment has been sponsored by The Recovery Network, a new organisationfor addicts and their families founded by a former City trader and recoveringaddict who knew Ed when both were at the top of their careers.
Ed says: 'I've finally had enough. I'm beaten and I want to face up to things.Revealing the full extent of my alcoholism in your paper last week gave me theclarity to see how bad things have become. I'm so grateful for this chance toput things right.' For his two children - Alexandra, 25, and Freddie, 22 - theoffer is an extraordinary Christmas present after a fortnight in which much oftheir family's dirty linen has been aired very publicly. First it was revealedthat Ed sleeps rough on the Brighton seafront because of - or so he claimed atfirst - debts and unemployment.
Then, honestly and unsparingly, he revealed the full desperate extent of hisalcoholism in an interview with The Mail on Sunday.
Finally, his former wife Judy gave her toe-curling account of what it was liketo be married to a handsome [pounds sterling]100,000-a-year TV star who threw everything awayin a haze of drink.
Now, at least, his family is grateful that everything is out in the open.
Freddie, a web designer, says: 'Dad going into The Priory is better than himwinning the Lottery. All we really want is our dad back. It's a terrible shamethat he has gone so far down. We want him to take this chance and get well.'Their concern is well founded.
While his good-looking features, weather-beaten skin and full head of greyingcurly hair help Ed look good in photographs, the staggering extent of hisdecline is clear to anyone who spends time with him. In the mornings, he canbarely function without a bottle of vodka to steady his violently shaking body.
Difficulty in swallowing - oesophagus problems are common in advancedalcoholism - means he rarely eats a proper meal.
While he can appear charming, urbane and lucid with the help of a 'medicinal'dose of alcohol, he is finding it increasingly difficult to walk the tightropebetween functioning, after a fashion, with vodka as a crutch and being ahopelessly incapacitated drunk.
Ed knows that his frail physical state puts his life in grave danger,particularly if he continues to sleep rough. But he is a proud man who tries tocover up how bad things really are. He also knows, deep down, The Prioryrepresents his last chance at life.
It is clear from talking to Ed's children how much they love their father, butalso how much his alcoholism has blighted their own lives.
ALEXANDRA, who runs a school farm at a public school in West Sussex, says herfather had never been to her current house until his visit last week. Shewouldn't tell him the address because of the trouble he caused by turning upnoisily drunk in the middle of the night at her old home.
She and Freddie live by a code of 'tough love' and believe that giving him foodand a roof over his head would only prop up his faltering lifestyle and prolonghis alcoholism. They reckon it is better to force their father to face up tohis problems.
Alexandra says: 'When we first read about Dad being homeless because of hiscredit-card debts, we were angry because he knew the real reason. …