It's been just over a year since Ant McPartlin checked into rehab for addiction, after crashing into two cars in London while under the influence of alcohol. And the year's been an unsurprisingly difficult one for McPartlin, as well as his TV other half and next to lifelong best friend, Declan Donnelly. Thankfully, things seem to be on the up for the beloved presenter — and in an emotional new interview, Ant and Dec talked about their enduring friendship, the impact of the crash, and their new perspective on work, friends, and family.
Speaking to the Guardian, Ant reflected on the aftermath of the crash. "I was having sleepless nights. The shame and guilt were horrendous. Whatever state I’m in, drink-driving is an inexcusable act," he said. "I know how serious that could have been and I am doing things on a daily basis to be a better man."
Dec also revisited the crash, and his subsequent reaction. "I think I said I’d give everything up if he could just be happy again," he said. "How could he do that? I wanted to punch him and hug him at the same time — and I didn’t know which one I wanted to do first."
Both contemplated splitting up their decades-long double act. Ant told the newspaper he expected the crash to end his career, saying, "I’ve got great belief in Dec’s talent, so I knew that he would be OK." He continued, "All I care about is his happiness."
Asked if he'd considered going solo, Dec said, "I’d be lying if I said the thought hadn’t crossed my mind," before adding, "Ultimately, the number one thing I wanted to happen was that Ant came back and he was healthy and happy, and we got our relationship back on track and we carried on. That’s the thing that makes me the happiest, working together." Ant admitted he "couldn't watch" Dec present I'm a Celebrity with Holly Willoughby, who stepped in after Ant took time off work to recover.
After so many years working together, Dec said, "We’d got to a point where we took our relationship for granted. We just assumed it would always be there. We took our eye off the ball a bit." After the crash, however, Ant said, "For the first time in many years, all we talked about were deep things like how we felt and what the future held, and where we were, and all the chaos that has come along, especially for me."
Ant spoke candidly about his lowest ebb, saying, "I was confused, unsure of who I was, what made me happy, what made me tick. You have to strip everything back – almost lose your job, lose your identity, to regain your identity."
Dec, too, called Ant's illness "the most destabilising thing that has ever happened to me," telling the newspaper he continues to attend counselling. "It helps to talk to somebody independent, who doesn’t watch or care about TV," he said.
"We always said our career was built on our friendship and that our friendship was the secret of our success," Dec said. In the aftermath of the car crash, he continued, "everything else disappeared and we went back to being friends again, looking out for one another. And missing each other and appreciating each other."
Ant shared a similar sentiment. "I always wanted to be back with my friend. We love each other," he said. "So everything else goes out of the window. You want to laugh again. You want to enjoy your time together."