I wish I could gloss over my teen years. Some parts though were important to my identity.
As a Cree person growing up away from home, culture, family, peers and teachings I sought out an identity that met my needs as a Cree male.
Instinctively I was drawn to the edge of society.
My adoptive family is middle class and lovely but although I love and care deeply for them I always felt out of place. Not excluded. I always felt included and loved, supported to choose.
Unfortunately, many of my choices were unhealthy. I was initially drawn to drug culture at a young age. I experimented with all the usual recreational drugs but I seemed to experiment a little harder than most of my peers so it didn’t take long before I began to make seriously bad decisions.
Both of my parents recognized I was struggling. They worried for me. I recognize they were only trying to protect me and do their best. They saw that I was high risk.
In grade 7 my parents made a very big mistake in transferring me from Quadra Elementary School of Doncaster Elementary. As a child, I never questioned this but I was shocked when, as an adult, I was told that they moved me because my grade 7 teacher at Quadra was the soccer coach. He jokingly teased that Grade 7 soccer players stunk and the room smell like crotch-rot. Definitely a crude comment but I remember, as a 12 year old boy, crotch-rot was definitely on the light end of our crudeness.
That year I took a seriously big step in the wrong direction.
That year held another life upset as my Mom began dating a man and although, I’m guessing, they had been seeing each other for sometime my sister and I were introduced to him and his daughters at a Sunday night dinner. They moved in with each other within the month.
My mother was obviously free to see whomever she pleased. I wish nothing but the best for her but this move, along with changing schools, was too much for me. I thank Creator that I’ve been lucky enough in this life that things like this were the types of things I considered challenging situations. Frankly, when I think of the lives my ancestors lived I feel ridiculous in remembering how hard I took these things.
I was so emotionally distraught that I simply stopped going to school about 3/4 through Grade 7. I was suffering from extreme anxiety attacks and I would get shortness of breath and could sometimes barely breathe. I constantly had stomach pain so I was told I was developing ulcers. I cried often for no reason. It became too much to bear going to school. I didn’t care at all about whatever we were learning. So one day I started walking right through my school when my Mom would drop me off and I’d walk right out the other side. I would hide in some bushes behind a bus stop until the coast was clear and sometimes I’d go home but, unfortunately, that year I began going downtown and exploring.
It didn’t take long until my parents found out I had stopped going to school. We tried moving me to another school but it didn’t take. I was expelled about two weeks after starting for drinking and skateboarding.
My stepmother did a wonderful job of home-schooling me that year and actually got me to do some math. I even constructed a pretty decent maze for my pet rat, Beelzebub. (He was a stoner rat though and didn’t seem to care about it.)
I went to Grade 8 with all my old buddies but unfortunately the link had been cut.
I knew there was something on the streets that I was looking for. I sensed the camaraderie shared by the lowest class of society, the acceptance of the lost. I was so spoiled I was able to focus on the masochistic, self-indulgent lifestyle of a disgruntled, depressed teenage drug addict. At least today I know I suffered severe trauma as a child and that’s why I was emotionally hurt as a youth but it is hard not to be angry at my younger self when I remember how I neglected to consider how my running away and stealing affected my family. My Mom used to walk the streets at night asking other street kids if they knew me. I’d talk with them after and they’d tell me how lucky I was to have a mother like that and I knew they were right but I also knew that I hated living at our house. I physically got ill if I stayed there so I didn’t.
The first time I ran away for any length of time I left my Mom’s home and went downtown. I left in the middle of the night and took some money out of my Mom’s purse. I took some booze from my stepdad’s liquor cabinet and a steak knife. I made a sheath for out of cardboard. I taped it to my leg. I met another street kid named John who was about 15. I was 13. I saw him selling coke and hustling and he scored often. I shared some whiskey with him and we hung out. All the prostitutes were nice to us because we were so young.
After a day or so of being shown all the spots in Victoria to eat for free we went to this dude Glen’s place. He was obviously a hard core alcoholic but seemed harmless. He didn’t care who stayed at his place if they brought drinks. I stayed around with John for about a week but I started to get really homesick.
I told John that I was going to go home and this really upset him. My guess is that he probably couldn’t or shouldn’t go home. He said to Glen, “He thinks he can just take off? I’ve been smoking pot with him and getting drinks all week. He needs to give me something for all that shit.”
John was about 30 pounds heavier than me and six inches taller. He pushed me down and flipped me over. I had never fought at that point in my life but I was very scared. I was also being triggered by an incident from my younger days and I was going into victim rage. I felt him pumping away at me and working himself up.
I screamed “Help me!” at Glen but I saw he was scared as well. This kid was big and that kind of behaviour is odd no matter where you are. I dragged the both of us across about 10 feet of disgusting carpet. I tore out at least two of my fingernails doing it but I was not going to be raped.
I made it to my backpack and luckily John was so far in his own mania that he didn’t notice my digging around my backpack. I finally found the knife I had been carrying around for a week. I pulled it. To be honest, it gets a bit hazy but I hadn’t shown anyone that I had a knife. I’ve always been a quiet guy in social situations so it took him by surprise.
I don’t think I hurt him but I was definitely prepared to; I grabbed my stuff and ran out. Adrenaline can leave you fogged out and drained; thankfully I was noticed by a nice guy who offered me room on his floor. If I remember correctly he was the drummer for Submission Hold, a local punk band. I stayed there for the night and most of the next day and he schooled me on punk rock. Then he made me call my Mom.
She picked me up. I cried when she picked me up and held me. I can’t remember if she cried as well but I bet she did. I can say for sure, without remembering, that she would have told me she loved and that everything was OK. She always did that.
The rest of my teen years was pretty similar.
I went to Juvie and I stole and I eventually did heroin. I occasionally went to school but usually I didn’t. I was in Group Homes and foster care. I was lost.
But even though it was hard on all of us my Mom and my Dad were always there for me. I wish I could go back in time and comfort them, comfort myself. But I can’t.
The only thing I can do is continue what I’m doing.
I love my Mom and I love my Dad. I love my family and I love myself.
I began writing my story chronologically but when I hit my teen years and, even more so, when I write of my adult years things get bad really quickly and they stay bad for a long time. I did things that I’m not going to write about simply because if I start to include everything I’ll never be able to write about what is most important - healing, love. family and Medicine.