‘That was the day I would have killed myself’
Former Bronco Jharal Yow Yeh has revealed how a devastating cocktail of drugs, alcohol and suicidal thoughts pushed him to death's door after a horrific injury ruined his career.
Former Test winger Yow Yeh was the victim of one of sport's most gruesome injuries when he fractured his ankle after crash-landing taking an across-field bomb against South Sydney in Perth in 2012.
The injury, which required 10 operations, was so severe doctors feared his foot may have had to be amputated, and he has opened up about the ongoing trauma to teammate Sam Thaiday on Thaiday's We Are Human podcast.
Yow Yeh, who lost his off-field ambassador's role at the Broncos due to COVID cuts in March, is proud of his recovery from the dark world he tumbled into when he retired from rugby league age 24 in 2014 with an injury that has left permanent scars.
"People say does it still hurt… it does,'' Yow Yeh told Thaiday.
"If I showed the world what is really wrong with me they would be horrified. I would say I am disabled in some capacity.
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"I knew it was bad when I went to the hospital and a lady got out my file. I was a 23-year-old man, yet it was as if I was a 60-year-old and she said, 'I have never seen anything like this and I have been here for 15 years.'
"Mentally, it gets to you.''
Yow Yeh revealed in the years after the accident he became hooked on painkillers, and has used his experience to warn people of the hidden dangers of prescription drugs.
He said had it not been for a friendly neighbour and an Ashgrove pastor he would not have lived to tell his tale.
"Painkillers were a really good friend of mine for a very long period of time. I could not get out of them, man. It got really bad. What I am about to say is 'do not do this'. It is a really serious thing. I was mixing endos (painkillers Endodan) with codeine with sleeping pills. The biggest one I did - I am definitely not proud of this and any doctors listening would pull their hair out - was overcoming things by taking prescription drugs and going drinking.
"I got away with a lot because I seemed so happy so no one would ask me questions. One night I went to an establishment and took about six endos and got absolutely blind.
"I don't remember too much of that night, but I remember waking up and thinking I did take all those last night? I don't know how I survived that. It got worse from there. I started to play footy again but I was still taking prescription drugs. Where it got bad again was I had ended a relationship and I hit rock bottom.
"My body was failing me, I was telling myself I had to retire. I retired in 2014 and I turned bad because I was still taking prescription drugs.
"The times I knew I was bad was when I was sleeping on my couch and my brother knew something was wrong because I had not left the couch for probably a week.
"I was not picking up anyone's phone calls. My mother was calling and my grandmother was calling me but I didn't answer them. I didn't care about anyone. That was the day I would have killed myself I reckon. Not reckon - I almost did. I reckon if my neighbour did not pick up her phone that was probably going to be it. I was on the ground crying and 'I can't do this s--t any more'.
"She called a pastor from Ashgrove - a good man - and he came over and helped me.
"He said 'what do you want to do with your life?' I did not have a clue. I knew I had to get out of that rut. I was scared to be alone because I thought I was going to do something stupid. I probably was not going to do it with a physical thing. It was going to be drugs.''
Despite losing his job at the Broncos, Yow Yeh is positive about the future and said his journey made him stronger.
"I am a lot better. I have a beautiful wife. A new baby on the way and a great family. I am such a different person, I am very spiritual now. The last few years have been a journey but made me the man I am now. I am excited to see what life brings.''
Originally published as 'That was the day I would have killed myself'