I bear the primary responsibility for my actions. During my last relapse, it was I who left the recovery house. I picked up drugs at 4 am. I didn’t fight for myself.
But recovery is not just a matter of personal willpower and good intentions. External support is crucial.
Recovery is not just a matter of personal willpower and good intentions. External support is crucial.
When I went into the First Nations court in North Vancouver, I had spoken with a court worker for several weeks leading up to my court date about where I was going to live when I was released. I had planned to live at a house called Cweningital, a house in Whalley, BC run by my elder Tom Oleman.
I have a sincere and strong bond with this elder, and I had been working with him for quite awhile. But Cweningital has a spotty track record as many people relapse there (even though every recovery house has a lot of relapses.)
When I walked into the courtroom, I had been told I would be supported in living at this particular house. To me this was critical as I genuinely trust this man with my life.
Unfortunately, as soon as I sat down the worker that had, until then, been assuring me that they supported me to go to Cweningital, showed me a letter of acceptance from a different house and whispered, as an aside, that I would be going to another house.
I was quite taken back but I had been waiting six months for the chance to get out. I did appreciate this worker’s opinion so I said, “OK. I’ll go to whatever place you think is best.” He committed his support to me in my placement.
I wasn’t comfortable with how this was shared with me. I said so after court when I was back in the remand centre. I understood the reasoning, although I didn’t agree with it; nevertheless, I went to the house to which I was sent.
The house was good. I saw as soon as I went there that it was sincere in its desire to help aboriginal men stay clean and reconnect with their culture. Unfortunately for me though, the house itself was in a transitional process of working toward integrating First Nations traditional teachings and blending them with 12 step teachings and principles, a difficult but admirable task. It quickly became apparent that, from a spiritual and cultural perspective, this house needed more from me than it was able to offer. They needed guidance in the practices of native spirituality. They required an elder, and they did not have one.
For me, this meant that a crucial component, guidance in my spiritual journey, was missing.
So I called my worker. Twelve times in less than a week. I left voicemails on two different lines, and then I stopped. Then I gave up.
So I left the house, and I used. And I f’d everything up.
The next morning I showed up at Cweningital at 6:30 am, crying, asking for help.
I take responsibility for my actions. I do. At the end of the day, I am the one who will serve a sentence. I understand the caseload and that pressures on court workers are immense and that they have limitations on the level of service they can provide. Still, I felt and I feel let down. I was told, explicitly and several times, that I could trust that my voice would be heard and that there would be support there. There wasn’t. I told them of the importance of the bond I had with my elder. That was ignored. No worse. I was acknowledged, agreed with, deceived and then ignored.
I bear no ill will towards this person, but I do hold him accountable for his part. However, I also acknowledge this. His role is extremely small in my relapse. It was still me who picked up the drugs at 4 am that morning.
I am sad there was nothing when I was promised there would be something.
Bottom line: Don’t promise people who are depending on you that you will help them if you cannot. If you have limitations on the level of service you are able to provide, acknowledge and honour that.
Don’t promise people who are depending on you that you will help them if you cannot.
I went to Cweningital the week after I left the other recovery house. I sweated, prayed and sat with Tom. He let me use his drums when we sang the last song in the sweat. I was so proud. I cried. I loved. That is how a person heals. That is what I need in this life.