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This fall marks two years of my sobriety. Sobriety is important to me for many reasons. It has helped me to take on many challenges and goals in life that I would never be able to do if I were still living an unhealthy lifestyle of drinking to excess. They say that in order to quit you must do it for yourself and no one else but I am staying sober for my children too so that I can hopefully break the generational cycle of addiction in my family.

I started drinking when I was 12 years old. The first time I got drunk was on my papa’s bootlegging supply. Me and two friends and a mickey of five-star whisky (which really should have been named zero star). Today, both my children are past the age I was when I first started drinking and I can proudly say that both of them understand that drinking can be dangerous and bad for your health and for that I am thankful. They see me on the “red road” and will hopefully follow. Children copy everything that we do.

It might feel like you don’t know that person anymore when they are deep into their addictions. When someone is highly intoxicated it’s as if something has taken over their body, mind and spirit and propels them to do things they would never do. I’ve been there too and did things I regret when I was heavily under the influence. Waking up feeling ashamed and full of regret, asking friends what happened and cringing when hearing about how I acted. Why do you think when people wake up in the morning after a night of heavy drinking and they can’t remember a thing? “Blacked out drunk” is what they call it. That was normal lingo in my vocabulary growing up but it’s not normal.

I strongly believe that addiction is a source of darkness that comes in many forms. “Pick your poison” as they say. Whisky, vodka, gin, beer, mouthwash, heroin, crack-cocaine, marijuana, tobacco, molly’s, benzo’s, fentanyl, meth, Tylenol 3’s, sex, gambling, gaming, shopping, food, yes food! Anything can be bad for you if you consume too much of it and if you do it long enough over extended periods of time. Anything can become an addiction.

I have this alcohol-based hand sanitizer now that I carry with me to protect myself from Covid. It smells like Crown Royal whisky and I nearly gag every time I put it on. The smell brings me back to a time when I was a teenager camping out on the rocks at Tin Can Hill partying with friends. Someone had the bright idea to mix Crown Royal with Gatorade and I drank way too much of it. All the different colorful flavors mixed together in my water bottle came up that night in my sleeping bag and I woke up in a puke soaked sweat. I swore after that I’d never drink whisky again, until the next time that is. So even if it makes us “sick as a dog” needing the “hair of the dog,” it’s not that easy to kick especially if all our friends are out every weekend doing it too.

With sobriety you get to be in charge of your life again. The one life that the Creator gave you to do something great with. We all have a purpose but it’s hard to find that purpose when we are lost. Sobriety gives you the opportunity to see the world in a new light. To appreciate the small things. Not to say that sobriety is easy, it’s not, but it’s a whole lot easier than being trapped in a cycle of addiction where every day melds into the next and you’re just stumbling through life with no direction or guidance. Sobriety gives us freedom, hope, respect and love.

Columnist Catherine Lafferty writes that coffee is her only vice as she celebrates two years on the red road. photo courtesy of Catherine Lafferty

 

If addiction is a darkness, then what is the one thing that can drive out the darkness? Light. Light is love. So if you have a loved one that is struggling with addictions or if you yourself are struggling just do yourself a favour and try to put aside your own ego and be compassionate and understanding. With that being said however, sometimes you might not be able to stay in a relationship if you are with an addict because it’s too toxic. You might have to let them go and hope that they find their way and send them love from afar so that you can protect yourself and your children. 

Sometimes by staying in a relationship with an addict you are only enabling them to further harm themselves and others around them that love them. Maybe they aren’t doing it to hurt anyone, but just because someone is not intentionally trying to hurt anyone doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences to their actions. A stone tossed in the water creates a ripple effect every time.

Most serious addictions stem from some sort of trauma that has been suppressed. Those suffering from addictions often need to seek help for their sufferings in order to move forward and break their addictive lifestyle. It’s not a bad thing to try to reach out for help. It doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you. It just means that you can’t do it on your own and that’s the first step to recovery, admitting that you have a problem.

Sometimes people think they can quit on their own but when an addiction is so entrenched in our lives, it has an even stronger grip on a person’s soul and it won’t let go that easily. You can think of addiction as a leech that sticks onto your skin after swimming in muddy waters. It literally sucks the life out of you and grows and grows until you put salt on it and watch it wither, die and fall off. Only then can the healing process begin.

A person might need the entire community to gather around them to help them to break free of their addiction. Which is why it’s important that more and more people in our communities become healthy so that we can stop the cycles of addiction, to help raise each other up and be there for one another in good ways. We are stronger together when we are living healthy lives free of addiction.

For my cousin Kelly Washie.

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  1. Thanks so much for sharing this reality ! I can relate to the sleeping bag barf. My cocktail was vodka and grape koolaid. I have wondered at times how I survived those “parties”. Women are incredibly vulnerable at those times and I recall friends saving me from a predator. And not always Being successful. I’m also keenly aware that as a White Settler, I’ve had access to supports that are not always accessible to Indigenous peoples because of systemic racism and ongoing violence… layers of colonialism and racism compound in recovery efforts. Indigenous people in recovery are incredible (s)hero’s!!
    I have So Much respect
    Laurie