Paul McGrath, one of the best players in Aston Villa's history, yesterday declared victory in his fight against alcoholism.
No longer "a barely functioning alcoholic", his life is richer and more enjoyable than at any time during his years as a footballer, he claims.
McGrath became as famous in the Nineties for his excessive lifestyle – "surviving on the edge of chaos," he says – as he did for being a distinguished defender with Villa and the Republic of Ireland.
Now 46 and living in Wexford, Ireland, he is relishing a life in the countryside, out of the limelight and away from the television cameras.
Although the decision to retire from football in 1997 "petrified" him at the time, he is now comfortable with his uncomplicated existence.
After his rollercoaster ride that saw the break-up of two marriages, countless adverse publicity, and depression, he wants to emerge as an inspiration to others who have struggled to deal with similarly destructive emotions.
Speaking during his tour of the city to promote his autobiography, McGrath says his life is now stable and that his priorities are about being a good father to his three sons and a good son to his mother.
"I am fine now and really content," McGrath said. "I am enjoying my life and I am finding that, day by day, it is easier to deal with the things that were once difficult for me. For me, the help was always there. All I had to do was ask for it.
"I live in the countryside now and that is just right for me, because I was never comfortable in the limelight. I was one who never liked the media side of football, so it was hard for me to be catapulted into that kind of an environment.
"Only when I am asked to do something, like go on television, is there that pressure. I am delighted to be out of the limelight and enjoying myself more than at any point in my life. Every day, when I wake up, I am confronted with the beautiful sounds of the countryside."
He is, he says, no longer "a barely functioning alcoholic, who was addicted to tranquilisers". In his book, Back From The Brink, McGrath speaks of his self-loathing, fear and guilt for the people he says he let down.
"When I wrote the book, obviously there were financial considerations," he said. "But I also like to think that it can help people, inspire people – that kind of thing. I want people to know about the children who I adore and the mother – Betty McGrath – who I love. Perhaps I need to remind myself of those things more often."
McGrath, who played for Villa from 1989-96, never knew his Ghanaian father – "I geniunely couldn't give two hoots about the identity of my father" – and spent part of his
childhood in various Dublin orphanages. He does not make his mercurial background an excuse for his descent into alcoholism and prescription drug abuse. It is the self-hate and insecurity that have hindered him.
"There is a part of me that I don't like," he said. "I hate this thing I have about being frightened of living and being frightened of dying. But I know I am blessed because I have good people in my life. That's what it is all about.
"Sure, there are times when I cannot see the blessings; when I find myself awash with self-pity. And there have been lost days and broken promises. But I want to get up in the morning and think about the things I can do, rather than the things I can't."
McGrath represented Ireland on 83 occasions and played in the World Cup tournaments of 1990 and 1994. He played 252 matches for Villa, under Graham Taylor, Ron Atkinson and Brian Little.
"I like to think that I was a half-decent, honest player," he says.
>> Sobriety suits McGrath - click here
>> Still a hero to the faithful - click here