Back from the brink
When former Raider David Westley hit rock bottom it was a BLOKE he used to butt heads with who helped him fInd hope
J UST A FEW MONTHS ago, David Westley had his suicide planned down to the last detail.
The former Canberra premiership player and PNG international was determined to become the latest in a worrying line of former and current league stars to take their own lives, convinced it was the only way out of his problems.
But Westley aborted his plan at the last minute, and has now agreed to share his story with RLW in the hope of saving others who are stuck in the depths of despair.
“I loved playing footy but that part of my life was over,” says Westley, who came off the bench in the Raiders’ 1994 grand final win against Canterbury.
“I was going through a court battle for custody of my kids with my ex-partner. I had lost all my money and gone bankrupt . . . I believed I was worthless.
“Suicide seemed the best alternative. I took a bunch of pills but for some reason that didn’t work.
“So one day I took three bottles of booze down to the beach. I spent a lot of my life near the ocean, coming from Queensland, so it seemed an appropriate way to end it all.
“I was going to drink the alcohol and then just swim out into the ocean – and keep going until I drowned.
“Then all my troubles would be over.”
Luckily for Westley, a small voice inside his head told him to give life one last chance.
He then hooked up with life coach and former rival Tony Priddle, an expert on helping lost souls find their way.
“I went to a psychologist who helped me with the issues of self-harm but it was really Tony who turned my life around,” Westley explains.
“He got me thinking positively and I was able to overcome the fears that had plagued my life. I’m not afraid of life anymore and the suicidal thoughts are gone.
“I’m excited about life and I’m coaching and mentoring kids breaking into footy up here in Cairns. I’m also involved in a charity called Saving the Streets, where we help kids who might be doing it tough. “Life is good again.” Priddle specialises in working with the deep unconscious areas of the brain and was able to get through to Westley via a combination of hypnosis and meditation.
Remarkably, he did it all over the phone – the pair had their first faceto-face meeting since their playing days only last month.
“David had been in a negative mind space for a long period of time since he retired – and that is common with a lot of former players who are suddenly lost,” says Priddle, a member of St George’s 1992-93 grand final sides. “With everything that happened to him over the last 15 years he had become accustomed to feeling a certain way.
“I see depression/anxiety as a stuck thought pattern – the negative thoughts create a chemical imbalance. A pill will try to balance the chemical imbalance, and is hit and miss. That’s why there are so many pills, but the source of the imbalance is the thoughts.
“My ‘mindmechanix’ method works on the cause of the chemical imbalance, which is the thought pattern. Change the thought pattern, change the chemical imbalance – you fix the problem quickly. David’s problem was a stuck thought pattern.
“How did we turn David around so quickly? By taking a holistic approach to mind training . . .
“We start by challenging the concept of identity as it is traditionally taught. Many people, especially athletes upon retirement, feel like they lose a major part of their identity when they leave the sport. I felt the same.
“We need to establish an understanding that we are separate from the things we do. We are not our job or status . . .
“It was all done in five hours and a 21-day homework protocol. It’s unique because we are not just working on the conscious level. To get the biggest and fastest impact we need to be working on the subconscious mind, which is by far the biggest part of the mind, and unused most of the time.”
Westley used to “visualise” before games – a form of meditation where he played the game out in his head in the sheds.
“That was a valuable skill because I could use it with Tony’s mind-altering techniques,” he says. “I visualised with him – like I did when I played – and my life took an instant backflip.”
Westley was a mate of former Eel and Rooster Chad Robinson, who sadly took his own life in December.
“That really rocked me because it could so easily have been me,” Westley says. “I feel for Chad and I feel for the family and his kids who he left behind. I can’t believe I could even think of doing that to my own kids but I almost did – and I was lucky enough to find my way out of the hole.”
“I was going to keep going until I drowned. Then all my troubles would be over” — David Westley
Photography by Jason Westcott/JJW Imagery, SMP Images
SAVING DAVID Life coach and former St George star Tony Priddle, pictured above and below, left, taught David Westley to overcome the dark thoughts that were destroying his life.