My stepfather, alcohol and me

March 2018 | 6 minutes

Emma-Jane's stepfather was her best friend - but his drinking took him from her.

The whole time that I'd known you, since 1993, you drank every day.

It was never just one drink or even two. I'm talking can after can of the strongest beer, bottles of the strongest cider or whisky. But I can remember thinking you’d be ok. You're my best friend – you're invincible, right?

You had the most dazzling of smiles that could light up a room. I wrote that in the tribute booklet for your funeral service. I looked through all the photographs that I had of you, and every single one of them pictured you drinking. I didn't realise it at the time but it was probably the alcohol that contributed to your megawatt smile. I won't be able to find out though. You're not here to ask.

For the 10 years that I lived with you and my mother, your alcohol consumption only seemed to increase. As did your temper. We didn’t know it, but your brain and body were deteriorating.

But you were still the life and soul. You were still running your own business. Was it all a facade? Underneath it all were you crumbling?

Vitamin Deficiency. Anaemia. Gastritis.

In 2011 your body started to show the telltale signs of a body ravaged by years of alcohol. Suddenly you were no longer able to walk as well. You had short but frequent admissions into hospital, but you never seemed to get the proper treatment somehow. Looking back now, perhaps your body was already beyond all help.

Alcohol-related brain damage.

I can remember some of the most bizarre text messages you sent and conversations we had, where you would repeatedly ask me the same questions. I would always answer them with a smile. It was just easier that way. I hated seeing you reduced to a shell of the character, the person you once were.


I can vividly remember having a conversation with you in the summer of 2014, your last hospital admission, and you saying that you did not know why you were on the medication they had put you on because you weren't “an alcoholic”. I remember smiling back at you. You also said that your dreams of retirement had gone. You obviously realised then, just a few months before your life could no longer be sustained, that it was all over for you. I never asked though. I was too scared.

The last words you ever said to me were, “I can sleep any time, but I can't see my best friend any time.” Now you are sleeping. For all time. And we won’t see each other again.

In December 2014, your body finally became incapable of sustaining life. Forty, maybe fifty years of alcohol had, by now, completely annihilated you.

Now I only have questions, but you're not here to answer them.