Almanac People: The Sad Story of Ben Cousins



After all is said and done, I hope that Ben Cousins is remembered for being an amazing footballer, as opposed to what his life has become.


A picture of health – one of the best conditioned footballers we have seen grace the football fields at the elite level.


Ironically, it was his chiselled physique and dominance on the field that masked his unhealthy lifestyle off it.


The substance abuse issues all came to a head during the honeymoon period of West Coast’s 2006 premiership and was made further public upon the release of a documentary and book in the following years.


While no doubt it was not the intention, I feel that the ‘Such is Life’ documentary glorified the issues that Cousins had.


The juxtaposition of the partying drug addict-footballer double life that Cousins lived appealed to young audiences.


He was revered in a rock star kind of way as the poster boy of the ‘work hard, play hard’ culture that is so appealing to many.


His public dealings with the AFL and other authority figures added to the anti establishment cult-figure aura that engulfed the Brownlow medallist.


I was 16 when the documentary was released and guiltily admit to observing Cousins’ actions from afar and finding them somewhat humourous in my immature mind.


But now his predicament is just sad – this is a man whose life is falling apart very publicly in front of his family, friends and two children.


There is undoubtedly a very serious concern from those close to him about his long-term future.


This is evident when they are questioned about his well-being; it may not be the words that they use, but more the expression and tone in their voice.


Numerous stories have floated around social media over the past couple of weeks documenting the bizarre and erratic behaviours of Cousins.



These stories could just be hearsay but where there is smoke there is fire and his behaviour on a Perth highway last night was certainly unusual.


Cousins’ life is a sad portrait of the insidiousness of methamphetamines and hopefully, somehow, Ben can pull himself out of this rut and get clean.


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About Jackson Clark

Born and bred in Darwin, Northern Territory, I am a young, aspiring football writer that lives and breathes the game of Australian Football. I'm also a keen player and coach.


  1. Nic McGay says

    Thanks, Jackson. Where does one begin with this issue and protagonist?

    I was living and working in Perth when Ben burst on to the scene and I reckon it’s the first time I have gone for a player, not a team, such was his immediate impact. Even now as I grown less infatuated, but no less interested, in West Coast and football, I still look back in pleasure at Cousins’ highlights reel.

    Too much has been written and said for me to add anything of value here, so perhaps the only silver lining from Cousins’ sorry end to football – and even sorrier start to post-football life – is the cautionary tale he provides to all young men and women with the world at their feet.

  2. For anyone with a family member or friend addicted to crystal meth/ice. There are 2 main differences I have seen from the addiction to alcohol, gambling and other illegal drugs (which are horrible and destructive enough and difficult to kick).
    One is how quickly the ice addict descends into being totally controlled by the need for the drug with the associated desperation, criminality, unpredictability, violence, sleep deprivation, psychosis etc. Ice will get you in 6-12 months where you get in 20 years on the grog, punt or maybe 10 years with other drugs. It is just so powerful – which is of course the initial attraction.
    Secondly, ice destroys all the normal brain chemistry and it doesn’t come back for 6-24 months after you stop using. In simple terms all our emotions are triggered by brain chemicals. We kick a goal or see a cute dog/person and we get a rush of dopamine and noradrenaline. Meth floods the brain with huge doses of these chemicals, so over a few months the brain decides it doesn’t need to produce any naturally.
    Withdrawal from most other addictions leaves you with all the problems you have created/ignored but essentially you can start to deal with things and get on with your life. Withdrawal from ice leaves you with “meth brain” for 6-24 months – an overwhelming lethargy, flatness and lack of pleasure and any motivation. Essentially there are no brain chemicals to kick start even simple activities or basic pleasures.
    You feel like absolute shit with the worst depression imaginable, and there are no real treatments to help. You largely have to wait it out with support. Which is the major reason (along with all the other standard addiction reasons like debts and shame) why meth addicts go back to using after a few months even with the best of intentions and willpower.
    If being straight feels like this who needs it?
    For a person like Cousins accustomed to high ego and stimulus all their life, an ordinary day to day existence seems like withdrawal enough. He got to live the first 30+ years of his life as the “special”. There was no challenge that he couldn’t best. No rule he couldn’t break with impunity. No limits. No humility.
    Icarus flown too close to the sun.
    He deserves our pity more than our scorn.
    For an ordinary person with a meth addiction – get them professional help. Hoping and good intentions never work. Early intervention never helps short term. Expect at least a half dozen increasingly painful and destructive relapses over several years. But early intervention is the best predictor/enabler of long term recovery. It gets the person into the “seeking help” rather than “totally hopeless” mindset. Long term inpatient rehab is the best – but hard to find and expensive. But its professional help not family/friend help they need – unless you want your life, heart and finances totally broken. There is sunshine but the winter is unimaginably long and stormy.

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