To Live or To Die: The Age Old Question of Addiction.

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So tired of life right now. Just wanna die. I don’t care if I die.. Just bury me by my baby. (FB status of unknown)

When I was a little girl I was brought up in a non-drinking home. Mother said I was terrified of anyone who openly drank and she had to explain to six year old me, who wouldn’t go visit a friend while camping on the account of her elderly white grandparents drinking coolers, that drinking wasn’t actually bad.

I joke about the blatant irony of me becoming an alcoholic.

Didn’t see that one comin’ did ya?

I joke about addictions and rock bottom, about the family being terrified of a potential relapse. I joke about rum cake on Christmas and how they avoid giving it to me as to not cause any triggers. I joke because it’s how I’ve learned to survive and make light of my life.

What’s not a joke is 13 family members having suffered, or still actively suffering, from addiction, and that doesn’t include second cousins and third cousins (which in our world is a legit fam member lol) and people that were raised as family. One death by alcohol, one limb lost in a drinking and driving accident, over a dozen suicide attempts (known), a handful of convictions (the charges laid type of conviction not the keeps you going strong because you have convictions lol), unaccounted for number of rapes and abuses, etc. etc. It’s a story many of us live. Hence the opening Facebook status of someone who I don’t really know but we come from the same Nation. That status hit me like a shit tonne of bricks because I can identify the fuck out of it. I can hear people I know say that. I can hear myself saying that a few years ago. To me, that status is the epitome of the current Native plight. Grief. Loss. Suicide. Hopelessness. Sadness. Some of us are losing ourselves in it.

But this is life. Three a.m. crack induced phone calls with a family member you feebly and sleepily try to talk off a ledge. Making amends for maybe having had made similar phone calls when you were off the wagon (Sorry Uncle Bill.. Just kidding I don’t have an Uncle Bill). Hoping things turn out differently for the children. Trying to make things turn out differently for the children. Not knowing how to make things different for the children. Struggling to keep the children fed, the lights on, and rent paid… never mind changing things. Not knowing how to be sober to do any of the above said things.

Just over four years ago I thought my son would have to grow up without a mom. I couldn’t parent predictably. I thought I’d never see the other side of addiction.. that cool water oasis of Sobriety where every son of a bitch is drinkin’ Virgin Pina Coladas and actually loving those liquor free bastard imposter drinks. No, I thought for sure I would never make it to that side. I couldn’t even manage to pass out in my bed at all times let alone put my son to sleep with a story.

One time I woke up on the floor and my son, who was three at the time, came into my room and seen me awake and now on the bed I missed whilst passing the fuck out.

“I thought you were dead,” he said with a fear behind his voice.

“No,” I croaked, “I’m not dead”.

I joke because shitty memories like that will swallow me whole if I let them. Those feelings have no place here in the sober present.

I wonder why I have to write about such shitty intense subjects and then remember… because our people, my people, are still suffering out there. I remember being asked to read one of my more intense poems at an event and I told my father I didn’t want to do it.

“Why?” he asked.

“Because I’ll fucking cry up there reading that in front of all those people and I’m tired of crying all the time. Sometimes I just want to be happy.”

My father took a long pause before he spoke. Something he should do more often because he often says really unsmart stuff to his oversensitive daughter lol.

“Helen, the way I see it is you were meant to do these things. Not for you, but for other people. You can fight it and try to go off course or you can accept that it’s a part of your journey”.

Sometimes my father says some really, really, smart shit.

There are people out there struggling right at this very moment (one a.m. pacific standard time – west coast fo life yea boi ) .. that are struggling to stay alive until morning light. There’s someone staring a bottle down and wondering if the relapse is worth it. Hell, if I think long enough I can feel the whiskey burn my throat. There’s a family member of mine out there who had to take a sleeping pill so she could attempt to bypass her withdrawals. She told me earlier today that we are so much like each other. It’s true, we have even gotten mistaken for each other multiple times. I told her that’s how I know she can get sober.. is for that very reason. We are so much alike.  I cry as I walk away from her, because no one gets used to live or die conversations. No one.

But really… If I can do it, so can she. So can you, and your auntie, and your auntie’s second cousin who calls you niece even though your not related at all. She can too. Hell any of you could.

I’ve watched people I’ve worked with become sober. Two months, six months, one year… and it’s fucking beautiful. It reminds me that change and healing is also happening everywhere at all times. For every two bad choices out there, someone is making the right one. That someone will impact multiple other lives and model what sober living looks like. They heal and in turn they reclaim that power for their families, for their communities, for their Nation, for their future kin and their ancestors. They heal.. and it is beautiful.

I think we forget that we truly are not alone. Healing is possible. Breaking cycles is possible. You are possibilities waiting to be realized. Your ancestors stand and walk with you. If you don’t hear that or never heard that.. Listen to that shit.

You are worthy. You are fucking spectacular. You are one of a kind. You are beautifully made. You are a god damn warrior. You have the blood memories of braves running rampant in your veins. Honour them. You got this.

Choose life.


Love you,

Helen K

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