TRAGIC snooker legend Alex Higgins today confesses that his life had sunk so low he wanted to kill himself.
The former double world champion's pitiful body has been ravaged by the affects of throat cancer, reducing the once flamboyant Irishman to little more than a skeleton.
He now weighs barely six stone, talks in a puny whispered gasp, all his teeth have fallen out and he can't eat properly because each of his 10 sets of dentures leaves him in excruciating pain.
And as he sat alone in his dingy Belfast flat during the bitter winter, Higgins, 62, spiralled into a deep depression and contemplated committing suicide.
"I thought about it, I wanted to do it," he admits in an emotional News of the World interview. But I just haven't got the courage to kill myself. Three months ago when the weather was really bad, I just hit my lowest.
"I had seen the television programme about euthanasia and all I wanted to do was go to that clinic in Switzerland, have them give me a pill and just end it there. But I think that would have hurt too many people.
"I do believe in God. I don't go to church, but I still have a bible that my mother gave me when I was just 15. I read my bible and told myself, 'You can fight'. I have been a fighter all my life. That's what stopped me going through with it."
As the best snooker players on the planet currently grapple for the whopping £500,000 of prize money up for grabs in this year's world championship at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre, Higgins survives on £200-a-week state hand-outs.
The Irishman, who blew a £4million fortune on booze and gambling while his marriage crumbled around him, pockets incapacity benefit and a disability living allowance.
But he is desperately trying to raise £20,000 he needs for teeth implants which his dentist insists will help him eat properly again. The 1972 and 1982 world champion has been living off a diet of baby food for 12 YEARS after his teeth fell out following radiotherapy.
Two throat operations have left the tortured Hurricane now only able to speak in whispers.
HAPPIER TIMES - Alex Higgins celebrates with daughter Lauren and wife Lynn after winning the 1982 World Championship
He added: "There are days I just feel completely out of energy, I cannot even get out of bed. I just lie there and listen to the radio, I'm so weak I just don't have a choice. You can't eat, you can't smile. It causes deep depression.
"But, hopefully, this dental treatment will give me a choice. I just want to live to reach three score and ten."
However, worried doctors are adamant his poor health will deteriorate even further if he cannot start eating proper meals.
Last month Higgins, arguably the greatest naturally talented player the sport has ever seen, spent six days in the Belfast City Hospital suffering from pneumonia.
Incredibly, although completely knackered and barely able to lift a cue, he defied doctors and signed himself out to travel to Sheffield to play against fellow former world champ Cliff Thorburn in the Snooker Legends Tour.
Higgins said: "I was in hospital for six days and the doctors wanted me to stay. But I could not let the people of Sheffield down.
"But when I got to the Crucible I realised I was not capable of giving people what they wanted.
"I couldn't get the food I wanted in the hotel and I realised that if I had to spend the next two months moving between 15 or 16 different hotels, not eating, trying to practise and then playing on the Tour that would have been the death of me.
"I would have lost even more weight and got weaker. It would have killed me and I've decided that I don't want to die. I would have picked up a fee of £18,000 from the Legends tour if I had been able to complete it.
"But I just can't go on the way I have been. I have to do something and that is why I am having my teeth done."
The Hurricane is hoping for help from the WPBSA benevolent fund - whose chairman is Matchroom boss Barry Hearn - to have a total of 24 teeth implanted.
And his Belfast dentist Marty MacAllister believes that will finally help Higgins eat proper meals again.
If Higgins can raise the money he will have to endure another six painful months, first having surgery and then several months as the implants integrate with the bones before finally the restorative phase when his new teeth are made.
Desperate Higgins declared: "I can't go on the way I am. My dentist is an optimist, he thinks it can work.
"I'm generally a pessimist with optimistic flashes and I realise it's going to be a very tough six months of hard work.
"But for the chance to live for another 10 years, I will give up six months. Then I hope to be back at the table.
"You don't know what that will be like, to be able to sit down and have a proper meal again. To go for a meal in a nice Chinese restaurant and, all the while, building myself back up to strength. I long for that."
Despite his fragile body and his feeble voice, the Hurricane still blows strong enough when it comes to criticising snooker's current stars. He insists players like defending champ John Higgins and seven-times champion Stephen Hendry are too dull and brands Ronnie O'Sullivan "unreliable".
"When the world championships are on TV I have to watch, I feel compelled to watch," said Higgins.
"But it's very predictable. I think the difference between me and them is that I was a much quicker thinker.
"I had a much faster brain and was always several shots ahead, as if I had satnav around the table.
"I had such quick evaluation of any situation and that's why I had the speed."
But despite his poor health, Higgins still believes he can get back to the table.
"I want to get back to 10st and there is another seniors tour planned for November," he added.
"Barry Hearn will see to that, he will do more for snooker than those who have gone before. I have the makings of a good cue at the minute, the best I've had for many years.
"I just need the strength to hold it now."