Convocation: Addict gets clean, criminology degree

Dan Crepault overcame many obsticles to earn his criminology degree. He credits Carleton’s Enrichment Support Program (ESP) with supporting him through it all. (Photo provided by Dan Crepault)

When Dan Crepault wasn’t drunk, he was high. The rest of the time, he was both.

The troubled 16-year-old was also flunking out of school, stealing from his parents and dealing drugs – but using most of his own supply before it ever hit the street.

Think things couldn’t get any worse for Crepault? They did.

He was eventually arrested for vandalism and kicked out of his parents’ house.

“My life was going down the toilet … It wasn’t about having fun anymore, it was about (needing) to do (drugs and alcohol) because I couldn’t handle life sober,” says Crepault. “As a last favour, my parents offered to drive me to Harvest House (drug rehab centre). I accepted because I had no idea what else to do.

“It was the (opportunity) of a lifetime, even if I didn’t realize it at the time.”

Now seven years clean at age 23, Crepault is graduating with an honours bachelor’s degree in criminology at Carleton. In the next school year, he’ll be going for his master’s in legal studies and working as a teacher’s assistant.

It’s a remarkable story for the new criminologist who, for a long time, looked like he might end up on the other side of the law. He owes it all to Harvest House, he says.

“(I saw) the guys there that were in their 40s, 50s getting sober once again after their fourth or fifth time in treatment,” he says. “When they talked about their drug use at my age, it was the same kind of thing. I thought ‘that could be me,’ unless I did this thing right now.”

Crepault got into drugs at a young age. As the son of a pastor, he says he was always expected to set the example. That gave him a certain reputation among his peers. Add to that the fact that kids just didn’t understand him because of his more conservative upbringing: he didn’t like the same TV shows and he didn’t listen to the same bands.

Alcohol and pot, oddly enough, helped bridge the gap.

“I decided that was something I wanted to do,” he says, “and I was really caught up in wanting to be known for that.”

In his new life, Crepault is becoming known for something quite different: hard-work, perseverance and goodwill.

University life, at times, proved challenging for Crepault, part of the Enriched Support Program at Carleton while still living at the rehab centre. Though he earned his high school equivalency certificate before getting to Carleton, and learned all the important skills – from speed reading to memorization to note taking – he didn’t have much practice putting it all into action. It just meant he needed to put in a little extra elbow grease.

“It really made me appreciate it,” he says.

Ever since he entered Harvest House seven years ago, he has also volunteered for the organization – most recently as a court liaison. He’s also repaired his relationship with his parents, who will be there to cheer him on at his graduation in June.

Most importantly, Crepault is comfortable in his sobriety and his own skin. And it’s a message he’s passionately passing onto teens, showing them a promising future where they only see a dead end.

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Daniel Reid

By Daniel Reid

Whether it’s scientific breakthroughs, political manoeuvres or loaded technical jargon, Daniel Reid loves to untangle complex ideas to make them accessible to everyone. He is currently an editor at @newsrooms and is a former web editor at @CTVNews and homepage editor at @TheLoopCA. You can argue with him on Twitter at @ahatrack.

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