PROFESSIONAL CRICKETERS' TRUST PRESS RELEASE
Former cricketer reflects on highs and lows of recovering from addiction.
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“I’m five years recovered, but it’s not been easy. The initial high of getting sober and clean can fall away, and you don’t realise how much work you have to do beyond that to sustain it.”
In 2016, Simon Cusden experienced his lowest moment as he attempted suicide by tying a rock to his leg in order to drown himself, nine years after being released by Derbyshire and subsequently developing a crippling alcohol addiction.
Five years later, Cusden continues on his road to recovery with support from the Professional Cricketers’ Trust, and he admits that he is ‘grateful’ to be alive and sober after coming through what has been his toughest test.
Since he revealed his struggles to the Trust in a powerful interview in July 2017, the former Kent and Derbyshire man has taken a number of positive steps, including staying involved in the game as a cricket coach, working with recovering addicts at a rehabilitation programme in Bali and returning to the UK to start a new life with wife Jess in the country of his birth.
Reflecting on the reaction to wider the 2017 interview and his journey since, Cusden says that building strong personal relationships has been crucial to his successful recovery to date: “The video was a continuation of me reconnecting with cricket through reaching out to the PCA and the Trust.
“Quite a few cricketers privately shared their stories with me as well, and I wasn’t shocked that quite a few of my old friends had experienced similar struggles with addiction or anxiety and depression. It was nice to connect in a dialogue that was a little bit more human than running out onto a cricket pitch and trying to win a game.
“Since then, I’ve had good conversations with cricketers who want to know what the PCA and the Trust do, but the response was really good and it’s always nice to know you’re not alone. It’s amazing that I only played 13 games for Kent and I was so readily helped and accepted – cricket’s great for that.
“Cricket’s been the most consistent thing in my life. It’s my earliest memory and to this day it’s enabled me to travel the world and gain recovery.
“It’s like a language – I can just pick up the phone and speak to friends made through cricket. I look forward to having children and being able to play the game with them – maybe that’s the next chapter for me!”
Whilst staying in touch with the game has been a big positive for Cusden, the 36-year-old also recently shared the further methods he uses to stay on top of his mental health in an interview with the Trust published during Mental Health Awareness Week.
Turning negative addictive energy into a positive tool has allowed Cusden to remain on a consistent level and stave off the dangers posed by relapse, as he explains.
“I’ve seen both sides of the coin - I’ve lost friends in recovery who unfortunately didn’t make it, and I’ve seen others who made it back from even darker places than I came back from.”
“Fifteen years ago, it was a bit of a taboo to speak openly about mental health, but then guys like Marcus Trescothick, Jonathan Trott and Michael Yardy spoke about their struggles, and they’ve paved the way for me and others to be able to share without judgement.
“Initially, it was unpacking addiction and anxiety, but now it’s about practice. I have a very disciplined meditation practice, and I’ve married my best friend who understands that.
“Our culture at home is very much about mental, physical and emotional health. We’re very health conscious. There’s an element that we have to be, because relapse is a very real thing, but we also love spirituality and mental health – for me it’s a very positive subject.
“We love discovering new ways of seeing ourselves and seeing the world. Addiction is a very destructive disease and the way to stay clean is to put that addictive energy to good use.
“Now I’m five years into recovery, I’m really enjoying holding that space and believing that recovery is a real thing.
“I’ve seen both sides of the coin – I’ve lost friends in recovery who unfortunately didn’t make it, and I’ve seen others who made it back from even darker places than I came back from.”
The Trust offers support to PCA members and their immediate families when they need it most, and the players’ charity has been there for Cusden, who made just 13 professional appearances during his three-year playing career, throughout his journey from addiction to recovery.
“My journey in the last five years has been one of self-development, practice, self-awareness and learning. I’ve also continued to push myself to take responsibility for my life, starting a family which I’ll be providing for.
“The Trust has been there since the moment I asked for help. In my recovery, I’ve had normal human issues that have come up and required me to have some counselling, and the Trust was there.
“To be able to have that level of support allows me to go to bed and sleep better, feeling safer in the world knowing that the Trust is there. In an emergency I know that there’s someone there who I can call, someone who will be there and listen without judgement.
“Moving forward, as a man who’s currently starting a family, to know that I’ll have lifelong membership to the Professional Cricketers’ Trust is just such a gift – I feel so blessed to have access to that.”