Claire’s story: “My brother was a lovely, kind, and funny person”

Claire | July 2021 | 6 minutes

In this blog, Claire shares her story about her brother Carl, and why she decided to raise money for Alcohol Change UK.

My brother Carl struggled with alcohol abuse for 40 years and has recently passed away. He started drinking heavily the day after my dad died. The family decided to raise money for the British Heart Foundation at dad’s funeral instead of people bringing flowers, as my dad died of heart related problems. It’s a great charity, but a part of me thinks that it’s the ‘more acceptable’ option to raise money for, rather than an alcohol charity.

This didn’t feel right to me as Carl’s death is ultimately connected to alcohol. So, I started a JustGiving page for this wonderful charity, Alcohol Change UK, after researching many alcohol charities on social media.

I was overwhelmed by how many people contacted me to speak about their problems with alcohol, which they had been too ashamed to admit. I guess part of my aim in doing all of this is to try and break down the stigma surrounding alcohol and to get people to talk – to help others via Alcohol Change UK, and most importantly, stop any family feeling like ours feels at the moment.

"I was overwhelmed by how many people contacted me to speak about their problems with alcohol, which they had been too ashamed to admit."

Carl had many trips to the hospital as he had problems with his pancreas. The only help he would get was some pills for the withdrawal symptoms, and he’d be sent home again once the pain had gone. I think there really is a need for better training and understanding of alcohol problems and better services to support those affected.

Carl would give up drinking for a while but then go back to it. Then, last year, his wife passed away and the drinking got bad. He was a lovely, kind, and funny person sober – but totally different drunk. At his funeral, when the celebrant came round and asked his children if they had any fun memories of him when they were growing up, they said they had none because he was drunk. This is true, but it really hurt to think how the children feel, and also because Carl could be, and was, a lovely man sober. Nobody wants to be considered an alcoholic and nobody wants to be remembered as a drunk. [Editor’s note: You can read more about the language used to talk about drinking problems, including the word ‘alcoholic’, here.]

I really hope that this starts getting treated like any other health problem, and not looked down upon, because I feel until then people will hide away in shame.

I hope that fundraising for Alcohol Change UK will help make this change happen.