Tuesday, 25 November 2014 14:30

Fleury finds inner peace while helping others do the same

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Theo Fleury talks to a young fan at the Great Plains College Tuesday afternoon. Theo Fleury talks to a young fan at the Great Plains College Tuesday afternoon.

Theo Fleury sits down on the couch in a Medicine Hat office on a Monday afternoon. He looks calm, relaxed, someone at peace. It hasn't always been that way — as anyone who has read his first book, Playing with Fire, can attest.

When asked about a Toronto Star news story which talked about how many days he's not had any chemical dependence situations, he stops and smiles.
"Let me check," as he reaches into his jacket pocket for his Smartphone. "It's 3,354, it's essentially one day at a time. I don't think about the past and I don't think about the future either."
It's been quite a past: one of which has seen both complete and extreme opposite ends of the spectrum.
He was one of a few former players of convicted child molester Graham James who have spoken publicly of their terrifying and horrible situations while playing under the coach in major junior hockey. He suffered mental anguish and survived some well-documented harrowing experiences.
On the positive side, he is a Stanley Cup champ in 1989, played seven NHL all-star games, and earned gold medals from the Olympics, world juniors and Canada Cup.
But that isn't what Fleury is all about now. He wants to be known as someone who can help and that's why he's especially relaxed on his current leg of his travels promoting his latest literary effort, Conversations with a Rattlesnake. He toured Medicine Hat Nov. 24 and was in Swift Current at the Great Plains College Nov. 25. He signed autographs and copies of the book. When he stopped in at the Prairie Post office in Medicine Hat, he looked content.
"It's home, the prairies are home. People here have incredible values and are known for hard work," says Fleury who was born in Oxbow, Sask., but lived much of his young life in Russell Man. "It just shows people how far you can from and still make a difference ... to use your own story to inspire people."
Where Playing with Fire is a frank and brutally honest documentation of his life growing up, what he went through with James and the highs and lows of his professional hockey career, Conversations with a Rattlesnake is about Fleury dealing with the pain and learning to let it go and help others. He teamed with occupational therapist Kim Barthel, whom Fleury met at a conference they were at in Nanaimo. Fleury says they developed instant chemistry and he felt very comfortable talking to her.
"Kim is so incredibly amazing, so incredible in reading people ... I invited her to Calgary and we talked for what seemed like 72 hours straight," explains Fleury, adding matter-of-factly, "We just sat around my kitchen table and after that I understood myself better than I had my whole life. It took away all the pain and guilt.
"It sort of evolved. When I originally wrote (Playing with Fire) I figured I'd move on with the rest of my life."
When he and Barthel decided to co-author a book, they weren't sure how it was going to go.

"We didn't know how it was going to look. We just wanted it to be from a scientific and therapeutic perspective ... originally we thought about answering a lot of questions and then it kind of evolved out of the conversations we had was to (make it a conversational book).
"I've never done anything in life normal."
Each of the 11 chapters are set up with a theme such as "It's Not My Fault"; "Relentless Positivity"; "Shame Revisits" and "Helping is Healing." It's free-flowing conversation.
The title of the second effort comes from the fact that snakes are symbolic of inner demons everyone faces, but the snake can also shed its old skin and is symbolic of renewal. Conversations about renewal with a person who is considered safe whom Fleury has an unbelievable undeniable faith and trust in — Barthel.
However, the rattlesnake is also a homage to the rattlesnakes which occupy the deserts around Santa Fe New Mexico where Fleury held a gun to his mouth and almost pulled the trigger. Fleury threw the gun away in the desert.
"It allows people into the therapy sessions; I was freaked out about the stuff with the therapy, it's a bit scary but we wanted to lay it out there," he explains.
From his first book and from his limited time he's been touring with his second, Fleury is amazed at the reaction he's been receiving. At a Toronto law enforcement conference regarding High Risk Behaviours, originally scheduled for 20 officers, Fleury's talk ended up being moved to a theatre for the suddenly 200 people who showed up.
"It was so incredibly amazing," he says.
He is also getting a lot of people coming up to him and sharing with him their own stories of abuse and trauma.
"I had to learn not to attach too much emotion into each case," explains Fleury who says through all of his past dealings he is able to filter and process data and experiences very quickly. "The relief I get from learning and helping people is why I get up in the morning every day.
"It's so rewarding and I take time to process it all."
Fleury says he is only realizing now, how many people have been effected or who he has helped inspire to get the necessary help they needed to begin the healing process.
Fleury says all of the guilt and pain he suffered from the trauma of the sexual abuse he endured as a teenager, not to mention the great success he enjoyed as a hockey player is like "another life, a lifetime ago" for him now. He's been involved in different ventures, including some singing and songwriting. However the focus now is helping others which he feels very blessed to be doing.
He feels there was a reason why he and Barthel met and it was force guiding them.

"Spirituality is believing in something greater than what we are, whatever that is for you ... your spirituality should guide you," Fleury explains. "I don't understand all religions, but I do understand religions as being about relationships and from that I do know we're here to connect to people ... I get energy from the people I meet.
"(I) have to ask: did I leave this place better than when I found it ... we have a long ways to go."

Read 2716 times Last modified on Wednesday, 26 November 2014 15:34
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