Sobriety started with healing from trauma for Archie Chantyman and Johnny Morin, who hope others will show love to those who are beginning, continuing or maybe have not yet started their own journey toward recovery.
Chantyman and Morin joined dozens of others in the 30th annual Max Pius Memorial Walk that set off Thursday, Nov. 24, from the Quesnel Friendship Centre to the Fraser River Footbridge for drumming and singing.
The walk is named after Max Pius, the first alcohol and drug counselor at the centre, and was part of National Addictions Awareness Week.
Chantyman was five years old when he first tasted alcohol and said he was an alcoholic by the time he reached 11.
He guesses he wasted 30 years of his life drinking.
“Being on the sobriety trail, it wasn’t a kind trail—it was a really tough struggle with everything that I avoided, everything that I faced,” Chantyman said, noting before he would grab marijuana and alcohol to soothe his problems. “Today, I face those problems head-on when they come around.”
Chantyman described his journey toward healing as ongoing and said it was through Alcoholics Anonymous that he found God as he understands, a connection he struggled with coming from residential school.
He knew Pius, who he said would sit and listen to one’s story, smiling and tapping him on the shoulder, saying you see later.
“Today I do my very best to listen,” Chantyman said, noting he did not want to face others who had sobered up, as he did not want to face the truth of what he had to deal with within himself. “Today I’m living sober…I needed to do things the Creator asked me to do to walk among you as a human being —to ask for forgiveness, to give forgiveness and most of all, forgive myself.”
Morin’s path to sobriety also meant recovering from trauma. He attended Indian day school where he was silenced from speaking his first language, Carrier, and told it was the devil’s words.
Although some family members shared traditional knowledge and wisdom with him, he put it on the back burner, feeling ashamed of who he was.
“Everyone was drinking, everyone was hurting,” Morin said of his on-reserve community that he did not want to be a part of.
Morin started using drugs in Grade 9 and got kicked out of high school, with his drug use increasing and becoming increasingly dangerous. Eventually, however, he would find the strength to clean himself up, and a partner, Cora, who he is still with, has given him further strength and guidance.
He has been drug-free for 18 years and alcohol-free for six.
“I am clean and sober now, and making that choice was the best thing that has ever happened to me,” Morin said, adding they are receiving treatment for grief following the recent loss of their daughter so they can maintain sobriety through their grieving process. “It’s difficult and hard, but it’s so rewarding in the end.”
Since sobriety, Morin noted doors and opportunities for employment have opened up, and he has made thousands of dollars providing for his family in the gas industry.
He said addictions awareness is critical. The trauma has been passed down to his family, and his son struggles with substance use.
“All I can do is talk to him, and love and respect him for who he is and understand his trauma was passed on from generations of trauma from residential school,” Morin said, adding First Nations continue to hurt and suffer and must begin healing for themselves and their families.
Dorine Greene with the Quesnel Tillicum Society held back tears following Chantyman and Morin’s stories at the Friendship Centre, calling it essential to listen and share stories that could mean the difference in one feeling alone and connected.