How Sydney woman recovered from her $5k a month speed addiction, $200k debt

A woman who had a $5000-a-month drug habit and racked up nearly $200,000 worth of credit card debt has revealed the ultimatum her husband gave her that made her turn her life around.

Alice Crawley, 50, got drunk for the first time at nine and started experimenting with marijuana at 11, before moving onto hallucinogens such as LSD at 13.

By the time she hit university she was using tranquillisers before moving on to drugs such as speed, ketamine and cocaine in her early 20s.

“I had grown up with high functioning, very successful alcoholics but there was always chaos,” Alice told

“And it was very blurred, you know, I knew there were mental health issues there. We knew that as a family, that there was also alcoholism, and there was also abuse [within my life].”

Alice grew up in Canada but, as she got older, she knew she needed to put distance between herself and the chaos and pain that she had grown up around.

She travelled the world, eventually settling in Japan, where she got a job thanks to her English degree.

She sought therapy while she was there but had an overdose and ended up in a psychiatric ward, before returning home to Canada.

It was there she had another overdose, which she labelled terrifying.

“I had taken two bottles of tranquillisers, a couple bottles of wine and I had an acute dystonic reaction, which is terrifying, your eyes rolling back into the back of your head, and you can’t and won’t stop,” she said.

“They got me into emergency and the nurse said, ‘Were you trying to kill yourself?’ And I said, ‘No, I was trying to relax’. And I meant it.”

At 25, Alice knew she needed to leave Canada again and settled on Australia as her new home. But around the same time, she was diagnosed with bipolar, an anxiety disorder, anorexia, with Alice tracing her complicated relationship with food all the way back to when she was just four years old, and an exercise addiction, that started when she was 15 and she would run two hours a day on the treadmill.

Living in Australia wasn’t what Alice had envisioned – there was no surfing like she’s dreamt of and her troubles continued to follow her.

One shining light was meeting her now-husband Martin, who she met at a bar in the days following 9/11.

The pair hit it off immediately but their romance was soon beset by problems, the chief being the hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt she found herself in thanks to her addictive brain.

Alice recalls several low points in this time period – one being when her meth dealer turned her away – but rock bottom came when she found herself alone in Sydney’s Coogee, with Interpol calling her as they chased her over her debt. Alice knew she had to tell Martin the truth about her drug issues.

She was terrified, scared he would kick her out, but instead he gave her the ultimatum she needed – risking everything he had to do so.

“I figured here was this guy who, as an actuary, was so risk adverse, and I had high risk written all over me, I was in quite a mess. And yet, he said, ‘No, I’ll stand by you and support because I can see you’re so much more than this. This isn’t you, but you’ve got to step the up’,” Alice said, recalling when she told him about the drugs.

“And I remember saying to him, ‘You don’t understand what you’re asking me to do. I need to think about it’. He says, ‘I understand exactly what I’m asking you to do. And you’ve got 24 hours, or you can leave’.

“And I was like, oh my God, but I was so impressed because it was painful. It was painful for him and me because he knew he risked losing me. But that was the turning point.”

Alice went to rehab, and was stunned when she couldn’t fool the people there like she’s fooled everyone her entire life.

“I gave him my whole eloquent history and all the therapy I’d done and he said you talk a really good game and I was shocked,” Alice said.

“He said; ‘Make no mistake, Alice, this elevator only goes in one direction and that’s straight into the ground and six feet under, so you can get off whenever you want, it’s your call’ and that caught my attention.”

Alice did two stints in rehab before coming out and starting her life over again, but she still hadn’t told Martin about her $185,000 credit card debt.

She felt the anxiety of it eating at her until she confessed, and again, Martin said he’d support her but he wouldn’t bail her out.

Alice cut up all her credit cards and paid off the debt within five years.

Alice also had to learn how to deal with her mental health without turning to her addictions, an incredible feat she struggled with, especially at the start.

Alice created a support system and took off any edges by taking part in yoga, meditation or running.

She entered rehab in 2004 and has been working on being her best self ever since, even going on to write a book, On the way to Wonderland, about her journey.

“Part of why I get excited about sharing my story is, when I speak to people about it, they always say how I seem to have my stuff together,” she said.

“And I’m like, and that’s why I’m telling my story because I’m a high functioning, seasoned professional addict. We’re out there, and there’s a lot of stigma and misconceptions because people assume addicts are gutter drunks but I was amazed when I got to rehab, and there were a lot of high performing people there.”

In the book, Alice shares how she shifted her thoughts, with neuroscience playing a large part in manifesting her current life, and discovering she had an addicted brain helped her understand triggers.

Recovery wasn’t always easy – 17 years into recovery Alice sustained a complex injury that meant she developed chronic pain in her left hip and both hamstrings, through a combination of a lateral tear and hamstring tendinopathy.

It meant she couldn’t exercise in the way she had for such a long time, causing her to spiral and mourn for all she had lost, as running had become a huge part of her identity.

But, comfort from Martin and a doctor helped her push forward.

Alice was also diagnosed with ADHD, which doctors said would explain why she was so drawn to methamphetamines, as it was essentially self medicating.

Now, she lives in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs with her husband Martin, with the pair together for more than two decades, having travelled the world and had dozens of adventures.

Alice’s book is currently available for presale and will hit the shelves at the end of October.

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