Roads to addictions recovery celebrated at 6th annual breakfast

MANITOWANING— Manitoulin Community Withdrawal Management Services hosted the sixth annual Recovery Breakfast at the Assiginack Curling Club. It was a morning of celebration; celebrating each step along the road to addictions recovery.

Master of ceremonies for the breakfast Constable Al Boyd welcomed everyone to the breakfast and spoke about how the event started.

“We wanted to hold an event to celebrate the accomplishment of overcoming addictions,” said Constable Boyd. “It was important for individuals to share their recovery stories and celebrate with the various service support organizations on Manitoulin.”

“This breakfast is a wonderful event and one I always look forward to,” continued Constable Boyd. “It is a morning of inspiration and hope.”

The first speaker was Matthew Conroy from M’Chigeeng.

“Recovery is about getting better, feeling better and passing it on,” started Mr. Conroy, “and learning to stop the circle of addiction.”

“I grew up in a good family who gave me everything, but I still wasn’t able to escape addiction,” said Mr. Conroy. “It doesn’t matter where you come from, addiction can still find you.”

Mr. Conroy said that by Grade 6 he had already had his first drink and by Grade 8 he had been hospitalized with alcohol poisoning. He explained that he was adopted and that his adopted parents had tried to tell him that he was Anishinaabek, but he hadn’t wanted to acknowledge it.

“I didn’t realize it until I was on my path to recovery, but growing up there was a conflict in me,” said Mr. Conroy.  “There was a voice inside me that said always said ‘you don’t even know who you are.’ At the time, I just said back ‘I don’t give a shit, I’m just going to party.’ So I chose to use drugs and alcohol and not face what I was feeling deep down.”

“I remember going to a museum with my mom and looking at a painting of a chief and saying to her ‘I wish I was an Indian’ and my mom cried,” Mr. Conroy shared. “I really didn’t come to grips with being Anishinaabek until my recovery.”

He said that when he finally embraced being First Nations he was like a ‘Hollywood Indian.’

“During my recovery I learned that there was a lot more to being Anishinaabek,”  he said. “The belief in the Creator changed my life. Life is life through its ups and down. The little ones, our children, are what make life worth living; caring for children and the future generations.”

“I have learned along my path of recovery that it doesn’t matter how many clean days you have, it’s all recovery, it’s all learning to live a better life,” Mr. Conroy continued. “Recovery isn’t a straight line. I have learned that relapse is not a failure, it’s simply part of the process and every day of sobriety is an accomplishment that no one can take away from you.”

Lorelai Trudeau was the next guest speaker. She said that she was nervous to speak in front of the large group but wanted to share her recovery story.

“My journey has been rough at times, but 2015 has been a great year for me,” said Ms. Trudeau. “I have been trying to hard to change my life around.”

“I was tired of feeling the way I felt and thinking the way I thought and I was never at peace with myself during my battle, always getting into trouble,” she added. “Fifteen years ago I wanted to become a police officer, but I made a decision that changed that. I was arrested, but I was happy I was going to jail because I wanted to dry up and get clean. I had a plan to get high and drunk on New Years, but I got arrested and instead I was able to start a program the next day and start my path to recovery.”

“I had gotten tired of making bad choices and I started working the program,” Ms. Trudeau continued. “I made a promise to myself for me and my children to get better.”

Ms. Trudeau said that she had a lot of relapses along her path and that she always beat herself up.

“I was so tired of it, I didn’t want to hurt myself anymore,” Ms. Trudeau said. “I am happy to see people today that I use to make bad decisions with here today also on the recovery path. I am so proud of myself for making a change. My children are proud of me too. My recovery is a job for me every day, but the payout is the peace I feel inside.”

The Recovery Breakfast keynote speaker was Jim Fox.  “It is really nice to see a full house,” began Mr. Fox. “Sometimes when you are on this journey you feel so alone, it is nice to know you can turn to anyone here.”

“My story would take a lifetime to tell, but I will share some of it today,” he said. “My journey goes back to growing up in Wikwemikong. I was raised by my mom. My dad was always busy in the bush cutting wood, but he taught me about providing for your family and responsibility.”

Mr. Fox explained that his mother worked for the church and that he suffered from abuse from someone at the church growing up but had no one to turn to.

“My mom said ‘those people wouldn’t do that to you’ and my friends were going through the same thing,” said Mr. Fox. “I had no one to turn to and it really ate me up inside.”

When he was high school age, Mr. Fox and his family moved to Sudbury and he eventually became a dad at 17 and dropped out of school to care for his new family.

“I was looking for comfort,” he said. “I quit school and got a job because I wasn’t going to be responsible and provide for my family like my dad.”

“It didn’t take long for me to start drinking,” said Mr. Fox. “I wasn’t looking for the party, I was the party. I always had jobs, but they didn’t last. I eventually started being sick and I started to get cleaned up. I had been doing a lot of marijuana and coke and drinking. I went to see a medicine man who helped me get back to the traditional way of living. This past July 6 marked by 23rd year of sobriety. I went through a lot of challenges, but I learned as long as we are nice to one another and you look to your family for support, others will always be there for you when it comes down to it.”

Mr. Fox has worked as an addictions counsellor and is currently the cultural coordinator for Kina Gbezhgomi Child and Family Services.