Today I have woken up in much reflection and as I'm writing this, I do so in hopes to reach readers in a positive way through sharing about some of my experiences. I know that not everyone who reads this will make it through the whole thing and that's okay but my hopes is that some people are able to take something tangible away from doing so. Out of respect I want to also advise a trigger warning to anybody who is in recovery and grieving.
As I opened my eyes this morning, I am currently laying in a bed located in the housing of where I am staying while on tour with the Going M.I.L.E.S. Youth Conference in Deer Lake First Nation, Ontario, Canada. One of the first things I have done today is open the blinds to let the sunshine in and have opened the window to breathe in some fresh air. Today I am grateful for the life I am able to live, the friends and family who have remained a part of it and for continuing to love myself by committing to my sobriety.
While on tour in the community we were in previous to this one, we were witness to how severe addiction and alcoholism was there. A frontline worker in the community provided a statistic that the rate of addiction there was 95% and throughout the week we heard several cries for help which we did our best to assist with. During our visit there, we worked with a group of their youth who were absolutely wonderful and knowing that they felt empowered by the end of our time there was rewarding in so many ways.
We had left there yesterday and during our travels, I found myself reflecting on how the week had went and how Gitchi Manidoo (The Great Spirit) had put me there alongside such an incredible team so we could help initiate hope together. Even in the trenches of addiction in a remote community, there was still a light shown there and we saw it through their future generations. This also served as a reminder of why it is so important to support their voices and to create safe spaces for them to thrive. I was also in reflection of how this all took place leading up to today and how on this day in 2012, I chose to make a life changing commitment to loving myself and creating a better way of life for myself.
On March 18th, 2012, I decided to “Put the plug in the jug” as my dad would say and to also throw out the unused needles I had in my room. Thinking about this makes me reflect on how far I've come, the experiences that I've had, the people that have come and gone, the self growth I have had throughout the years and why I do the work that I do. Today I continue to be grateful to have made this decision for myself and to have nurtured self love and acceptance throughout the years. Reading back on my blog post from 2021 makes this even more so.
Throughout my sobriety, I've learned that trauma is the underlying root of alcoholism and addiction. In 2018 when my mother passed away at the age of 55, I found myself in a pit of despair, feeling numb and not knowing where to go next. There had been a place where I thought of drinking again but knew where that would lead and didn't want to re-open that door for myself ever again. I instead reached out for help and put myself into therapy. I've also reflected on how I had gotten into a relationship shortly after her passing with someone who I spent 2 years with and eventually it ended.
When it ended, it was like I was grieving all over again which lead to panic attacks for the first time in my life, several moments of anger, rage, sadness and depression and ultimately feeling alone, disregarded and helpless. I found myself falling back into a pattern of dating women who were abusive to me and also discovering a new issue which was trying to fill the emptiness I had inside from the loss of my mother with another feminine energy. This made me more self aware that I was actually struggling with some co-dependency issues connected to the loss of my mom and that wound that was there before became deeper.
Through therapy, I was able to better understand grieving, the loss of a parent, how certain things in my childhood affected me and how experiences in high school affected me as well. Now I've been able to heal and make that a priority for myself. My point in sharing this is that as a man we often keep our emotions bottled up and never want to appear weak in anyway. Toxic masculinity is prevalent in the western colonial society that we live in and is a main reason on why men won't ask for help. I'm grateful to have challenged that and to have made my sobriety and becoming the best version of me my biggest priorities. Gaining the emotional maturity that I have today really puts a lot of things into perspective as well in regards to what I will and will not settle for.
Getting sober was a personal choice and I'm grateful that I chose to do so when I did. Drinking and drugging while suppressing my emotions wasn't acceptable anymore and I wanted to change for the better. Many people who are older than me often question why I quit when I did and the best answer I can come up with is that I wanted to live. I am a bi-racial Indigenous man who is 30 years old, going on 31, and if we look at statistics I'm not supposed to be here. One of my biggest hopes in life is to empower and motivate others to live a better life for themselves.
Meeting other sober people has allowed me to feel supported in this decision that I've made for myself and if I'm being honest, I'm thankful to have created a whole new circle of friends. My personal opinion in regards to friendship is that a friend will take a bottle, needle or drug away from you versus give you them. Otherwise they are simply an enabler who is finding comfort in using with you and when that ends, they may or may not disappear afterwards.
When I was using, I didn't have the best relationship with my family. Today, I am grateful to be healthier version of myself and to have a loving, supportive and strong relationship with my family. I also hold a responsibility now that I am very grateful for which is being an uncle and my nephew has been such a beautiful gift from Gitchi Manidoo (The Great Spirit) to our family. My father, my brothers, my nephew, my other family members, they all give me purpose to continue living and motivate me to continue walking the red road.
Today marks 11 years of sobriety but if I've learned anything throughout this time it is that from moment to moment we commit to loving ourselves more and more. It had to start somewhere and I'm grateful that I've been able to continue. Here's to self love and to living mino-bimaadiziwin, the good life.