I HIT ROCK BOT­TOM

AFL STAR’S MAR­RIAGE COL­LAPSE, OSAKA BINGE, PRISON HELL, GRIEF AND HOPE

Herald Sun - - FRONT PAGE -

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

ALICE COSTER

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