I HIT ROCK BOTTOM
AFL STAR’S MARRIAGE COLLAPSE, OSAKA BINGE, PRISON HELL, GRIEF AND HOPE
HEARTBREAK over the collapse of his marriage and grief over his mother’s terminal illness triggered Brian Lake’s destructive booze bender in Japan.
The three-time premiership champion and Norm Smith medallist for Hawthorn admits he hit “rock bottom” when trying to run from the toughest time of his life.
Lake has revealed that, two days after he exited Australian Survivor, his wife said they needed a “break”.
Faced with the breakdown of the relationship with the mother of his three children and his own mum’s deteriorating health, Lake said he fled to Bali, and then Japan. Choking back tears, he told the Herald
Sun yesterday: “You probably should deal with your issues but, I decided, to an extent, to run away from them. I couldn’t handle it.
“If you’re not in the right headspace when you’re drinking then it’s amazing when you have a few that bad things can happen.”
A late-night brawl in Osaka in July after a phone argument with his estranged wife resulted in Lake being put in solitary confinement by police. At breaking point after six gruelling days of contemplation, he was released and returned to his Caroline Springs home, only for his beloved mother to then die after a long battle with cancer.
“You look at life and you think, s---, it’s not panning out the way that you expected,” Lake said.
“But you’ve got kids and, no matter how bad life gets, you’ve got other people around you.”
The much-loved larrikin quivered through tears yesterday as he spoke of his ongoing battles.
“You have your good days, you have your bad days. It’s still a rollercoaster,” Lake said.
Admitting that the “selfish” life of a footballer had taken a toll on his marriage, Lake still hopes for a reconciliation with wife Shannon.
“There’s a reason why you get married. You want to work on it. I’m not a person just to give up,” he said.
BRIAN Lake spent 49 days in the Fijian tropics surviving on rations of rice and long stints of solitude during his time on
Australian Survivor. As if that wasn’t enough, he then went home to find his already fragile marriage had collapsed.
The tough Hawthorn premiership champion’s response was to flee overseas but, beset by his demons, he found himself locked up for six days in an Osaka police cell.
Still shaken and emotional three months later, 36-year-old Lake, who was accused of assault, is on an emotional rollercoaster. He has spoken openly and honestly in the past about his mental health demons following a glittering career in the AFL spotlight.
But the rugged defender says the past few months have been torture. His demons almost brought him undone.
“I was never scared at all. Probably just upset,” Lake revealed for the first time to Page 13 about his time holed up in the Osaka cell. “Everything happened in the space of a month or two months. Then you get to a point where it nearly becomes laughable. It’s like I’ve been delivered a s--- sandwich and I’ve just got to ride this wave because it can’t get any worse.”
But get worse it did for Lake. Rewind to the fateful night in Osaka. Lake says alcohol isn’t always his enemy. When he is in a good place the grog can bring out the best in him, showing off his larrikin self that
Australian Survivor fans grew to love.
“I don’t think the drinking altogether is an issue,” Lake said yesterday. “But I think what I’ve realised is drinking when you’re not in the right headspace, and I think that happens to a lot of people, it’s it s amazing when you have a few and bad things can happen. I can have a drink and be in a good mood and d really enjoy myself. But I’ve found, when I’ve got myself into trouble, when I’m not in a good space beforehand, sometimes you use drinking as an escape.”
After almost making it to become one of the final two wo survivors on the Channel 10 adventure reality series, Lake returned to the Caroline Springs home he shared h d with ih Shannon, his wife of nine years, and their three young children Mylee, Cohen and Bailee. Their marriage was in trouble before he left for Fiji. But when he returned, Shannon said she wanted to separate.
“It wasn’t agreed upon beforehand, but it was obviously thought about,” Lake said of their marriage breakdown.
“Then it didn’t really happen until probably a couple of days after I got back. She mentioned it’s probably best if we just had a break for a while.
“So, yeah, you just come off the island, off the game and then I think it was 48 hours, so that’s why I went to Bali straight away.”
I can have a drink and be in a good mood and really enjoy myself but, when I’ve got myself into trouble, I’m not in a good space beforehand
Lake met up with i h old ld footy f mates including i l di RICK
OLARENSHAW and CHAD FLETCHER in Bali, who encouraged him to travel with them to Osaka to play in an AFL charity match.
