Although there is one week a year marked for raising awareness for addiction issues in Canada, for some, one week is not enough.
“The more people hear others putting their lives and their hearts out there on the table, that gives them hope for their own future,” said Doug Lamalice, who co-ordinated the National Addictions Awareness Week events on the reserve last week. “I am so proud of everyone this week, so proud of everyone who came out to support others with these issues.”
Hay River and the Hay River Reserve held activities throughout last week to help community members dealing with addiction know they are not alone, nor are their families and friends. Kicking off with a hockey game in which players from the minor hockey league faced off against a team made of of RCMP and corrections workers, the week proceeded with a sharing circle hosted by community counselling, a dinner and dance held at the Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre and several events for people of all ages at the Chief Lamalice Complex.
“They didn’t say so, but I could tell people needed this and appreciated the opportunity to come together as a community and talk openly about these issues,” said Lamalice. “It just seemed like a weight was taken off people’s shoulders when they came in.”
Many people, including, Lamalice said, himself, have stories to share that can help others through tough times. As part of the week’s events, the South Slave Divisional Education Council also brought speaker Savvy Simon to Diamond Jenness Secondary School to talk about walking the red road — a spiritual and cultural aboriginal movement towards sobriety, health and strength.
“If you want to succeed and have a good life, make sure you’re surrounding yourself with awesome people,” she told a small group assembled in the concourse. “You do become your atmosphere.”
Simon talked about living a sober life largely in honour of her grandmother who is a residential school survivor.
“I tap into my roots because she couldn’t,” she explained. “I celebrate my culture because they couldn’t.”
For Lamalice, addictions issues should not be put away for most of the year to be talked about only for one week out of 52. He said between 60 and 80 people went to the fire feeding ceremony last Monday, one of the highest turnouts for the week’s events in recent years. They all then walked from the arbour to the complex for a meal and more activities.
“I know sometimes you don’t feel heard, that you don’t want to talk about certain painful things. But then with this week, all of a sudden you’re in a safe place to do that,” he said.