15 Mar Fallen AFL star Ben Cousins dodges bullet with latest drug relapse – HERALD SUN MELBOURNE
by Nicole Cox
SPORTING even more bravado than on the football field, Ben Cousins scaled two fences to enter what should have been one of the most secure Australian Defence Force sites.
It was the middle of night. With astounding audacity, the AFL golden boy turned bad boy somehow managed to infiltrate the base of the elite Special Air Services undetected.
Sources say Cousins’ jumbled ramblings when nabbed at Campbell Barracks in the Perth beachside suburb of Swanbourne suggested he thought he was a soldier.
For years the champion midfielder has considered himself bulletproof. Untouchable.
Guards found him incoherent near a fleet of defence vehicles inside the compound, with some suggestions he was sitting inside one, at 11.15pm last Saturday and called police.
It was just three days after Cousins was charged over a curious “slow police chase” in which officers phoned him while he was driving, calling on him to pull over — a request he allegedly rejected saying he was on his way to a “family emergency”.
The fallen footy star and dad-of-two’s intentions at the SAS barracks were unclear.
Police took him to hospital for a mental health assessment and drug counsellors say Cousins’ latest inexplicable behaviour is consistent with drug psychosis triggered by a week-long bender.
Cousins was released from Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital’s mental health ward on Monday, but it is understood he is now being treated at another mental health facility in Perth.
The Brownlow medallist is facing a two-year jail sentence and $5000 fine if convicted over the 9km police chase, which allegedly ended when Cousins jumped from his moving car in Mosman Park on March 11.
He has been charged with reckless driving, being dangerous to the public to escape police pursuit, failing to stop and failing to provide a breath sample.
No charges have been laid over the alleged trespass at the SAS barracks, with police inquiries continuing.
Drug rehabilitation counsellor Tabitha Corser said his recent bizarre behaviour was “very much in line with someone who had relapsed”, with many users climaxing into a drug-induced psychosis after a seven to 10-day bender.
“It’s a very misunderstood journey and the reason it’s so misunderstood is that part of the journey is actually about relapse and falling down and having all those sorts of catastrophic events,” said Ms Corser from Perth’s Whitehaven Clinic.
“Drug use comes about through self-soothing and self-medicating so if you imagine that you’re in the public eye … there’s usually a really high rate of anxiety and worry and panic which is why mental health links in with drug use, so people use to make themselves feel better.”
Ms Corser said the issues were compacted for someone high-profile like Cousins, living in a small city where he was so easily recognisable.
“I live in a neighbouring suburb to Ben so quite often I see him around. Everyone stops and stares, everyone whispers, and it ranges from him being the butt of jokes through to ‘he’s thrown away his life’,” she said.
“If you think about how difficult it would be if you had mental health issues, high levels of anxiety … and then you’ve got people looking at you, whispering about you, it’s going to push you over the edge at some stage.”
It’s long been a reality for the 36-year-old whose personal demons, drug addiction and public controversies have dogged him.
In his 2010 “tell-all” TV doco Such is Life, the self-confessed “functional” drug addict revealed his drug of choice was cocaine but he regularly took Valium and anti-anxiety drug Xanax as well as ecstasy — and ice.
In February 2014, an ice possession charge against Cousins was dropped after a submission from his lawyer that there was no public interest in pursuing the charges against him.
In August 2013, Cousins reportedly split from his long-term partner Maylea Tinnecheff just weeks after welcoming the couple’s second child into the world.
Around the same time, Cousins was involved in a fight at a park in East Fremantle, with a witness reporting he had been approached by a man yelling “I am going to kill you”.
It’s a far cry from the revered AFL star who was the greatest player in the West Coast Eagles’ short history before in 2007 being sacked from the team after being arrested and charged with possessing a prohibited drug and failing to undergo a driver assessment — charges that were later withdrawn by police.
Since ending his career with Richmond, Cousins’s battles with addiction have hit the headlines several times, including in 2012 when he was admitted to hospital after a fall at a drug rehabilitation clinic while being treated for drug-induced psychosis.
AFL star and one-time Eagle Scott Cummings said his former teammate was lucky he was not shot by SAS sentries when making his inexplicable entry to their base last Saturday — especially given heightened terrorist concerns across Australia right now.
“No one’s in their right frame of mind to scale two fences to get into one of the most heavily armed areas in WA with blokes who don’t miss,” Cummings said on SportsDay FM this week.
Cummings said he had not seen Cousins in recent years but people close to him regarded his recovery as a “day-by-day thing”.
“It sounds like he’s going well for a period of time and then goes out and has a bender again. It’s so frustrating.
“You toss up between frustration, anger and sadness for him.”