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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Sobriety chronicles

BY Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash Jul 17, 2021

I will reach my third year of sobriety at the end of July. I still believe it was the best decision I’ve ever made to honour and respect myself.

Sometimes, I did the sober thing out of anger, out of spite against so-called Canada. The other day, a woman offered me a glass of wine, which I politely declined. She then told me that it was rare to see a sober Indigenous person. That is when I realized that no matter what I do, non-Native folks will still project stereotypes onto me. No matter how I try to present myself, people will still assume I am a drunk because of my ethnic background. So, I might as well be sober for my well-being and myself, not for them.

Being unapologetically happy and healthy is a radical act of resistance against this colonial state. I hold on to on to this statement when things get rough. It hits home even more, now that thousands of Indigenous children are being found on residential school sites. Canada has tried and still tries so hard to break our communities, but I personally will not give them the pleasure of falling apart.

Being healthy is the greatest honour I can offer the residential school survivors of my family, but it also has done wonders for my personal growth. I am now able to keep a job, to nurture relationships that are important to me and to find the will to get out of bed every morning. 

I reflect a lot on what it means to be the child of someone who survived genocide and my purpose when confronting the historical traumas my family still carries. Being raised by broken people was not easy; it is still not easy even as a 26-year-old. At the end of the day, I am in this world, and I deserve love and happiness. If no one is going to give them to me, I will give them to myself.

Sobriety didn’t fix everything but it’s definitely a great tool to have. Before getting sober, I attempted to use or drink in moderation. I relapsed a couple of times, but I persisted. Healing is not linear. As long as you keep trying and are aware of how your drug or alcohol intake affects your life, it is still progress.

There is power in saying that I am thriving despite what my family had to go through. There is power in knowing that I have the right tools to break vicious cycles of pain and trauma. I thought I was not able to do it, because it is what this country tried to make me believe. But I am capable of joy and healing. You are too.

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Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash is Cree from Waswanipi, and is the Nation’s newest columnist. She is an activist and writer who also has a regular column in Montreal’s French Metro Newspaper.