TORONTO -- Canadians across the country know 38-year old Jennifer Crawford as the wildly creative winner of last year’s MasterChef Canada competition, but the joyful exuberance exhibited during the show was a rather new experience for Crawford after years of trauma.

Crawford, who identifies as non-binary and uses the pronouns they or them, still isn’t comfortable sharing the details of the trauma that caused their Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Instead, Crawford simply told CTV News Toronto that “I wouldn’t wish that kind of misery that I was in on anyone.”

Jennifer Crawford

Crawford said fear filled every moment and stole energy and imagination away from creative pursuits such as cooking.

“Even going to sleep was the scariest threat of all because the nightmares that come with PTSD are truly horrifying.”

PTSD is characterized by long periods of repeated trauma, accompanied by a sense of helplessness and a fear that the trauma will never end.

Crawford said that their journey to recovery began by dealing with alcohol dependency.

“I will be two years sober on February 5th,” Crawford noted. “And it’s the single greatest thing that I have ever done for myself”

Crawford decided to take a trauma treatment program at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). It was an intensive program, held three to four hours a day, four days a week for nine weeks. It included both group and individual therapy. But, buoyed by the success of quitting alcohol for six months, Crawford went in with confidence.

“Sobriety saved my life and then the trauma treatment program gave me the tools to build a completely new, startlingly amazing life.”

That new life includes a move back to Nova Scotia, where Crawford and their partner have bought their dream home, purchased with the money won in MasterChef Canada. Crawford is also making plans to open a catering business.

It was just a matter of weeks between the end of Crawford’s treatment at CAMH and entering the MasterChef competition.

Crawford marvelled at how quickly life can change, which is why they wanted to tell their story—even if it is difficult—to inspire others who may also be struggling.

“Hearing other people’s stories, who had been through it and made it to the other side, that made me feel like that was possible for me too.”