A 1960s songwriter has told how he swapped life as a drunk in a squat under Spaghetti Junction for a home in commuter-belt Surrey with a top-of-the-range Jaguar and an MBE.
Nick Charles, who worked with "swinging sixties" stars Del Shannon and the Merseybeats, developed an alcohol addiction in his early 20s after he was kicked out of his family home in Bewdley, Worcestershire.
The guitar player's marriage failed at the age of 26 and he resorted to living in a shed in Sparkbrook, an allotment in Harborne, and then a disused garage in Kings Heath.
He was arrested more than 70 times for vagrancy and being "drunk and disorderly" as he roamed the West Midlands.
Once, in mid-winter, he woke up in a sewer to find a knife in his body and a rat eating the congealed blood around him. Fortunately, the blade had missed his rib cage and only pierced his flesh.
He said: "From time to time I would stop drinking and get a job and even a girlfriend, but then I would play in the latest band wherever I was and start drinking again.
"I drank alcohol to open the door to a mysterious and wonderful world. I wanted that world to always be open, but then it closed on me and locked me into a hellish existence.
"Alcohol is a form of insanity and I was never sober enough to regain my sanity. I lost my identity.
"Alcoholism is genetic and if you have got the genetic predisposition to it, then it's only a matter of time.
"Alcoholics either lead a sub-standard existence, die, or are driven by their suffering to give up the booze."
On December 13, 1976 at 11.30am Nick, then aged 31, had his last drink - half a pint of beer.
"There was this realisation of the utter futility of it all, when the mechanisms of drinking become so odious that you cannot physically go through them again."
Days later, June Collins, the theatrical agent and mother of pop star Phil Collins, paired Nick with his future wife Lesley Roach. The pair toured the notoriously hard-to-please Northern club circuit, singing and performing stand-up comedy to great success.
Less than a year after Nick had given up alcohol, he started to devise a " salesman-style" technique for helping alcoholics kick their habit.
The method, which has treated more than 20,000 alcoholics, has brought him worldwide acclaim in medical circles and the first MBE for "services to people with alcohol problems".
Nick, aged 60, now writes books about his technique and treats patients through his website www.addictionnetwork.co.uk.
He said: "I think of it as selling sobriety as a product. I talk to patients about sobriety as a quality of life which beats any drink, even that first sip.
"I think the industry is reeking with idiots who are living in the dinosaur age. And I'm worried about round-theclock drinking when there is so little education for youngsters about the dangers of alcohol."
He added: "I may live in a stockbroker belt and drive a Jaguar, but I still have nightmares about my life as a drunk in the West Midlands."
Nick's technique to help beat alcohol is explained in No More Leaning on Lamp-Posts to be published next month by Professor Ian Angell of the London School of Economics.