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My name is Hannibal... I'm glad I'm an alcoholic; Anthony opens up to addicts.

OSCAR winner Sir Anthony Hopkins stunned booze addicts at an AA meeting when he told them: "I'm glad I'm an alcoholic."

The 64-year-old Hannibal star insisted: "Oh yes, I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

"Obviously, I'm sorry for the hurt I caused people - but being an alcoholic was an amazing and powerful experience."

More than 300 members of Alcoholics Anonymous at a meeting in Malibu, California, sat in silence at the extraordinary claims of the Welsh-born actor - who told them he'd been sober for 26 years.

Giving a remarkable and often tragic insight into his life, Sir Anthony revealed his love of booze - especially tequila.

He said: "God, how I loved tequila, such wonderful stuff.

"It used to give me strange hallucinations and occasionally it would provide strange spiritual awakenings, which is ridiculous for an atheist like me.

"There were some days when I'd drink a bottle of tequila and I didn't care if I died. I was so washed up, so empty."

Sir Anthony told rapt listeners that his father was an alcoholic - and he had decided to speak out because his mother was slowly dying.

He said: "She's ill and I am suddenly exposed to mortality. I have wasted too many years being angry, resentful and hostile. Now I realise I don't want this anymore. I need to be a productive member of AA and give something back."

Sir Anthony revealed he went to his first AA meeting on December 29, 1975 - and hasn't touched a drop since.

With tears running down his face, he claimed: "As God is my witness, an enormous powerful voice came into my mind. It said, 'It's all over now, you can start living. What's happened has been for a purpose, don't forget a moment of it.' Suddenly the craving to drink was taken from me."

He added: "Yes, I really am glad I'm an alcoholic. I'm not trying to be cool. It may not feel like it at times, but we are rich people. The scar tissue I have built up over the years is now my strength and power."

Sir Anthony started his acting career at the National Theatre in 1965. But films gave him huge success.

His most famous roles came in The Elephant Man, Remains of the Day, Howard's End, and Shadowlands.

His portrayal of serial-killer Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs earned him international acclaim and an Oscar.

But he was already a hardened drinker when he arrived in Hollywood in the early 1970s - and eventually his second wife, Jenni Lynton, left him.

He said: "Her actions saved my life. Suddenly, I realised she wasn't going to help me anymore.

"She'd tolerated me longer than most. Other people simply wouldn't put up with my crap. I was a real loner. I threw friends away through hostility."

Sir Anthony said he lost all self-respect at the height of his passion for the bottle - and admitted: "I was drunk and insane.

"But I now realise I am the problem with my life. I am the killer of myself, I am a self destructive force."

lSir Anthony made his speech at the meeting as a fundraiser for AA. It was recorded on cassette and sold for pounds 2.50 a time.
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 1, 2002
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