Mum beat 100-pills-a-week drug addiction and sheds six stone by hitting the gym
A mum who beat her drug addiction by going to the gym has spoken out about the dangers of prescription pills, which she described as 'the devil'.
Alice Crilly, 35, from Belfast, Northern Ireland, took 100 tablets a week in the depths of her addiction, however she turned her life around by becoming a fitness fanatic.
She said drug-taking was a way for her to escape her problems, however she gave them up after doctors warned her of the potential damage she was doing to her body.
Alice said that since 2013, prescription drugs and cocaine were her vice and at points she was taking 50 lyrica tablets or 100 co-codamol a week.
But thanks to the support of her devoted family and the power of fitness, the mum-of-two has turned her back on drugs, shedding more than six stone and now wants to share her experiences to helps others out of the darkness.
She told Belfast Live : "I once heard addiction is like a big massive tornado, inside a tornado the core is so peaceful and quiet but outside it is causing havoc and wrecking everything in sight.
"The addict is in the core thinking everything is absolutely fine but causing absolute wreckage and havoc outside of their lives, this bubble they are in.
"When you come out of addiction into recovery, you realise the damage you have done, you see what you have done, what addiction has done, it is hard to get your head around it sometimes.
"The numbness, I don't like it anymore, I used to, now I love the feeling of being alive, I love being alive."
Alice, who now works in catering, first dabbled in drugs when she was 18 as an ex-boyfriend would take ecstasy and she was spending a lot of time with a crowd who were taking these drugs.
Despite having previously been completely against taking drugs, she started to feel out of place surrounded by others who were.
"I worked as a bar waitress and didn't go out much, I worked full time," she said.
"After the bar finished I would go to parties with the boyfriend at the time and that is when they were taking the Es and I did, I felt out of place.
"I felt, not peer pressure but you are in this crowd and they are all taking these drugs and you are just drinking and curiosity kills the cat.
"If anyone ever feels themselves in that position just don't give in, have your wee couple of drinks even but don't go into drugs, alcohol is a nightmare on its own, especially if you get an addiction, but if you are alright having a few drinks and a bit of banter, stay away from the drugs."
She stopped taking drugs when she became a mum but it was after a move to Derry in 2010 that addiction really took hold and she started taking meth, cocaine and prescription drugs.
Alice said she struggled with meth until 2014 and could get the drugs for £15 for a gram. In 2013 her addiction turned to prescription drugs which she called "the devil", in particular pregabalin.
"It is a pattern of dealing with my emotions, what I was feeling, I was self medicating," she said.
"I always thought I had control over taking tablets, I didn't think I had a problem, my family told me I had a problem but I didn't see that. That is addiction, it makes you feel like you are in control, when it has you you are not in control, addiction has you from the start, it makes you delusional.
"It is a mental health illness, people think you chose to be an addict but you don't, a lot of addicts try and escape from reality, numb themselves, they hate feeling what they are feeling and some don't make it and it's so sad.
"It was my way of escaping, I thought I had control over everything. I love my kids with all my heart but they suffered too in a way."
She added: "People did say the lyrica was a problem but I said it wasn't but it was. I was trying to convince myself that is wasn't, it played a big massive part in my addiction, it makes you lose all your inhibitions.
"You don't know what you are doing, you think what you are doing is right, you do all these things that people taking drugs would agree with but normal people who aren't addicts think it's disgusting, it is vile what you do.
"You think what you are doing is right, you are having the best craic, you think you are amazing.
"I have a picture of me and I look terrible but I thought I looked alright, normal, like I wasn't off my head but I was."
In February last year, she ended up in hospital after doctors raised concerns over the impact her addiction could have had on her liver.
This was a turning point for Alice who went 'cold turkey' and gave up drugs before seeing a counsellor.
It was at this point that she started going to Flex Gym in Ardoyne and started the fitness journey which has helped her kick addiction once and for all.
Since then she has lost six and a half stone, going from 15 stone 9 down to 9 stone 3 and has not looked back.