“Should I have gone overseas? Probably not,” Lake said.
“You should deal with your issues, but I decided to an extent, to run away from them for a bit.
“That’s probably what led to my issues in Osaka, when you’re not in the right headspace. It was just to get away, because I couldn’t handle it. We had an argument that night.”
Lake said the rest of that night was a bit of a blur. In Japan, he ended up being arrested by police and put in solitary confinement after a boozy b bust-up with a Japanese local.
Japanese law states you can be held in custody for 23 days without charge and Lake said he had no idea of his fate as he wiled away the hours.
“I thought a lot about Survivor. It probably got me through, to be honest,” he said. “I don’t know how people can survive 23 days. I couldn’t understand how they could do that. Mentally, I don’t know what I’d have been like after that. Being stuck in there for another three or four days, God, it would have done my head in.”
SURVIVING Survivor was more than Lake bargained for. Just like his champion competitors including five-time Olympian LYDIA LASSILA, rugby hardman MAT ROGERS
Survivor probably helped me. All I ate was rice for six days. I was never scared ... Stuck in there for another three or four days. God, it would have done my head in
and fitness guru, “The Commando”
STEVE WILLIS, Lake was surprised at just how gruelling the series was. He said the long periods with only his own thoughts were the most difficult.
It made the AFL hardman reflect on his past “selfish” behaviour. Being focused on his career as an elite athlete took a toll on his family. There was also the nagging worry about his sick mother back home in Melbourne.
“I knew going into Survivor about Mum and I guess the relationship with the wife wasn’t great beforehand. But you’ve got these thoughts and you’ve got the whole day to sit and think.
“The game’s mentally challenging, but having those other things, it was a bloody tough 49 days.”
Then it was home and, later, the brain snap in Japan and a police cell. His mother’s mot death, weeks later, took him to the t edge. “You “Yo look at life and you think, s---, it’s not panning out the way that th you expected,” Lake said of his h dark time. “But you’ve got kids k and, no matter how bad life gets, you’ve got other people around you. I’ve always struggled s with asking for help, putting pu my hand up and saying, yeah yea I need some (help). But this has probably p forced me to say I need help. You Yo can’t do everything. You always need n someone to talk to. “One of my best mates, my boss at the moment, he’s helped me a lot too.”
LAKE said it was manager and former footy mate MARTY PASK — and a few close friends — who helped him start picking up the pieces.
He wants to rekindle his marriage with his wife Shannon. Rumours have been circulating as to why their relationship broke down.
Lake is more reflective than the hardman who played with nerves of steel and partied harder off the field.
Breaking down in tears, Lake said he wanted to acknowledge the mistakes that led to his marriage disintegrating.
“Being a professional athlete you have to be selfish. You can’t go outside to have a kick with the kids. Too many kicks, my knee gets sore, which means I might not be able to train. You gotta get to bed bd at a certain i time. i You Y can’t ’ go on holidays until the end of the season. We can’t go there to eat because I’ve got to watch my diet.
“Relationships as well. Everything is driven towards yourself. You’ve been selfish for a long period of time and you just can’t flick that switch.”
Lake said he has struggled with life after footy. It had been a downward spiral since he took off the boots.
“Some people might find it easy, but me being independent when I was younger, it’s always been about myself.
“Then all of a sudden, footy’s finished, there’s no reason for you to be selfish any more, but it’s not easy.”
Lake wants to move on from making headlines. He is working away from the spotlight with his boss and closest friend in the sales sector.
He is working at rebuilding his life, watching the Survivor finale this week with his estranged wife and their three children with friends.
There is one thing about Lake. The days on Survivor proved it. The days in a Japanese jail cell underlined it. His determination on the footy field has shown it. Lake doesn’t back away.
“There’s a reason why you get married,” he said.
“You want to work on it. You’ve just gotta get yourself right.
“I’m not a person just to give up.”
You look at life and you think, it’s not panning out the way you expected, but you’ve got kids and, no matter how bad life gets, you’ve got other people around you It’s still so raw, you still get emotional talking about it … It’s just, hurry up, 2019