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This week’s Record column: Piers Morgan says Ant McPartlin has changed – welcome to addiction

[As first published in today’s Daily Record]

There are some celebrities for whom a public downfall seems just desserts – life’s way of teaching them a lesson.

I wouldn’t count Ant McPartlin among them. Known for being down-to-earth, he and presenting partner Declan Donnelly, genuinely seemed to be TV’s Mr Nice Guys.

Last week, Piers Morgan accused Ant of being a changed man.

“I never would have thought he’d [get divorced] for example, let alone this. This Ant McPartlin is not the guy I know. His life is faltering and tormented for some reason,” he said of Ant’s drink-driving arrest.

Welcome to addiction, Piers. That’s what it does. It changes people, sometimes to the point they’re unrecognisable from the person they were before. And, yes, addiction torments them, baffles them, picks them up for a couple of hours and then dumps them in a lay-by, isolated, paranoid and afraid.

I’ve seen it close up. I’ve prayed for a miracle to take it away. And when it came, I saw the person who, like Ant, had changed, slowly but surely restored to who they once were – and a little bit more.

Addiction changes people, but it is possible to recover and be better than you ever were before.

That’s something I hope Ant McPartlin will cling on to as the vultures circle over his career. He can come back from this, stronger.

At the heart of recovery is acceptance and submission. Accepting you have a problem which needs to be faced head-on, and submitting to a programme that requires you to put down the bottle, packet of pills or whatever you have become addicted to, for good.

Often addicts might look to substitute one addiction for another. That’s why it’s no surprise to hear that Ant, who once admitted he had a prescription drug addiction after which he emerged from rehab to say, ‘The great thing is.. I’m not an alcoholic,’ appears to have turned to drink.

At the root of addiction is the need to self-medicate. Anxiety, hopelessness and fear take hold and the temptation to switch them off for a few hours is overwhelming.

But when daylight comes those problems and fears only seem far greater, making the desire to switch them off again all the stronger.

The good news for those of us who are not millionaires able to book ourselves into expensive rehab clinics, is that help is at hand for free in the form of support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, whose meetings up and down the land are filled with people from all walks of life.

They will tell you what I have seen with my own eyes. When clean means clean of everything, miracles can happen.

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