Gemma's story: "My dad was a good, strong, loving man"

Gemma | September 2019 | 6 minutes

My dad always liked to drink. Growing up I remember him holding a can, being silly drunk, and falling asleep on the kitchen floor. But there was a lot more to him than that.

He was a hard-working man, and worked his whole life, waking early, working extra days, and never drinking whilst working. He was also an amazing musician singing and playing guitar in bands.

My dad started to have seizures at work and was later diagnosed with epilepsy. His boss then had to let him go for insurance reasons. So, from October 2014, my dad was jobless. For a proud hard-working provider like my dad this was devastating, and a big knock to his identity. Having to let potential employers know he had epilepsy made him feel disheartened; he didn’t think that anyone would employ him. I helped him to get employment support allowance and then job seekers allowance.

Since my mum left in 2010 I have always visited my dad regularly. I did his house work, made sure he opened the post and had food in the fridge. I did this because I knew I couldn't help my dad stop drinking, but I could support him by helping him with some simple, practical things.

Like many other people with alcohol problems, [my dad] didn’t want to drink or push his loved ones away. But there is little understanding and advice out there to deal with these situations.

After he had to stop working he had more time on his own to think and drink. His physical and mental health declined. I knew his health was declining and that he was not taking action like a person who wants to sustain life. He was drinking, smoking, watching TV, hardly eating, and barely washing. Last winter his boiler packed up, and as his money was low he didn't have the money to fix it or pay for heating. My grandad and a friend offered to fix his boiler, but he was too proud to accept their help. So through his last months he barely washed or changed his clothes.

I visited my dad March 2019. He looked weak, and skinnier. It hadn't been long since I'd last seen him. He said he had bad reflux and couldn't keep anything down. I went and bought him some rehydration sachets and coconut water to give his heart and body something to work with. A couple of days later he was found dead in his bed. He went peacefully, aged 57.

I love my dad so much. He was a good, strong, loving man. But he struggled with his emotions and receiving and giving love. He is now at peace. Like many other people with alcohol problems, he didn’t want to drink or push his loved ones away. But there is little understanding and advice out there to deal with these situations.

When I was helping my dad I found it very hard to get good advice and help from social services. Doctors were unsympathetic to him, and acted like his alcohol problems were his own fault. Alcohol misuse is a massive problem in the UK, and I believe we need much more awareness and research on this issue so that as a nation we can develop compassion and understanding for those suffering.