Danielle Laidley has opened up about how she became hooked on drugs after trying them for the first time at 48.
Three years ago, Laidley, 56, was in the depths of an addiction to methamphetamine – also known as ice – and was in such a desperate state she considered ending it all.
Speaking exclusively with Daily Mail Australia ahead of the release of her Stan Originals documentary Revealed – Danielle Laidley: Two Tribes, the former AFL star opens up about her addiction battle and how she is able to maintain sobriety.
Laidley explains drugs were never part of her life growing up, but that changed when she began to experience gender dysphoria – the distress a person feels when their gender identity doesn’t match their physical body – and her mental health began to sharply decline.
But she was able to keep her drug use mostly under wraps, admitting it was a ‘surprising thing for a lot of family and friends’ given how she had been ‘so anti-drugs my whole life’.
The Stan Original documentary Revealed – Danielle Laidley: Two Tribes premieres September 19 only on Stan.
Laidley’s obsession with the AFL perhaps predicted her eventual drug problem.
She describes how she would become addicted to her work with the league, so when her career ended, she began to ‘retreat’ into bad habits.
‘I left the AFL – which was what helped keep me disciplined and balanced in my life. That was no longer there. So you have your weekends free for the first time in 35 years,’ Laidley adds.
‘You work nine to five, so there’s a lot more free time. And that free time ended up in self-sabotage.’
Dani Laidley (pictured) opened up to Daily Mail Australia about her drug addiction battle and how she now deals with staying clean today
Dani explains that drugs were never part of her life growing up until she found out about her gender dysphoria and her mental health began to decline. Pictured with her partner Donna Leckie (left)
The former North Melbourne coach admits the self-sabotage came on ‘very quickly in a short space of time’ and ‘escalated very, very quickly’.
In May 2020, Dani was arrested for stalking a woman, but was spared a conviction in November that year and placed on an adjourned undertaking instead.
She later pleaded guilty having been found with a quantity of methamphetamine stashed in her bra when an officer took her photo while being questioned.
A Victoria Police officer leaked photos to the media of Laidley in custody, which publicly outed her before she had the chance to come out to family and friends.
Nowadays, the thought or idea of relapse or drug use doesn’t cross Laidley’s mind.
‘I think when [my addiction] was made public, that was the most surprising thing for a lot of family and friends,’ Dani says. Pictured at the Brownlow in September 2022
An obsession with the AFL also masked a deep-seated issue with addiction. Dani got addicted to her work with the sport but when her career ended, she began to ‘retreat’. Pictured in 2022
‘Since that time, again, like I was for the rest of my life, [drug abuse] hasn’t been an issue,’ she says.
‘Because, generally, when you drink or [abuse] drugs, you do so because you’re unhappy for some reason. That, or you turn to what you’re good at.
‘For me, I was good at footy. But footy wasn’t there…
‘But since that time, you know, life’s great. And so it’s never ever been, and will never ever be, an issue again.’
Daily Mail Australia revealed earlier this week that Laidley’s daughters found out about her gender identity at the height of her addiction.
She admits in her Stan documentary her girls found out after she accidentally sent photos of herself to them in 2019.
Daily Mail Australia revealed earlier this week that Laidley’s daughters found out about her gender identity at the height of her addiction
The former West Coast Eagles star said her daughters cut off all contact with her following the incident. However, Dani and her son Kane continue to maintain a close relationship.
Speaking to Daily Mail Australia this week, Laidley was happy to reveal she has made some progress in reconnecting with her daughters.
‘It’s a slow burn,’ she says. ‘There was a lot of damage done because of what was in the papers, in the social media and how it was reported.
‘That certainly caused me and my children a lot of grief. There has been some reaching out from both sides, with my daughters.
‘But I’ve really come to the conclusion that it’s when they’re ready. It’s in their time.
‘Hopefully, I’ll continue to evolve as a as a person, as a parent. And we really look forward to that time. We hope it’s sooner rather than later.’
Dani Laidley (pictured in the Stan Original documentary Revealed – Danielle Laidley: Two Tribes) tells Daily Mail Australia that there has been progression with her daughters’ communication
Laidley also says she is ready to tell her story with her partner Donna Leckie by her side.
Leckie was a life-long friend of Laidley’s, and when she was at her lowest point, the two reconnected and began a romantic relationship.
‘I just know that our journey together is a great one,’ Laidley tells Daily Mail Australia.
Laidley shut down rumours of an engagement back in 2022 after she set tongues wagging with a giant diamond ring.
However, Laidley and Leckie continue to wear rings on their wedding fingers, and have admitted they discuss the idea of getting hitched.
‘We’ve spoken about [marriage] at times,’ Laidley says.
‘But we just enjoy us. And if we’re ever going to do it, the first person, the first people that would talk to, would be our family. There’s no right or wrong way.’
Dani (left) and her partner Donna Leckie (right) have discussed the idea of marriage
If a future wedding were to happen, Laidley says she’d love to have ‘a bigger occasion to bring together all the people that love us and support us’.
‘And if it was Donna, maybe barbecue out the back with our kids,’ she adds.
In her documentary, Laidley speaks bravely about her life as a closeted trans woman in the AFL, her arrest, and how she has found her true self over the past three years.
‘It’s with nervous anticipation that I share my story with Australia – it hasn’t been the easiest path, but I’ve made some treasured memories along the way, and met some incredible people,’ Dani says.
‘This story won’t pull any punches; you’ll see me at my lowest points and at my highest, surrounded by those whom I care about most who stood by me through it all.
‘My truth is becoming an increasingly common one in today’s society, and highlights the need for greater inclusivity, understanding and acceptance.’
If you, or someone you know would like to talk to someone confidentially about addiction, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit Reach Out. In an emergency, call 000.
The Stan documentary, which will premiere on September 19, navigates their paths forward in a critical twelve months under public scrutiny