A lot can happen in two years when you’re living below the poverty line and owe creditors way more money than you earn.
Struggling with mounting debts, mental illness, relationship issues and a family breakdown is enough to break anyone’s spirit. But for Allan, two years is what it took for him to hit absolute rock bottom and arise to achieve an inspirational recovery.
The father-of-two from Broadmeadows Victoria featured in series two of Struggle Street, which aired on SBS in late 2017. When the series finished filming back in 2016, Allan had just been diagnosed with schizophrenia, anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). His healthcare benefits were slashed making his medication financially out of reach. Allan had also racked up over $4,000 worth of traffic fines and owed around $30,000 to financial agencies: a figure resulting from a combination of bad pay-day loans and interest from failed payments.
“Do you remember how I started my own landscaping business in the show?” he says, recalling where life was in 2016. “Well I had to sell the business. Everything just got too much. The bills got too much.”
In 2017, Allan’s ex-partner moved back to Cook Islands with their two children who he says he has has not seen since the split.
“I felt as if I couldn’t run the business without the kids being around,” he says. “Every time I touched my landscaping equipment, I could see the kids. I’d wake up every morning and start to call out ‘hey – where are you?’ before realising that they weren’t living with me anymore. They were everything to me.” Allan says he stopped working and started drinking heavily to numb the pain.
Around three months later, Allan scored a job as a nightclub security guard. Watching people engaging in nightly drunk and disorderly behaviour, Allan realised he had a choice: to continue to drink and give up on life, or start believing that things could work out for him. “I could see myself being an idiot and crazy. But I also knew I could be a sober person. I thought ‘I don’t need to drink to have fun’.”
Allan stopped drinking to excess and decided to put his energies into setting up a business installing car audio systems in cars and on bicycles. “I thought to myself ‘I can do this’. No one else in Australia has thought of this idea – it can be done.”
He started the car systems company, Sirens Kings and began working casually as an extra in television commercials. “My goal now is to become an actor and [grow] King of Sirens as a business on the side.
Right now, I’m feeling positive about life. I have my family, friends, co-workers and the community. Everyone loves me. I feel better and happier
“I’m still living in Broadmeadows. But if I do get more successful, then I can actually buy a house somewhere else where there’s peace and quiet.”
Allan has two other regular jobs: he works part-time as a TMA (truck mounted attenuator) driver and road traffic controller. “I work Monday to Friday – I leave home to go to work around 4.30am and don’t get home until around 8pm. The money is kicking in. I get good pay [by working all my jobs] and I am trying to pay off all of my debts.
“I’ve also got good news about my [road and car] fines – they were waived by the courts about a month ago.
“Right now, I’m feeling positive about life. I have my family, friends, co-workers and the community. Everyone loves me. I feel better and happier.”
Allan tells SBS that in two months, he will fly to Cook Islands to see his children for the first time since they went overseas.
And he is in much better health. His OCD is successfully being managed by medication and the condition has been stable for over a year now. “I’ve also lost so much weight. I’ve been going to the gym trying to be healthy and look good. [Two years ago], I weighed 165 kilograms but now I am about 120 kilos.
“I’m pretty strong physically and mentally I guess. I can handle the punches. But my message for people who are coping with struggles in their life is, keep pushing yourself no matter what. You’ve got to keep pushing through the hurdles and you will be fine.
“Think positively. Never let go: just keep moving forward and always be around your community. Hold onto your family support, see your doctors and support workers regularly. And always be true to yourself.”
Those seeking support should contact:
Lifeline 13 11 14
Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636
All six episodes of Struggle Street series two are available to view on SBS On Demand.
Struggle Street series two is produced by KEO Films with funding support from Screen Australia and Film Victoria.