Speaking for the first time about the 'catastrophic' head-on smash, Ant says he was 'dependent' on booze, resulting in him driving while twice the limit
Speaking for the first time about the “catastrophic” head-on smash, he says he was “dependent” on booze, resulting in him driving while twice the limit.
In a bombshell exclusive interview, he tells The Sun on Sunday: “The whole world came crashing in. It was like an explosion of the worst possible moment in my life. And if you don’t listen to that, you’d be the biggest fool out there.
“Now I don’t drink at all. I’ve been sober over nine months. I’ve got no intention of drinking. And I just feel good.”
He had smashed his Mini last March into two vehicles, with his mum Christine next to him totally unaware he had been drinking.
He says: “When it happened, my first thought wasn’t, ‘Oh my God, my career’s going down the spiral.’
“My first thought was, ‘S*** is my Mam OK? Are the dogs OK? Are the fellow passengers in the other cars OK? What happened here?’
“I was shocked because I’d been hit in the face with an air bag. I was in an altered state. I was full of shame, guilt, remorse embarrassment, just a sense of disbelief.”
With tears welling up in his eyes, he adds: “I thank God every night that no one was seriously injured in that crash. Because we would be having a very different interview today if that was the case.”
Ant was arrested in the street, and he recalls: “I was taken away in a police van. I was in a cell for a long time. I failed the breath test. It was horrific.”
What was going through his head as he sat in the cell, with his attempts to repair his reputation — following treatment for prescription drug addiction — in tatters?
He replies: “I was thinking, ‘How is everybody? How is my Mam? How has it ended up like this? Something needs to change. My life needs to change’.
“‘I’ve got to do something about this. I’ve got to put measures in place. I’ve got to put the right team around me. I’ve got to speak to the right medical people. I’ve got to get the best expertise out there’.”
Ant and Dec’s millions of fans were stunned to see footage of half of their favourite presenting duo staggering out of the damaged car.
I tell Ant that person does not look like the one here today — confident, in control and happy.
He grimaces: “It didn’t feel like me. I can’t look back at the footage.” On that fateful day in West London, Ant was secretly drinking without telling mum Christine, who was there to help look after him.
Ant says: “She’s a mother. If she’d been aware of it she’d never have let me get behind the wheel of a car. She would have killed me.
“She was there to help me but I obviously found a way around it and kept it hidden from her.”
After beating his drug addiction, Ant was dependent on booze to the point some would consider him an alcoholic. I remind Ant that when he spoke to me after leaving rehab the first time round in the summer of 2017, he insisted he had no issue with alcohol.
He nods vigorously and says: “Oh I was adamant about it. What you find in recovery is if you’re dependent on something, in my case painkillers, it might transfer to something else if you’re not careful.
“I’d just gotten over this massive painkiller addiction. I didn’t take on board as much as I should how much your head scrambles once you face an addiction head-on and overcome it. Your head goes crazy because you’ve relied upon something for so long then all you’re left with is yourself.
“If you haven’t dealt with the underlying unhappiness you’ll always be subject to falling back and leaning on other things to help you change the way you feel.”
In Ant’s case, secretly drinking alcohol became a way to get through the “stresses and strains” of his life as he battled with his divorce from Lisa Armstrong.
He explains: “Life hit me hard. I was going through a lot of personal stuff that was very publicised. The problem is you take something or you drink to escape from an underlying unhappiness.”
Ant’s secret drinking had become increasingly common to the point of dependency. He admits: “I was still drinking in a dependent state. Not all the time. But enough to worry about it. I hadn’t addressed it. It was building up which led to the day of the crash which was the single worst day of my life.”
After his release, Ant sought serious medical help to speed up his recovery. He says: “I was so traumatised after the crash, I was in a really bad way. I was still under medical care. With hindsight, I wasn’t in a good place for a while. I hadn’t properly been assessed. That came very quickly post-crash. I volunteered to go into a proper institution where I was technically assessed. I gained so much. I know I was dependent on alcohol and I don’t drink now.”
Ant started following some of the philosophies of the Alcoholics Anonymous programme, although he will not define himself by the term or speak about the details.
He has the organisation’s symbol tattooed on his left wrist, explaining: “It means a great deal to me. The tattoo is based on the symbol but is not exactly the same.
“It’s more about beliefs and principles and where your mind is at in terms of love and being of good service to other humans, moving forward positively. It’s about how I am and how I will live my life in a good way.”
On his right wrist, he has an S for “Sober”. His most recent inking is an arrow up his arm, which he says has a “personal meaning but it’s very positive”. Ant also vowed to address a number of mental health problems that added to his struggle.
He says: “I would say I was mentally unbalanced. Last time after we spoke, after I’d done rehab and gone to Australia, I thought I was fine, as most people in recovery do. Little did I know that’s the initial glow you get.
“But there’s pitfalls and slips along the way you’re not prepared for. I came out of I’m A Celebrity and into Saturday Night Takeaway with an ever-ready glow. We had record ratings and it was brilliant.
“We were due back to Florida for the final. But you go through dips. Personally my life was bad. I was sinking into this depression again and it’s very hard to get out of.
“Anyone who suffers from depression knows once you’re in it you’re in it and you pretend to everybody till the last second of the day you’re OK. Or you go the other way and don’t leave the house.”