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For National Addictions Awareness Week, I thought I’d write about my sobering up.

Bad Bob and I were having a cool one at my dad’s talking about the pros and cons of quitting drinking when our friend Old Blue pulled up in a cloud of smoke and said, “Wanna come help me cut up some caribou?”

I was just going to say no when he said, “I’ve got a couple dozen, so we won’t get thirsty.” The stars were aligned! I pumped my fist and said, “Let’s go!”

We pulled up to Blue’s apartment building talking excitedly about practicing our culture. Pointing to a vehicle Blue said, “this belongs to a redneck who’s always giving me a hard time. I think it’s because I’m native.”

After we downed the first dozen beers, Blue said we should cut up the meat. By now we were all feeling our oats and we enthusiastically went to it.

Of course, we had to drink another six beers. Blue was having a quick power nap when Bad Bob started talking about the redneck neighbour giving Blue a hard time. Pretty soon he talked himself into slashing the guy’s tires.

I went with him, “so he wouldn’t hurt himself.” Bob barely touched the tire and it just exploded. We ran back in laughing and giggling. Blue woke up not knowing what Bob had done.

The RCMP showed up and Blue began arguing with them when they said someone from the apartment had slashed a tire. Blue was adamant we were cutting up meat and had not gone outside.

The RCMP left with one of our knives and Blue was bragging about how he backed them down. Bob admitted he slashed the tire after Blue got his knife back from the RCMP. They had said it didn’t match the slashed tire, but they still thought he was guilty. Blue turned pale and started puking.

 

Rehabilitation

Soon after that, Blue went into rehab and stopped drinking. Then a cousin got sober too. Several months later, my body was feeling weak because I had been drinking pretty well every day for about a year. I signed up to go into treatment.

The Saturday before I went in, I bought a mickey and nursed it until Monday morning when I checked into the rehab centre. I was vibrating so much my hands were shaking. Sound familiar?

But, whoa … two guys I knew were also taking the program and one of them was vibrating too. Woohoo, I felt right at home.

Nicole McIntosh was facilitating the treatment program and thank God she was very understanding. I guess we weren’t the first people who showed up vibrating. Eschia!

By Sunday, my shakes were gone, and I was feeling good enough to go to church. I had stopped praying when my drinking got really bad. It felt strange because I hadn’t done anything sober for so long, but it was good.

That week everything Nicole was talking about in our sessions started to make sense. I looked at the charts and I knew I was an alcoholic. I thought maybe I’ll stay sober for a while when I get out. Saying I quit for good was overwhelming; plus, I didn’t know if I wanted to quit for good.

 

Stay away from temptation

Nicole said to stay away from temptation and from people I had partied with when I got out, so that’s what I did. I told my family and friends that I wasn’t drinking for a while, and I didn’t hang out with them or go to bars or to parties.

My dad had gone into rehab a month after me and stayed sober, and my mom never drank in her life, so I had three safe places without booze: home, my mom’s and my dad’s. Those were pretty well the only places I went for quite a while.

I stayed busy because I wanted to go to university, where I knew I’d have to write papers, so I learned how to type and practiced typing for hours in the evenings.

I also went to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings for a long time. When I first started, I was so scared about being asked to speak that I would sink down into my chair hoping the chairman wouldn’t notice me.

When I spoke, I would mumble and fumble for about two minutes max and sat down drenched in sweat.

About four months AT (After Treatment), I went to the Range to see who was at the jam session. I sat with my cousin and he said, “What are you doing in here? You don’t drink.” I said, “You’re right.” I walked out and never went back for years.

One day Bad Bob told me Old Blue was drinking. It made me really sad because Blue had been an inspiration for me going to treatment. Blue ended up drinking for a year then quit for good.

Blue later said he went to play in the jam session, and no temptation. He went a couple more times and no problem. The fourth time, he was sitting at a table and he suddenly grabbed somebody’s drink and downed it.

It was totally out of the blue he said. Pun intended! Hahahaha.

Let me tell you, I’m eternally grateful that my cousin asked me what I was doing in the bar when I went there, because if I would’ve had a drink I don’t know if I’d be alive today. That’s how bad my drinking had become.

And I went from not being able to hold a job to attaining two degrees and becoming a lawyer, an MLA and a mental health counsellor.

Yes indeed, today “life is grand” and I thank Nicole McIntosh from the bottom of my heart for helping me to sober up 35 years ago.

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Roy Erasmus

Roy Erasmus Sr. Is a certified wellness counsellor who survived heart disease and a former member of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories.

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