For a man who has not touched alcohol for nearly 20 years, Kevin Kennedy admits his latest acting role is a bit of a test. For as Jimmy’s Da in Irish musical The Commitments the former Corrie star is seen nursing a bitter in a down-at-heel Dublin pub – every night.

Kevin says: “I still find it hard on stage with a pint in my hand. It’s feels very foreign and odd to me but thankfully it’s only make-believe.”

In the real world, however, the 54-year-old knows from experience what dangers there are lurking around every corner.

At his lowest ebb, his booze binges were so bad he lost days of his life to blackouts.

Kevin would even down a small bottle of vodka before heading to the Coronation Street set in Manchester where he played hapless Curly Watts.

prod-coro1985curlyterrykevin
Fans loved the character and such was his popularity, his 1995 wedding to Raquel – played by Sarah Lancashire – drew 22 million viewers.

But Kevin’s happy-go-lucky public face was masking an inner torment as his boozing was spiralling out of control.

In the end he was dragged kicking and screaming to The Priory rehab clinic after Corrie bosses staged an intervention 18 years ago in 1998 – and he hasn’t touched a drop since.

Yet Kevin is the first to admit the road to recovery is never easy… and littered with potential ­minefields. Even now – especially when he’s holding a pretend pint every night.

prod-ex-coronation-street-star-kevin-kennedy-at-the-old-set-in-manchester-city-centre

He says: “I have my moments. Being on tour can be hard. Now I am long enough down the road to know my trigger points and where it’s not safe for me to go.

“I go to AA meetings, read all the ­literature and keep myself safe.

“It’s not easy but I am 18 years down the road and I know how to protect myself and keep myself safe. If I am feeling a little bit unsafe, I won’t go out.”

Sometimes it’s the most seemingly mundane things that can trigger a potential relapse.

The Manchester City fanatic adds: “Usually for me it’s when I can’t settle on a TV programme and I am flicking through the channel.

“It’s when I am not happy with the TV and I can’t settle down. If I get angry or hungry, lonely or tired…when your defences are down. You get to know yourself and get to know your own weak moments and vulnerability.”

Kevin admits these moments are ­thankfully “few and far between” and he now knows how to control any ­negative thoughts.

He adds: “Thank God it doesn’t happen that often.

“I don’t get that insanity and obsession with alcohol that I used to have. If I am not in the right mood, I won’t go into a pub. I didn’t go into a pub for a very long time after I started recovery. I only then went into one to watch Man City or to get something to eat. Now the bright lights of pubs and parties have to a certain extent worn off.

“I would rather go home, have a cup of tea, watch the telly and play PlayStation.”

Kevin revisited all his past problems in a candid autobiography three years ago.

It told how his boozing led to the breakdown of his marriage to first wife Dawn and his second wife Clare walked out on him, too.

The actor, who played Curly from 1983 to 2003, also revealed how he suffered panic attacks if he couldn’t get to the pub and once threatened to throw himself from a car as he begged a friend to stop so he could buy vodka.

One bender was so huge that he even ended up in New York unaware how he got there.

But for Kevin, who was born in Wynthenshawe, Greater Manchester, writing the book wasn’t a cathartic experience.

Instead, raking over the past meant his inner demons rose to the surface once more.

He says: “It was embarrassing to write it down because it brought a lot of terrible, terrible feelings back. I had to ring up friends and my counsellor.

It made me thirsty. I asked: ‘Why is this happening?’ They said it was a part of my journey which I have not really looked at.

“It’s still a diseased area. Once I understood that, those feelings kind of evaporated.” After Kevin kicked the bottle, he was reconciled with Clare, who is also a recovering alcoholic.

The couple have two daughters, Katie-May, 12, and Grace, nine. And it’s ­testament to his ­extraordinary strength of will that the girls have never seen him touch a drop of booze.

Kevin, who also has son Ryan Williams, 26, adds: “They are too young to read the book and were born when I was sober.

“But my house is full of people in recovery so they are very used to the language.”

pay-prod-1-the-commitments-photo-credit-johan-perssonjpg

Kevin says: “Every time they get a new producer, I go and make a little inquiry.

“No one would be more happy than me. I think it would be great. Curly has still got a lot of story to tell and I have a great relationship with Granada.”

He reveals that when his touring stage show of hit film The Commitments goes up to Manchester, he will pop into the studio and meet up with his old friends in the cast and crew.

And he is buoyed by the fact that new producer Kate Oates came in last year and hinted that she was willing to reintroduce some former Street favourites to the soap.

Kevin adds: “I grew up there from the age of 23 to 40-odd. It’s a massive amount of time, so I often go in.

“And the new producer is very open to the idea of older ­characters coming back and when the time is right. So if I am lucky enough, I am sure I will be asked.”

Kevin, who starred ­alongside Nigel Pivaro (Terry ­Duckworth) and Michael Le Vell (Kevin Webster), was asked to go back to film Vera ­Duckworth’s funeral in 2008 but “availability was a problem”. He adds: “I had been working for 12 years so it’s just a ­question of timings.”

He is also still in touch with Happy Valley star Sarah, 51, who played Raquel before she dumped him.

The actress and friend was there for Kevin through the hard times – and having suffered depression in her 20s, knew what it was like to combat a ­misunderstood illness.

Now they still meet for the odd lunch – booze-free for him, of course. Kevin says with a smile: “We are still pals. Once you have been in that Corrie family, you are family for ever.”

Corrie Jean was a total professional

Kevin also worked with Corrie legend Jean Alexander for five years – and admits he was in awe of the star, who played Hilda Ogden from 1964 until 1987.

He says: “She was the ultimate professional. She took the job very seriously and expected others to do the same. Hilda was this downtrodden woman who was eternally cheerful and unintentionally hilarious. She could make you laugh and break your heart. Often in the same scene.” Jean died aged 90 in October.