Sheguiandah First Nation walks in support of addictions awareness

SHEGUIANDAH FIRST NATION—A large group of Sheguiandah First Nation community members, despite the inclement weather on Friday afternoon, walked proudly from the community’s recreation centre to the community centre to recognize National Aboriginal Addictions Awareness Week.

Jim Fox, Sheguiandah First Nation’s National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program (NNADAP) worker, told The Expositor before the assembled crowd at the community centre how pleased he was with the turnout and the energy of the crowd.

“I believe in this community and I focus on helping any individual who comes knocking on my door, regardless of who they are,” Mr. Fox said. “We need to be there for them. It’s the youth who want to break the cycle and see that change.”

“There’s a lot of teamwork among the communities and organizations across the Island,” he added, saying that his dream would be for a rehabilitation centre in Sheguiandah, a place where those trying to better themselves can build up the skills they need.

Mr. Fox addressed the group saying, “addiction comes in many different forms and we need to be aware of all of them.”

“The job I do as a NNADAP worker means I have to care for every single person,” he continued. “The job calls for a special breed of person, one who looks past outward appearances.” Sometimes we come across obstacles in our lives, Mr. Fox said, but we work past them for the chance at bettering ourselves.

He told the group that he comes from a family of nine brothers and sisters who seldom saw their father as he worked at a logging camp, coming home a few times a year to bring much-needed money to their mother, who also looked after her brother’s nine children after that family’s mother passed away at an early age.

“I respect the power of women—the givers of life—and we sometimes forget our women, the backbone of everything,” Mr. Fox said, recalling a conversation he once had with the late Archie McGregor of Whitefish River First Nation. When asked what his secret was to a long and happy marriage, Mr. McGregor quipped, ‘There’s lots of work to be done outside.’

Life, in general, is like our relationships, full of ups and downs and obstacles, Mr. Fox continued.

“I started to rationalize my drinking, ‘it’s just social drinking’ I told myself, then I became a closet drinker, telling everyone I had stopped drinking,” he said.

He too has battled with addiction in the past and told the audience that he has been sober for 27 years. “I stress too, just like everybody, but I try to handle my stresses the best way I can.”

His demons have caused him two failed relationships and a less-than-ideal bond with his children.

“Each one of you has a spirit, which will move on to the spirit world, but we get so caught up in this physical world,” Mr. Fox added. “We should work to balance the physical and the spirit worlds.”

Following an honour song, the heartbeat of the community, Mr. Fox welcomed counsellor Mark Bedard to the podium to speak.

Mr. Bedard shared that he is of First Nation descent, but due to a sometimes violent upbringing with a family who felt the need to hide their heritage away, he is still just learning of the ways of his people. It was his background that also pushed him toward the bottle, then later the joint.

“For the first 10 years of my career, I lived a lie,” he said blatantly. “Slowly, I switched my shooters for sage.”

“My addictions ended when I found out who I was,” Mr. Bedard continued. “You cannot get healthy until you know who you are. There’s no failure on the journey to find out why you are as long as you try.”

He said identity and addictions go hand in hand, and addiction is what happens when you give your power away.

“And if you’re not addicted, that’s fine, then help those who stumble,” he said.

Mr. Fox noted the community’s election that would follow the next day (Saturday) and urged the group to put the ballot in for themselves first, to vote for their own selves, on their journey to sobriety.

Alicia McCutcheon