Ben Cousins the footballer used to lead by example.
As West Coast captain he never struck you as the most verbose of skippers, content to let his footy do the talking.
He worked harder than anyone else, ran harder and longer than anyone else.
Young players coming through the system were shown exactly what it took to get to the very top.
Now, as he becomes the AFL’s Syd Barrett, Cousins is still setting an example – of how a life should not be lived.
Because the bad example he sets is more powerful than anything any police officer or high school teacher could ever say to a kid.
He’s no longer an idol – he’s a train wreck, a caricature, a man ravaged before his time.
His story is far from unique, but its profile makes it the best deterrent – Cousins is the living embodiment of the damage drugs can wreak.
And if they can cut down one of the biggest names in football, a man afforded every advantage, they can cut down anyone.
Seeing Cousins slowly lose his grip on reality over the past few years has been sobering.
Put simply, if Ben Cousins’ plight didn’t at least make you think twice before considering taking methamphetamine, then you haven’t been paying attention.
The tragedy now is for his parents, his children, his brother and sister, who face a desperate fight to save the person they love.
Let’s hope it’s not too late, and Cousins can one day offer his insights first hand.
Because no one wants to read this story’s logical conclusion.