I took the time to watch the Ben Cousins documentary last week and I have to admit that it has made me think about what lessons we can learn from the experiences of Ben and his family. Ben’s story contains incredible highs and lows and shows us that achieving the ultimate success in one’s chosen field by no means guarantees a life of happiness and fulfilment. In fact, it showed that with his overwhelming success at AFL level, came tremendous financial gains, an adulation from many and a lifestyle that was perhaps completely unnatural and lacking in perspective. For Ben, this led to behaviour patterns that were dependent on drugs that enabled him to cope with the status, pressures and stresses in his life. Unfortunately, the chinks in his armour were horribly exposed.
It’s fair to say that he hurt many of those close to him during his downward spirals, abusing their trust and compassion. Perhaps the strongest message from the documentary is the unconditional love that is displayed by Ben’s father, Brian. It seems he was the one person who was able to walk with Ben throughout his tragic path and offer unrelenting love and support all the way. It is clear that he shared the pain and that, without him, Ben may not be here today. As a parent, I was genuinely touched by Brian’s love and commitment to his son, despite the ongoing devastation he was causing. In my mind, he is the real hero of this story and a great example for parents.
I was also most impressed by those people at the Richmond Football Club who, although well aware of Ben’s addictions, saw fit to give him an opportunity to continue his football career. I’m sure they were confident he could contribute to the football club, but I also think it was not lost on them that perhaps someone needed to reach out to Ben and help him, otherwise his life could become even worse.
I think that most of us who have followed his journey are concerned for how he will cope now that the structure offered by his AFL career is over. I hope that he is able to adjust and find the balance he is searching for in his life.
As a Catholic school, we are conscious of helping our students to look for and develop balance and perspective in life. In particular, the RE Seminar days that we conduct with our Year 12 students aim to challenge our students to think about aspects of the adult world that they will encounter. These days are also a culmination of the Religious Education program that students experience throughout their time at the College. The RE program aims to educate and inform our students about Religious matters and plants seeds in the hearts and minds of our students about the role that God can play in their lives and the importance of a spiritual and faith dimension in their own life. In the quest to find balance, perspective, happiness and hope, I believe that faith plays a key role.
Many people endure similar struggles to those of Ben. I hope and pray that Ben’s story is a source of hope and encouragement to them and their families, and that they find the support and strength to overcome their struggles.
Mr Tullio Zavattiero
Deputy Principal, Student Services
Source: Salesian College, Sunbury