It’s been ten years since Ben Cousins: My Life Story came out, and a lot has changed since then.
After watching the latest documentary about former West Coast Eagles star, Ben Cousins, a friend recommended I read his autobiography. Written ten years ago in 2010, the autobiography describes Ben Cousins’s early life and his spectacular Australian Football League career.
Arguably the most talented player of his era, the book details every season of Ben’s career and will appeal to footy buffs. But even if you are not a sports fan, there is a lot here to keep the pages turning. The narrative style is light and often humorous and you can hear Ben’s voice coming through on the page.
My son was in primary school when Ben Cousins dominated the footy world and he and his mates idolised him. The most prominent memory I have of Ben Cousins from that time is of him shirtless and handcuffed, being forced into a police car. I could never understand how a hardened drug addict could also be an elite athlete, but Cousins explains this in the book. It was all about timing. Ben had his training and drug taking schedules down to a fine art. He knew when his training was due and he knew how long it would take him to recover from a bender. He explains that his footy training and drug taking worked in tandem as a warped kind of reward and punishment system.
Ben was able to navigate the drug testing because he had the opportunity to plan ahead. And as long as he delivered the goods on game day, neither the authorities nor Ben himself seemed to concern themselves with the long term effects.
Ben got himself in and out of various scrapes but it wasn’t until Christmas of 2005 that things really came undone. Ben “jumped too early,” and mistimed the start of his Boxing Day twister. As a result, he was in a “right state” on Christmas Day and ruined it for the whole family.
By now, the seriousness of Ben’s addictions were becoming obvious and everyone was worried. Even his underworld cronies. There is a very funny part in the book where they pick Ben up to take him on a “fishing trip”. Ben worries that he has done something to offend them and is thinking the worst, but his mobster mates take him aside and give him a good talking to, warning him of the dangers of ice.
There were a couple of half-hearted attempts at rehab in luxurious, overseas facilities. Whisked away at LAX by two mystery blondes in a Mercedes, Ben’s overseas rehab stint ends up in an ambulance ride to hospital.
Ben spent the final years of his career at the Richmond Football Club, where by his own admission, he was not the best player. However, he had a long period of being drug free and he retired from the club satisfied with his performance.
The book ends on an optimistic note. Ben acknowledges the harm he has done himself and others with his drug use and hopes to bring solace to those suffering from addiction. But unfortunately, things have not gone so well since then.
Fast forward ten years to March 2020 and the latest documentary “Ben Cousins: Coming Clean.” Ben is estranged from his family, has been to prison and is living “between joints.” The following month, in April 2020, Ben is in the news again, back in prison for drug possession and aggravated stalking.
It’s as though the words of a dying outlaw, tattooed across Ben’s abdomen, are becoming a self fulfilling prophecy. Surely this is not the future that such a gifted young man envisioned for himself.
I really hope that is not the case and that Ben can finally turns things around. I hope that his life will become more than just a cautionary tale.