Back from the brink

Rugby League Week - - News -

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.

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