One Calgary man’s story overcoming tragedy and addiction
June 23, 1995 was a turning point in the life of Curtis Boudreau.
At age 21, Boudreau wanted to be an entrepreneur, marry his long-time girlfriend, make a million dollars, then retire and live the good life.
Those dreams shattered when, while working in rural North Dakota running GPS survey equipment, a car going at more than 100 km/h hit the side of his car in an intersection.
Boudreau broke his first two vertebrae, had a ruptured spleen, multiple broken ribs, a punctured lung, and severe brain damage. The doctors took a look at his injuries and thought he wouldn’t make it.
Yet, against all odds, he slowly recovered. But he says he doesn’t remember much of it.
“I guess I had been awake and talking for two weeks, but I was unconscious,” he says.
After being deemed healthy enough for travel, he went back to his native Calgary, much to the relief of his girlfriend at the time. However, the doctors advised him not to go back to work.
Boudreau didn’t listen, and went on to get a business diploma from Mount Royal University, and graduated with honours. No one expected him to get a diploma after having a brain injury. He went on to find a job at the Royal Bank of Canada.
Then he proposed to his girlfriend, knowing that she was the one after she stuck with him through the ups and the downs of his affliction. It was all going great.
Photo courtesy of: Curtis Boudreau
That is, until she broke up with him. He says he believes she did so because of his brain injury.
The heartbreak made him turn to alcohol and partying. He was constantly getting drunk, while still attending therapy and working full-time.
When alcohol wasn’t enough, he turned to ecstasy and later cocaine. Soon, he was mixing everything together on a regular basis.
“I was getting wasted,” he says.
He then quit his full-time job, spent 15 months working on his recovery from the accident, and then took up a part-time job at a different bank. All while drinking and getting his fix regularly.
His insurance settlement from the accident was taken away because of his addiction. His job gave him temporary disability benefits, later to become a long-term disability request, and the bank didn’t even know what was wrong with him.
This was Boudreau’s life for nine long years.
“At 30, I hit bottom,” he says.
On April 5th, 2005, he went to detox. On May 19th of that year, he had some alcohol and cocaine as “a test” and did not enjoy himself. He’s been sober since May 20th.
He says that’s when he realized that he needed to take care of himself.
“In ’12 steps’ they tell you there are three outcomes (to addiction): jail, institution, or death,” he says. He didn’t want it to end in any of the three.
Boudreau, now 37 years old, is the president of SMART (Self Management and Recovery Training) Recovery Alberta, a privately-funded non-profit program that started in Mentor, Ohio, that helps with the “mental and emotional” aspects of recovering from an addiction.
He also facilitates SMART meetings, talking to those who are going through the process of getting clean. “I don’t give them advice,” he says. “I tell them what I did — what worked and what didn’t work.”
“I lost everything, and that’s something they can relate to,” Boudreau says.
Recently, Boudreau hit his 80th month clean. Still, he goes through 30 minutes to three hours of recovery management every day; he still attends Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings, visits his physician regularly to help him recuperate physically, and goes to a psychologist to guide him through his recovery.
He says he went through what he did because he didn’t have any ways to cope with his problems. Getting wasted was his method. Now he says he has all the doctors he attends, SMART, his church, NA, his career, and his family are there to help him deal with any problems he may have.
“What we teach about is empowerment,” he says. “(Recovery) is up to you. I love to see the light bulb light up when people realize ‘I can do this.’”
“It takes work,” he says. “My best days when I was using don’t even compare to my worst days while being clean.”
However, Boudreau says he doesn’t regret anything he went through.
“I needed to go through what I went through to be the person I am today,” he says.
“I feel like a real person. I’m becoming a whole human being.”
Correction: The article has been updated to correct information about Boudreau’s time in detox. The article originally said that he went into detox twice when in fact he only went once. We apologize for the error.