She started off doing cardio before lifting weights and gradually increasing how much she was lifting. Despite having gone to the gym in previous years, she said her addiction always got in the way.
"If you are going to try and train after taking tablets, it's not good, your heart rate just isn't right, you feel like you are going to die and it got in the way but I didn't know at the time," she said.
"I just stopped going to the gym, nothing lasts, you start things and can't finish them because addiction ruins your life. Addiction not only ruins your life, it ruins life for the ones around you, especially the ones you love. You don't realise the hurt you are doing.
"Addiction is like you are in cuffs, you can't move, addiction has control and addiction does what addiction does, it is like you have been possessed, you are trying to get out but you are trapped and people think it is you doing this stuff.
"Addiction plays a big part in your behaviour, things I did are unspeakable, I would never do them now, even thinking about it now is hard but I have forgiven myself for that.
"When I look back and see how far I have come in such a short space of time, I am so determined not to get there again, it is so scary."
Alice now is a member of GymCo at Cityside and was delighted to hit one of her goals in April this year, doing her own fitness photo shoot, a dream she had had for years.
Talking about how exercise changed her attitude, she said: "Alice was coming back and it was amazing. I still get anxiety and depression and times I want to cry in my room but I come here and train. If you find something you really love and you do this when you are feeling like that, it helps big time.
"Fitness is amazing for it, if people find painting helps that's brilliant but I would recommend fitness, it has helped a lot of people."
She added: "I feel like my old self, my bubbly self, people will tell you bubbly Alice is back. I can be quite annoying, I talk a lot but it's me and I tried to hide that all those years ago and I am never hiding her again, I don't care how much she annoys people.
"My kids play a massive huge part in it, they are the main reason and I get emotional talking about it. I just want to make them proud."
Alice urged others not to fall into the same traps she did and if they were battling addiction then to talk to someone and seek help.
She said drug taking was not glamorous and described mixing prescription drugs with alcohol as "a nightmare" and "concoction made from hell".
Alice said prescription drugs were a huge problem and that doctors needed to be careful when prescribing certain types after she was put on a prescription for anxiety.
As well as her prescription, she could also buy a pack of 14 online for £50 to ensure she had a constant supply between her doctors in Derry and Belfast.
She said the days she did not have any tablets left to take were the worst due to the withdrawals.
"I got into a bad crowd, I am not saying I was forced these tablets, I took them myself but when take your first tablet and get that first hit and someone is saying to you 'You should go to the doctor and say you have this' you do," she said.
"I did have bad anxiety, I have suffered with anxiety and depression throughout my life, with the two kids I had post-natal depression so I know what anxiety is like.
"I thought I will go to the doctor and do this and I will be able to take these tablets normally this is what I was telling myself, so the doctor started me on a low dosage for anxiety.
"The side effects are euphoria, you feel so mellow and in this bubble but it doesn't last for long and you end up going downhill very fast because you end up having to take more and more to get that feeling and it's not worth it.
"If I could listen to myself back then now, but I don't dwell on the past, I can't.
"Forgiveness is a big thing in addiction and recovery, you have to forgive yourself, if you keep beating yourself up you are going to end up going back to that same place and slipping back into the darkness."
Alice said she was slowly killing herself but is now completely clean and sober and doesn't even take pain killers for fear of slipping back into her old ways.
Addiction is an every day battle for the Belfast woman and said keeping herself busy and going to the gym gave her a new focus. She now gets her euphoria high at the gym and has a new-found confidence in herself.
"You fight addiction every day, every day is a fight and it's hard and you need to stay away from the people you were with," she said.
"Not every addict is a bad addict but some people do not want help but if you do you need to get away from those people.
"It got to the point, if you are taking your tablets by powder, if you are snorting them, if you are putting them into your drinks, your tea, you need help. That is what I was doing and it was awful.
"I am very lucky to be alive to be honest and I am worried for people out there because I know the dangers and what it can do. If it doesn't kill you it can do far worse."
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