EastEnders' legend Jill Halfpenny opens up about secret battle with alcoholism

Jill Halfpenny has opened up about her secret alcohol battle
-Credit: (Image: BANG Showbiz.)

EastEnders actress Jill Halfpenny has bravely shared her private struggle with alcoholism.

The 48 year old star, who played Kate Mitchell on the BBC soap, has been living a life of sobriety for over ten years, but she's now revealing the challenges she faced with alcohol in the past, particularly as she grappled with the grief of losing her father at the tender age of four.

In her heartfelt new memoir A Life Reimagined: My Journey of Hope in the Midst of Loss, Jill reflects: "I began to see that I became a different person when I drank and I didn't always like who I became."

She candidly admits: "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."

JILL HALFPENNY as Kate Mitchell
Jill played Kate Mitchell on the soap -Credit:BBC

Opening up about the support she found, Jill shares how another actress at Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was a beacon of hope for her.

Recalling the moment, she says: "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."

Upon closer inspection, Jill realised: "I took a closer look and realised I recognised her. She was an actress. She looked at me and smiled warmly. I wanted to cry so bad."

Describing the profound impact of AA meetings, she reveals: "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."

Jill Halfpenny in Byker Grove
Jill Halfpenny in Byker Grove -Credit: BBC

Tragically, Jill's father Colin died at just 36 years old after suffering a heart attack during a football match.

Jill recently confessed on The One Show that she's found love again after her partner, Matt Janes, passed away from a fatal heart attack in 2017. Jill opened up; "When you lose a partner, a romantic relationship, it can sometimes feel slightly like a betrayal if you move on and it's not."

The star shared her acceptance that, "You're absolutely allowed to be happy again. If you do the process and the healing and the work, you can go into another relationship and be happy again."

Insisting on the importance of personal growth, she admitted, "If you haven't managed to do that work, there'll always be a part of you somewhere else. I feel I do deserve to be happy and I do feel happy and it's really nice to be in love again."

Sharing how the loss impacted her family, Jill revealed, "When my partner died, I really wanted my son to know you can be in a lot of pain and have a lot of suffering but you can get through it."

Aiming at teaching resilience to her child, she said, "I think it's an important lesson for a child. Say to them, I will be OK, this will take some time but it will be OK. I didn't want to hide it away from him."

She ended her courageous conversation by saying, "I wanted to be honest and say I'm struggling but I will be OK. I hope he's learned a lot from that."