FORMER EastEnders star Paul Nicholls spoke openly up on his cocaine addiction with The Sun this week.
The 42-year-old actor – who played schizophrenic Joe Wicks in the BBC soap – revealed he was on the verge of death after battling a series of personal problems.
But how did he get to that point? And when did things start to tragically decline for the soap star? Here's everything you need to know.
Born in Bolton, Paul appeared as Joe on the Square from 1996 to 1997.
The actor quickly made a name for himself and became a teen pin-up with soap fans.
During his 18 month in the Square, his character was known for battling schizophrenia.
His portrayal of the condition won huge praise from viewers.
Leaving the Square
Departing Albert Square in 1997, Joe went on to star in crime drama City Central.
He later landed a handful of other TV roles before progressing to the big screen.
Paul's most noteworthy appearance was playing bad boy Jed in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, alongside Renee Zellweger.
In 2008, his career began as the character Robert Fielding in Harley Street starring Suranne Jones.
But despite a series of successful gigs, Paul was struggling in his personal life.
After EastEnders, he revealed he was suffering with depression as well as drink and drug problems.
Paul's love life
Paul dated soap co-stars Martine McCutcheon, 45, and Danniella Westbrook, 47, as well as Hollyoaks actress Joanna Taylor, 42.
However, he chose to settle down with partner Chantal Brown in 2008.
The pair, who did not have children, later split in 2015.
Since the marital split, Paul has found love with former dancer Hemma Kathrecha.
During their romance, the actor moved in with her and her two-year-old son.
Speaking to The Sun, Paul declined to say whether he and Hemma were still together, saying only: "This is not about anyone else."
A downward spiral
As well as his broken marriage, Paul's personal life has not been short of struggle.
Having publicly battled addiction and depression, the star spoke out about struggles in 2008.
At the time, he said: "'People said I had too much too soon when I was playing Joe Wicks, and maybe they were right.
"I didn't want to be a heart-throb, and I could not handle the attention."
He then revealed on Loose Women in 2016 that he had discovered a benign tumour on his throat.
During the appearance on the ITV show, Paul explained: "It's nerve-racking to be back on stage. I didn't speak for a couple of months. It was a tumour rather than a nodule, in my vocal cords."
In 2017, he appeared on The Sun on Sunday’s front page after being snapped smoking from a crack pipe in a friend’s flat.
At the time, a source said: "He’s fallen off the wagon and seems in a bad way."
Furthermore, his once-glittering career plunged to a new low during a holiday in Thailand.
Paul hit headlines when he was found trapped under a waterfall after breaking both legs.
Speaking about the incident, he told us: "I had 37 different infections from that accident including malaria, cholera and dengue fever.
"I was in hospital in Samui on my own for six months on intravenous antibiotics before I could go back to Manchester. It was an incredibly hard thing to come back from."
But just as Paul returned to work again, he suffered a stroke that sent him to "rock bottom".
He explained: "I thought my life was over. I lost belief, I did. I just didn’t care. I’ve never really had self-confidence. I am a worrier. I’m not your typical kind of lad.
"I just sank into a deep depression. I sank like a stone.
"I did my physio. I went through the motions of life, but I was in bed most of the time. The whole of 2019 was basically a write-off."
He sadly lapsed into drug addiction last year.
Paul, whose life has been blighted by Class A abuse, said his addiction peaked in 2020.
He admitted: "I was taking lots of dihydrocodeine, a very strong opiate pain killer and on top of that, cocaine… every time I relapsed cocaine is always present.
"At certain points I’d be gone for three or four days and not sleep at all. I stopped caring, I pressed the ‘f*** it’ button.
"The last time I ended up in a flat with people smoking stuff, doing this and doing that."
Thankfully, Paul is now attending Narcotics Anonymous and has fought hard to stay clean for the last few months.
IF you are suffering from problems with drugs, call Narcotics Anonymous on 0300 999 1212.
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