Updated: Apr 23
Last night Channel 7 aired a documentary called ‘Ben Cousins: Coming Clean’ – and I speak on behalf of plenty of us on the addictions frontline when I say it was the most grossly negligent, exploitative and abhorrent piece of media yet in 2020.
The misleading title was the first of endless ethical offences and breaches for which Channel 7 and the interviewer Basil Zempilas need to issue an apology; because Ben Cousins is clearly anything but ‘’coming clean.’’
What he ‘’is’’ is a patently fragile, sick, and extremely vulnerable high-risk human being who was literally paraded like a monkey with appalling editing and a D-Grade soundtrack last night for nothing more than station-ratings.
It was actually sickening, loathsome Television.
Worse, the entire process then gave permission for the uninformed to come out of their dungeons and throw countless fresh darts into to the already-stigmatised demographic of those fighting addiction, or ‘’oxygen thieves’’ as the trolls like to refer to us.
As a former addict (specifically a recovered alcoholic) I have given my life to speak for and fight for vulnerable people; and honestly, I found myself so deeply and profoundly upset by this interview that I could not sleep afterwards – along with whoever else in the nation possesses an empathetic bone in their body.
There are already countless predictable comments circulating that he was paid for the piece, did it for drug money, and deserves ‘what he gets’ for this. No, he doesn’t deserve that. What he deserved was for a national media outlet to show a basic duty of care and to NOT take part in exploiting and enabling him - especially if that was indeed the motivation.
The only redeeming feature in the entire piece was the snippet featuring actress Lynne McGranger (who plays recovering alcoholic Irene from Home and Away) who was entirely believable and at least authentic in her delivery and compassionate response and outreach.
I’ll finish on this: while it’s often true that during the depths of our active addiction we can be selfish, destructive, exhausting humans who must ultimately step up and take responsibility for our own lives to make it out - we are all nonetheless, humans. We all have a backstory. And we are all worthy of a second chance at life and to heal from our own pain.
The key to allowing others to overcome addiction lies within not further dehumanising the sufferer.
Feel free to loathe the addiction, yes, sure - but don’t loathe the person under it all.
Make no mistake that despite the undeniable chaos, lies and destruction Ben has no doubt brought upon his family and friends, the fact remains, it does not make you a better person to kick a bloke in the guts when he’s down.
I truly hope Mr Zempilas and the Producers issue a sincere apology and statement on this. Nothing less is acceptable.
To Ben: if you happen to come across this piece - I say to you; please don't quit quitting. Please don't give up. Please know there IS a way out of this hell. And a way to absolute redemption, too. I've been there, and it is hell on earth. It really is. But there is a way out. And redemption and forgiveness and a new life is 100% possible.
It begins with your choice to acknowledge the truth and reach out for help.
Get in touch any time if you want.
You will find a safe space to speak here.
Founder & CEO : Sober in the Country Ltd
Sober 5 years.