The rehab romance

Guitar-led psychobabble proves an unlikely aphrodisiac at a US “ranch” – will it shatter the newfound equilibrium?


It was a dark day in December when Amber woke up to her addiction problems. She was just adding a double vodka to her cold-pressed green juice – 11am was surely the new aperitivo hour – when her Barrecore instructor walked into the changing room and shot her an accusing look. Amber’s usually sunny PR disposition deserted her. She screamed at the instructor, threw a hand weight at her head and ended up banned from her favourite studio.

Which was how Amber ended up 5,000 miles from home at Sunrise Rehabilitation Ranch in Arizona. Thankfully, after five weeks of intensive oversharing, she had been clean and serene for 10 days. Not even Family Week and the prospect of her acrimoniously divorced parents arriving from England could shatter her newfound equilibrium.

From the moment the trio entered the workshop it was clear that James and Mary were as comfortable in the same room as Charles and Nigella. They’d communicated only through lawyers since that night at San Lorenzo’s, when the spaghetti alle vongole had just missed Joan Collins and the police were called to the scene. But they would do anything for their only daughter.

So while Kirk, the smug, guitar-hugging therapist, doled out psychobabble like Halloween candy, Mary sat patiently on her hands and James finally agreed to retroactively apologise for his philandering (with nannies, gardeners, personal trainers, personal shoppers and even his divorce lawyer). The workshop breakthrough moment was, however, when Kirk suggested in his adenoidal tones that James might want to seek treatment for dissociative denial, at which point Mary and James made eye contact for the first time in more than two decades and tried to suppress a giggle.


The next afternoon they were all booked in for equine-assisted therapy. Because horses were not judgmental, and because Amber had been county point-to-point champion three years in a row, she galloped off into the forest on Buddy for some trauma healing as James had a sly cigarette and watched his ex-wife take a turn around the dressage arena. On horseback she could pass for a 19-year old, he thought, as he marvelled at how raunchy he still found her rising trot after all these years.

That evening at dinner in the refectory, Amber was exhausted. It had been an emotional day. She hit the hay with Kirk’s copy of The Road Less Travelled and James and Mary found themselves alone. Sobered and reflective after confronting their failings, they exchanged an awkward glance. “I could murder a gin and tonic,” James confessed with a twinkle in his eye.

Mary – an expert at breaking out of facilities, including three boarding schools and a weight-loss clinic in the Swiss Alps – led the way and within an hour they found themselves at a dive bar in downtown Sedona, knocking back shots with a group of cowboys. After a line-dancing lesson from ol’ Tommy, James dragged Mary up on to the bar for a couple of very impressive Monterey turns to much slow clapping. As dawn broke, they hitched a ride back to the ranch in Tommy’s pickup and shared a romantic clinch on Mary’s porch. James headed for his cabin with a spring in his step.

At therapy the next day, a hungover Mary shared her gratitude with the smiling group for the healing she and James had found in Arizona. They were going to extend their US trip and spend another five days together in Las Vegas. They looked at one another coyly as a coffee cup bearing the Sunrise emblem flew across the room and shattered at James’s feet. “Bloody typical,” screamed Amber as she stormed from the room.


“Hmmmm,” Kirk said with a ponderous nod as James and Mary looked bewildered. “It may take a little emotional acclimatisation for Amber to reconcile herself to the extremely narcissistic act of her parents reuniting during Family Week. Would you like me to extend your booking for another month?”

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