Former rugby league star Chris Caruana has opened up on how his life unravelled after he retired from football and got addicted to ice, leaving him on the brink of suicide.
Caruana played 10 seasons in first grade between 1992 and 2002, starring for both the North Sydney Bears and South Sydney Rabbitohs, the latter both before and after the club was kicked out of and then reinstated to the NRL.
Caruana, who signed for the Rabbitohs on a $1.2 million three-year deal at the height of his career, also appeared in the Simply the Best ad featuring Tina Turner in 1993.
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He played 157 games, scoring 44 tries before he was released by Souths at the end of the 2002 season and moved to the mid-north coast of NSW, where he played some country league.
But once off the field, Caruana’s life began to unravel, telling Newscorp he “realised I had nothing behind me” when he retired and slipped into a deep depression.
Post-career struggles saw the once rugby league pin-up struggle with an ice addiction and homelessness, as well as twice attempting to end his own life.
Speaking on Nine’s Today, Caruana revealed he is now nearly three years clean and sober and going through the process of turning his life around.
“My family was the catalyst — and I couldn’t do it anymore, I was sick and tired of using narcotics,” Caruana said.
“But my family, especially my mother, my sisters and, more importantly, my children, who have been my rock, Erinn and Kyle.
“That was the catalyst. I had to stop for myself really, because if I didn’t stop using, I can’t give any love and support out there to the people that love me.
“That was it, I just decided to give it away cold turkey and I’m clean today.”
Caruana revealed the depths of his addiction took him to an extremely dark place.
”I dealt with it with narcotics,” he said bluntly.
“That was the biggest mistake I did. It all came crashing down, I felt a very, very deep space of depression and anxiety – I lost a lot of money through narcotics, and it was a terrible 10 years of my life. I wish I could take that back but it’s gone now.
“Methamphetamine, it’s a very, very nasty drug. It took away a part of my soul which I’ve got back. But longest I was awake for was probably 12 days, the longest I didn’t eat was probably 14 days. I lost probably 24kg in 12 months. It’s an insidious drug.
“I can’t explain how it affects young kids out there today. I’m looking at my daughter and my son today and they’re the people I’m hanging in there for.
“Suicide was a big thing. I didn’t want to be here. And that’s where methamphetamine got me to the grips of ending it.
“Its publicly out there that I did that. I won’t be doing it again because I want to hang in there for my children and my family and especially the people that come into my life in the last month or two months.”
Although he’s clean now, he explained staying drug-free is “the toughest gig I’ve ever done”.
The 51-year-old said he realised just how important friends and family were in his recovery.
He also thanked icare for putting a roof over his head for the first time in four years.
He’s now hoping to complete a certificate IV in mental health in order to help people going through the same issues he endured.