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“In my life, I have never not been rewarded for working hard,” he said, “and I sort of made a pact to myself that no matter what happened in my life, I would never allow anybody to outwork me, ever.”
That hard work is what earned him his illustrious hockey career, and is also what brought him back after years of alcohol and drug abuse. In his hour-long speech Fleury recounted his journey from finding solace in his first six-pack of beer, through leaving the NHL for a several month-long bender, considering suicide, and the moment when he left it all in God’s hands to cure his addictions. He hasn’t had a drink since that day, September 18, 2005.
He has since written an autobiography called Playing With Fire, that revealed his abandonment issues from his childhood, as well as the sexual abuse by his former coach Graham James. Fleury has gone on to become an advocate for sexual abuse victims, what he calls the “biggest epidemic in the world”, as well as a public speaker at events like this one.
His message is both one of hard work and honesty. As a young hockey player carrying a secret of sadness and loneliness, he always felt like he had to keep it to himself, until he no longer could.
“You need to get honest, because if you tell a lie, guess what? That lie has to last the rest of your life,” he admitted. “But if you tell the truth? You say, ‘I’m sorry, I’m trying to become a better person’ and you move on. It’s over and done with.”
It took getting sober for him to realize who his true friends are, and whether he actually needs them. That may even exclude family, as anyone who doesn’t have his best interest in mind is out of his inner circle.
“I don’t care what you think about me,” he told the crowd, “I know who I am, I know where I’ve been, and I certainly know where I’m going. For many, many years I didn’t take care of myself, and now I’m taking care of myself. If I don’t take care of myself, I’m useless to every single person around me.”
He finished his talk by thanking the Aboriginal community for taking him in, and teaching him about what’s important in life. He’s now taking the opportunities he’s been given to share that message, like he did today in Fort St. John.
He was met with a standing ovation.
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