M’CHIGEENG – Manitoulin service providers hosted a recovery celebration breakfast on September 30 to raise awareness about addiction and recovery issues. It was the tenth annual gathering with speakers sharing their personal journeys of recovery. Sponsors and supporters included Wikwemikong Ontario Works Addictions Services Initiative, Noojmowin Teg Health Centre, Manitoulin Family Resources, Health Sciences North, Mental Health and Addictions, M’Chigeeng Alternative Programs and Health Centre, Sudbury Community Service Centre and Aundeck Omni Kaning, Ngwaagan Gamiig Recovery Centre (Rainbow Lodge), Sheguiandah First Nation, Northeast Local Health Integration Services (LHIN) and Rob Wabegijig, addictions support worker, Noojmowin Teg.
Richard Lathwell was the first guest speaker. He was born in Alberta and lived in the United States for several years. His background is in the field of computer software, but he was unemployed due to his alcohol use.
“I would like to thank Cathy for inviting me,” Mr. Lathwell began. “I should have died directly about 30 years ago. I realized I was dying, but I couldn’t stop. I used other things too. I stumbled into an AA meeting. Stay sober for one day. I could do that. I do that every day. There have been days when I say, ‘If tomorrow is like this, I am going to get drunk.’ But I never did. In Toronto, I went to an AA meeting to hear a speaker but there was no speaker. I was asked to speak.”
Mr. Lathwell went on to say that he used alcohol to control his feelings. “During all the years when I was drinking, I was abusing,” he went on to say. “I was a complete asshole. In the beginning, I attended out of fear and picked up a tip here and there. I first learned that you have to follow a spiritual path. A spiritual program is not something to believe in. It is something to do. The Seven Steps is a spiritual journey. No matter what you do, if you do those things over and over…the key for me was to learn that to accept something doesn’t mean you have to like it. Another thing, stay in the present. I do a present check, kind of an assessment and bring myself back to the present and that leads to such things as meditation.”
“The roughest time in sobriety was at three months,” he shared. “I had to learn what fear is and had to learn how to deal with it. I was doing things that I didn’t know I was doing. All of the things I learned to do, I did every day. An elder told me to do a good deed and don’t talk about it. Probably the most important thing in recovery. I started to feel better, I began to like that, but got depressed thinking, ‘I have to do this all my life—meetings, recovery, etc.’”
The elder responded to this by saying, ‘Your choice is to be with sober ones and drinking ones. I don’t stay with the drinking ones.’
Mr. Lathwell explained that he was told to ask for guidance. “Just look for the next step. It took years for me to do that. I remember years ago, a young woman in really, really bad shape and walking the streets. She got clean and sober. I knew what it was like to do alcohol and drugs, but my sober life was worse. I try to stay sober every day. I use what helps and coming here does.”
Tammy Trudeau was the second guest speaker. She was born and raised in Wiikwemkoong, lived for a time in Hamilton, but moved back to look after her ailing stepfather.
“I am recovered,” Ms. Trudeau said, “from alcohol and tobacco. I don’t remember eight years of my life. When I turned 12 I met my biological father and I was mad at my mother. Everything built up. My sister and I moved out. I started drinking and smoking at 16. At 19, I moved to Hamilton. I had two boys. I had a lot of boyfriends. I got a job and rose to the level of adjudicator. I bought a house. I bought a car. I lost everything to alcohol. I moved back to Wiky. I went to a party and I was arrested for second-degree murder. We went back to my house and two men were stabbed. I was in jail in Sudbury for six weeks, bail after two months. I went to the counsellor, but she didn’t understand. I started to hate myself. I went to counselling, I prayed, but nothing helped. I couldn’t understand the names in the Bible but I kept reading it. And I had a spiritual awakening. I saw Jesus and he said, ‘believe.’ Once you accept that you are responsible for your actions. I kept reading and I had more revelations and I did a painting. I even had troubles with Jesus in the courthouse, but I kept hearing Him say, ‘Be still.’”
Ms. Trudeau went on to say that house arrest was “one of the best things that every occurred to me. I learned to look at people in a different way. God loves all of us. I learned that addictions come from the world. It’s not just alcohol and drugs. Work on the inside and then worry about the outside. I spent nine months in prison and I am still on probation. It’s been four and a half years since my last drink. God wants you to believe that He is real. Believe in yourself. You can do it.”