He, along with other clients at Nats ‘jee K’eh Treatment Centre were gathered, drums in hand, around a fire inside the chilly arbor at the fire feeding on K’atl’odeeche First Nation to kick off the ritual sober walk for National Addictions Awareness Week.
A large group surrounded the fire pit – students from Chief Sunrise School, treatment centre staff, teachers and members of the community shielding themselves in the arbor before heading through the snowstorm.
Nearing the end of his 28 day treatment program, his graduation took place the following day, Abel is hopeful, that’s why he’s chosen to take up the drum.
Giant snowflakes flew through the arbor and students swished in their snowsuits, drawing closer to the fire.
Abel stood with the other drummers, quiet and concentrating, with a reverent, almost solemn expression.
“I’m doing it to promote my culture and try to keep the traditions active and alive,” he said. “ It’s about being the best role model you can be and inspiring youth. Maybe it’ll help them. I was inspired by seeing my older cousin drumming, so maybe if younger people see me, it might do the same for them.”
Before the fire feeding, Chief Roy Fabian addressed the circle, lamenting the introduction of drugs and alcohol into communities and more than that, the hefty responsibility they must take personally to eradicate a powerful influence he called spirit deflating, dependence creating.
“Look around at this weather we have. It’s cold, right,” Fabian said this, donning a leather jacket-no hat, no mitts – lightly dressed in a sea of snowsuits.
“To our elders, this was nothing,” he said.
“The elders used to teach us we need to keep our spirits strong. To do this you need to respect everything and everyone. When you don’t respect people, respect yourself, your spirit becomes weak. Today we listen to other people to try and make ourselves feel better, we use things to lift our spirits up, but it’s only temporary. We’re no alone in this. The whole world is troubled by this. But it takes time to change. A lot of people forget that.”
After song, gathering up banners that students, treatment centre staff and clients carried together, they embarked out into the cold and blowing snow for the half-hour walk to the treatment centre.
Bursting through the doors with rosy cheeks and matted heads, young and old grabbed lunch and squished around tables. Abel brought out a few of his vibrantly hued paintings, and a few soapstone carvings.
His artwork has been therapy for him, a positive he is choosing to focus on.
He’s worked with soapstone before but this time he had to scrape for hours to uncover a figurine he was happy with. He likened this to treatment.
“You need to keep scraping at what’s bothering you, then you’ll find out what’s really bothering you on the inside,” he said. “When you find that out, you connect it to a lot of things that you’ve been doing. You get your confidence back, your self respect, your respect for others, life skills.”
Abel said he sees NAAW as a chance to promote sobriety and branch out and meet new people through sobriety.
He admitted this is his not first stint in treatment, but he said he’s emerging this time more confident than ever.
“The more you go into treatment, the more you learn about yourself,” said Abel. “You walk out with less problems every time. The only way you can deal with your problems is to face them.”
But the question of length of treatment programs has been a hot button topic in the addictions field.