BBC Strictly Come Dancing winner Jill Halfpenny admits battle with booze after devastating blow

Jill says alcohol helped her to escape
-Credit: (Image: No credit)

Jill Halfpenny has opened up about her struggles with alcohol, revealing that seeing another actress at her first AA meeting was a pivotal moment in her journey to sobriety.

The actress, known for her roles in EastEnders and her victory on Strictly Come Dancing in 2014, candidly discusses how she turned to binge drinking as a means to "escape" and "stop thinking" after the traumatic loss of her father at a young age.

The mother-of-one, who recently starred in Channel 5's The Cuckoo, admits that acknowledging she needed help wasn't easy, reports the Mirror. Now teetotal for over ten years, Jill reflects: "I began to see that I became a different person when I drank and I didn't always like who I became."

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She adds, "For a long time, alcohol had helped me escape, to stop thinking. Conversely, I thought it also helped me access all the things that lay dormant inside me."

In her memoir, she describes her experience attending an AA meeting in 2013: "I felt a mix of shame and desperation as I approached the door but I took a seat at the back and attempted to take it all in."

During the meeting, Jill noticed a woman who exuded happiness and confidence, which made her think, "As I calmed myself down, I noticed a woman walking around, asking a few of the attendees if they would be happy to do a reading. She looked radiant, happy... 'I want what she has! ' I thought."

She later realised the woman was a fellow actress, whose warm smile nearly brought her to tears. Jill described the meeting as a "revelation", stating, "I experienced something I never have before people, strangers, sharing how they feel. No small talk or pretence, just real authentic feelings."

"They were talking about how their insides didn't match their outsides, how they struggled with feelings of unworthiness and for the first time in my life, I felt completely seen."

The Byker Grove star says that she needed to go to several meetings before she could eventually say the words 'My name is Jill and I'm an alcoholic'. Once she said those words, she felt "a weight lift from my shoulders" and over the next two years, she "became a woman that I felt proud of being".

In her new book, Jill also delves into the death of her father Colin, who passed away in 1979 when she was only four, and her partner Matt, who died in 2017 - both men had sudden heart attacks.

Regarding these tragic events, she added, "There was a sense of feeling cursed when Matt died after what happened to my dad. Like, how can that happen twice? " Still, she admitted that grieving made her "a better person" because it taught her to be kinder to herself.

The actress has also found love again, with a man named Ian. She confessed, "After Matt died, I didn't know if I'd ever meet anyone again, but Ian is my cheerleader. I know I've met somebody who I love and who loves me."