The country is still in shock at the surprise news that Ant McPartlin is entering rehab to sort out his addiction to booze and prescription pills.
But the revelation came as just as much of a shock to his telly sidekick Declan Donnelly, who hadn’t realised just how bad things were for his mate.
At the end of last week, troubled Ant called Dec, his wife Lisa Armstrong and friends together for an urgent meeting and came clean to them about the demons in his life, telling his TV partner: “I need help, mate. I need help now.”
The words that came out of Ant’s mouth came as a massive shock to Dec, who has been by his side for almost 30 years.
According to friends, he knew Ant had been having a rough time with depression and problems with his knee, but little did he know that he had grown so dependent on booze and drugs.
“For Dec it was a bit of a bombshell hearing about these addiction problems,” a friend of the pair told The Sun on Sunday.
“He had no idea of the full extent of the torment his best friend was going through.”
“Dec couldn’t believe his ears through some of it.
“Soon the truth was all coming out: the substance abuse, the painkillers he was hooked on, the secret drinking sessions.”
The source said that Dec was very emotional as his best mate opened up about the terrible time he has been having in private.
“It was almost too much for Dec to take in,” the source said.
“He’s known his friend was a bit down and he knew Ant and Lisa were going through some heartache over not being able to have kids.
“And there was the problem with his knee as well, which he had been anxious to play down.
“But everything else was a total shock.
“His best friend in the world was living this nightmare — but he had largely managed to keep it a secret.”
As Ant filled him in with what had been going on in his life, Dec calmly told him that he needed professional help and that he would be there for him every step of the way.
According to the source, Dec told Ant that he needed to get urgent help before things got any worse.
“Dec just wanted his old friend back and he knew that if he didn’t act decisively it would soon be too late,” the source added.
“They work so closely together and spend a lot of time with each other so Dec knows when Ant is unhappy — and vice versa.
“It’s been frustrating for Dec at times but he had no idea just how depressed Ant was, and was shocked when he told him about his problems with substances.”
The source said that because of their tight bond, Dec has vowed to be by Ant’s side every step of the way.
They added that Dec’s concerns are nothing to do with their multi-million pound brand, his main concern is that Ant gets the help he needs.
Aside from Dec and Lisa, Ant is also believed to have confided in his beloved mum Christine.
It’s believed she too was shocked by his confession and, like Dec and Lisa, encouraged him to seek help to combat his secret demons.
On the plus side, his plans to enter rehab comes at a good time when Ant is ‘resting’ between jobs.
With Takeaway now done and dusted, there are another five months until Ant and Dec fly off to Australia for the next series of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! which means his months in rehab will not affect work.