Few characters in EastEnders find their way into the hearts of the nation quite like hapless mechanic Ricky Butcher, played by Sid Owen, did.

Stepping onto the streets of Albert Square in 1988 the character was caught up in a melee of dramas over the years and will forever go down in soap folklore as "Rickaaaay".

Actor Sid Owen was equally popular in the real world, and enjoyed the celebrity lifestyle that went hand in hand with being a cast member on one of the the country's most watched programmes.

Behind the scenes though Sid was battling away with drugs and booze with the 49-year-old maintaining: “I’m proud I’m still alive.”

In an interview with The Sun, Sid reveals the intensity and fast pace environment of living a wild showbiz lifestyle.

The Eastenders star admits that he needed rehab to beat a £200-a-night cocaine habit and happily romped with the shows army of female fans, including one time in Tesco with a girlfriend.

Speaking about his troubles with cocaine, Sid said: “It’s recreational then all of a sudden it’s like, ‘Hang on, I’ve got to get through pages of scripts, and then go to work’.

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“You think you can do it and get away with it. I thought I could juggle the two, but I soon realised it was a silly idea.”

Luckily Sid got help from professionals and now leads a life of regular fitness while cutting back on the booze.

While in his 20s Sid dated Nick Berry’s sister Amanda but later found himself single with women throwing themselves at him.

Sid admits: "Amanda kept me on the straight and narrow. But the times I was single, I lapped it up. Every bloke that’s single would do it.

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“You do get that sense of insecurity of asking if someone is with me because I’m on TV or famous.

“Then you go through the other side and think, ‘Well, I don’t really give a s*** because I’m having fun — so two can play at that game’.”

Sid, who is releasing an autobiography called From Rags to Ricky, also spoke about what it was like growing up in north London.

He was born David Sutton on January 12, 1972 in Islington and remembers helping his three elder brothers commit burglaries.

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His dad, also called David, was a violent drunk and beat up his mum and brothers when he got back from the pub.

After the age of six he never had contact with his father and refused to attend the funeral when asked if he wanted to attend while he was in EastEnders.

His mum died at the age of 35 after battling cervical cancer.

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Acting was instrumental in turning his life around and when he landed a role in Eastenders he was in "awe of the other" actors.

He said: “Nick Berry (Simon Wicks) was the biggest star, the heart-throb. And he lived in Islington as well.

“We became very close, he was like the sensible elder brother that I wanted and needed.”

Sid played Ricky during three different stints in the show, his last being in 2012, and hopes one day to return.

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