At his lowest point a few months back, troubled former league star Paul Carter says he didn’t care whether he lived or died.
Sacked by three NRL clubs and deregistered as a player, Carter was facing a drugs charge and possible imprisonment late last year as his life spiraled out of control.
It took a life-changing decision to book into a rehabilitation clinic while on holiday in Thailand to save him.
“It was a desperate cry for help, definitely,”Carter said.
“It never really got to the point where I wanted to kill myself.
“It was more a case of me just not caring about living or dying or what happened to me.
“If anything really bad was to happen to me, I was like ‘who cares, whatever’ which, looking back, was really scary. I’ve never felt like that before in my life.
“When you get caught up in that lifestyle, you just lose yourself and it got pretty bad. I had more than a few really scary experiences before I went into rehab.”
Carter, who has moved to Cessnock with his partner Elise Horscroft and is hoping to resurrect his playing career with the Cessnock Goannas this season, says four weeks in the clinic, along with the support of Elise and his family, brought him back from the depths.
“It was very tough and very sad but I’m glad I went through it,” he said of his four-week stint in rehab.
“I have come out the other side a much stronger and better person and since coming home, I just feel totally different. I feel like the real me again which I haven’t really felt like for a long time.”
The son of former Penrith five-eighth Steve Carter, the 25-year-old says he has no-one to blame but himself for destroying his NRL career.
After captaining the 2010 Australian Schoolboys on a tour of Great Britain, a squad that included current NRL stars David Klemmer, James Tedesco, Jack Wighton, Tautau Moga and David Nofoaluma, Carter had the world at his feet.
After joining the Gold Coast Titans from Canterbury, he made his NRL debut in 2014 and was a contender for Rookie of the Year after playing 21 games .
But he now admits it all came too easy and his sacking at the end of that season after two drink-driving offences and subsequent axing by South Sydney for alcohol offences in 2016 and the Sydney Roosters in June last year was all his own doing.
“It definitely went to my head at the Titans,” he said.
“Going well up there, it felt good at the time but in reality, it did nothing for me. I’ve done a lot of things since that I wish I hadn’t but they are done now and I want to use them to my advantage moving forward.”
Possibly Carter’s biggest wake-up call came early last month when he appeared in court for sentencing on a drugs charge following his arrest in May last year, a few weeks before the Roosters cut him lose.
He escaped jail and was placed on a two year good behaviour bond.
“It definitely scared me and I take it very seriously,” he said.
“It was a real stressful period going into the courtroom not knowing what was going to happen and thinking I could be going to jail. The thought of going to prison – that was definitely scary.
“But it was the effect it had on my family and my loved ones – that was the most damaging thing for me because they had done nothing wrong and I hated putting them through it as much as me going through it myself.
“It wasn’t their actions that caused it so I really struggled with that the most and I’m glad that’s all behind me.”
Carter says he is not about to make any outlandish promises about his future following his move to Cessnock with Elise.
He is about to start work as an underground miner and believes the change of pace is just what he needs but at 25, the NRL is not something he has completely given up on.
“I’ve blow plenty of chances and the pressure and the stress has been all of my own doing,” he said.
“I think I have grown up a lot but in saying that, I’m not going to make promises and say I’m going to do this and that. I feel good and I just want to get on with things and hopefully have a good year with Cessnock and see what happens from there.
“The support I’ve had from the club since I agreed to play here has been fantastic.
“There were a few clubs from Queensland and around Sydney who were interested. At the time, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with footy.
“But getting out of Sydney and just getting back to what I love – coming to training with the boys and having fun with footy again here in Cessnock – it just felt right.
“There is obviously a bit I have to prove here. It’s a great club so there is some pressure to deliver on the footy field but everyone has been so friendly and welcoming.”
The NSWRL is expected to discuss Carter’s deregistration at a meeting on Wednesday following a submission from the Cessnock club.
“I hope it won’t be an issue,” he said. “I really think I need rugby league as part of my life for me to move forward as well.”