By Sean O’Malley, Senior Media Relations Specialist
The first time Jennifer Crawford was paid to pursue a passion for food was as a teenager in their hometown Kingston, Nova Scotia, making minimum wage to ice donuts at Tim Horton’s.
The second time was last year, when Jennifer won the $100,000 top prize on CTV’s MASTERCHEF CANADA.
In between, Jennifer, 38, who identifies as non-binary, spent most of those years dealing with complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a condition characterized by repeated traumas over an extended period of time, combined with a sense of helplessness that the trauma will never end.
“I felt like I had been in a state of fight or flight my whole life,” says Jennifer about life before seeking help. “I didn’t remember ever not feeling that way. I didn’t remember ever feeling carefree.”
Fiercely independent and a self-described introvert who never wanted to seek help from anyone, Jennifer instead turned to alcohol.
“Alcohol was the only thing that helped slow down my heart rate and get out of the chaotic place that was my brain. But it became clear to me that I was probably going to die unless I stopped.”
Meanwhile, Jennifer tried increasingly intense athletic endeavors. Rugby. Amateur boxing. Power-lifting competitions.
“I would sign up for feats of strength to prove I was OK.”
It was after winning one of those competitions that a profound feeling of emptiness washed over Jennifer.
“I had no feelings of accomplishment anymore. When it became clear to me that all that over-achieving wasn’t making the pain go away I just threw in the towel and slid right into drinking fulltime. I thought ‘I gave it my best shot. Almost 37 years. That’s a pretty good run I guess.’ I just thought I was broken – a defective human being – and it was all my fault. Overcome by a feeling of shame, that was when I smashed into rock bottom.”
But then something strange and wonderful happened to Jennifer, though it did not seem wonderful at the time.
“I was seized by a feral desperation to survive. I don’t know when exactly it happened, but there was a little voice inside of me that said ‘But I like living.’ With that came what would become the greatest gift of all: hope.”
Their journey of recovery began then and there. The first step – quitting alcohol.