'Rehab Addict' 's Nicole Curtis on Hard Work, Heartbreak and Houses: 'I'm Not Hiding Anymore'

PEOPLE chats with the HGTV star about getting real in her memoir

“Sometimes I can rebuild a whole house but I can’t find my car keys,” says Rehab Addict’s Nicole Curtis.

Curtis may be a single mom of two, bonafide businesswoman and the star of a hit HGTV show, but the 40-year-old historic house junky has no shame admitting that she doesn’t always keep it together. “Women often want to know, ‘how do you balance?’” Curtis tells PEOPLE. “And I always respond very honestly that I don’t.”

In her new book, out October 18, Better Than New: Lessons I’ve Learned from Saving Old Homes (And How They Saved Me), Curtis recounts her “pretty incredible” life so far, including details from her extremely private second pregnancy. She’s currently locked in a custody battle over the 16-month-old boy, Harper, according to The Detroit News.

“It wasn’t anything strategic, it was just one of those moments where I was like this isn’t anyone else’s time and space, this is mine,” she says of her choice. “Having my newborn child’s face plastered all over social media on a Facebook post where someone could cut and paste it and make it a meme, that wasn’t for me.”

Curtis has come a long way since her first foray into the working world as a waitress at Hooters, but “it wasn’t easy.” Bad boyfriends, tough financial times and sacrifices for her older son, Ethan, 18, forced Curtis to learn many lessons the hard way — including when she broke the cardinal rule of buying a home with a significant other and didn’t list her name on the paperwork.

“I’ve made stupid mistakes with my heart just like everyone else does,” Curtis says of the distressing battle she had with an ex over the popular Rehab Addict project “Minnehaha House,” in Minnesota.

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But as a scrappy problem solver, the Detroit native always found a way to dust herself off and keep moving. “I always want to find that little life vest that pulls you out of the drowning water,” she says.

Curtis’s memoir may have been difficult for her to pen, as she boldly shares moments that show her at her weakest, but the star says she’s not afraid to give readers a look into who she really is. “It took me a long time to find this person that I am now,” she says. “I’m not hiding anymore.”

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