So, Ben Cousins finally faces the press…and firmly establishes himself as a true child of the nanny state.
“Deep down I don’t think I really had a choice,” bleated Cuz. “From a medical point of view, drug addiction is an illness. It is a very hard thing for people who have not experienced it to get their head around.”
VERY hard, Benny – cos it’s utter bullshit.
Whether drug addiction is or is not an “illness” is debatable. Medical opinion is divided, but it really doesn’t matter who’s right and who’s wrong. The point is moot. Let’s get it out of the way and go with Cousins and the medicos he’s listening to. Let’s call drug addiction an illness. Here’s something that is not disputable: like cirrhosis of the liver or Korsakoff’s Syndrome, drug addiction is an illness that is entirely preventable – a direct result of chronic substance abuse, which is surely a matter of personal decision.
You’d imagine Cuz would have learned a bit about himself through all the crap he’s gone through as a result of his drug addiction. Adversity, after all, is supposed to be a crack teacher (sorry). And rehab…isn’t that about self-confrontation, about wising up to the lies you tell yourself to justify your actions so you can no longer fall back on self-deception and rationalisation, and get to see that you DO have a choice in most things – certainly in whether or not to have another hit…and another…and another?
Well, maybe Cousins has learned a bit. The cockiness that had so irritated the media and general public was no longer in evidence at the press conference with Mundine at which he broke his public silence on his addiction. There was even a suggestion of humility and an acceptance of the consequences of his series of fuckups. But then he went and spoiled it all by saying sumpin’ stoopid like “deep down I don’t think I really had a choice.”
Actually, he’s right. He didn’t have “a choice” – he had multiple choices. His first hit was a choice. So was his second. And third. And so on. Contrary to popular myth, addiction is not something that grabs you like a monstrous hand from the deep and pulls you under as soon as you make the mistake of having your first taste.
Heroin, for example, is not initially highly addictive. You have to try quite hard to develop a serious habit. It takes some intensive use – multiple hits within a relatively short time frame. Many casual users use smack occasionally year after year without coming close to addiction.
By all accounts, ice is far more dangerous in its addictive qualities. But it’s not a rat-trap. It takes a lot more than one tentative taste of the bait for physical addiction to strike. And it beggars belief that someone like Cousins would not have been aware of the dangers.
Cuz needs to be asking himself, then, WHY he made that series of choices that ended in addiction. He may be getting close in his assessment that “the very things that make me a great footballer are some of the things that led me to fall into those sorts of traps [drug addiction].” Many elite sportspersons have obsessive personalities. Addiction to their sport is seen as extreme dedication, a positive, and probably an essential element in any on-field champion. Cousins’ case shows the flipside of the addictive personality.
Perhaps an inflated ago seduced him into a sense of invulnerability. Elite jocks like Cousins are venerated in our society – ludicrously so. Start believing your own myth and you’re in a lot of trouble. This has been the downfall of many a “celebrity”. And the head-in-the-sand attitude of Nanny Gooding and others at the Eagles did Cousins a grave disservice. He needed tough love from the start, not a nest of nannies delivering a two-fingered slap to the back of the hand while patting his addled head. Whatever, EVERY HIT WAS STILL COUSINS’ CHOICE.
Until he embraces that fact, he will remain perilously close to the slippery slope he appears to have clawed his way back up. Why? Because to fully understand and acknowledge that he did, indeed, have a choice every step of his way to ice addiction is to accept complete personal responsibility for his actions. And why is that essential? Because accepting personal responsibility empowers you to consciously, wilfully, determine your actions, instead of buying into the lie that you have no choice. If you alone are responsible for your actions, you alone have the power to choose what those actions will be.
Ben Cousins was one of the most courageous footballers I have seen in a lifetime of following AFL. Perhaps it says something about the limitations of a jock that he has yet to summon the courage off the field to fully face himself and the demons within that seduced him into making destructive choices about which he is evidently still in denial.