From Dropout to Motivator (Part I)

“My thing I’m proudest of is that I chose to build my life rather than destroy it,” says Nicolas Legault. At 35, this young man had some difficult challenges to overcome before realizing that a positive, perseverant attitude would lead him not only to go back to school, but to excel.

By Sarah-Émile Nault

Originally from Gatineau, Nicolas had a good childhood. He played sports and dreamed of one day being an artist (his father was a guitarist) or a star hockey player. A good student, as a young boy he was very “anti-drug and anti-cigarette.”

He never imagined that one day he’d drop out of school, and even less that he’d tumble into addiction.

As the only sons of two parents without a diploma of any kind, Nicolas had no educational role models at home – like a big brother, for example – who could motivate him to continue his studies when his life turned dark.

In Freefall

It was at age 16, while in secondary 4, that he “began to drop out.” He recalls: “I was still at school, but I wasn’t motivated at all. I wasn’t interested. I started skipping classes; that had never happened before. I didn’t want to go to school any longer.”  

The trigger? He was being bullied at school. After talking about it with his parents, the trio decided that Nicolas would attend adult education school, where he could progress at his own pace and make new friends.

He never thought that he would make friends with older students who consumed drugs.

“I found them cool,” he says. “I went from being a little athlete to someone who was attracted to other types of people: drug addicts, but who were nice. Since I was no longer being bullied, I started thinking that the drugs weren’t a problem, it was being around mean bullies.”

Intrigued, Nicolas started smoking marijuana at age 17. His first time he used, the night ended with one of the best sleeps he’d ever had in his life. He started promoting pot use, to the point that he talked of nothing else.

“I was always high in class,” he recalls. “I listened to music, I slept at my desk and I never followed the course material. I smoked up before I played hockey, and since I scored more goals, that reinforced the idea that pot was really good for me.”

Nicolas in Cantley in 2009. Between two psychiatric hospitalizations, age 24, a drug abuser.

Feeding the Beast

He developed a negative attitude towards “the (capitalist) system” and the government. Nicolas admits he was becoming completely disconnected from reality.

When everything finally fell apart, he quit school and went on welfare. He worked a bit under the table, and of course, continued to use drugs. He was 18. Surrounded by toxic people who shared his disdain for “the system” as well as for school, he started smoking cigarettes, and “doing whatever.”

First seen in Reflet de Société, Vol. 29, no. 6, août (August) 2021, pages 22 – 23

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