Here we are heading into the New Year of 2015 and ready to celebrate another Christmas. When I was younger and still drinking, the holidays were an excuse to party. Although I, and everyone around me, had good intentions to try and have a real family Christmas and then an interesting New Year’s Eve, it just never worked out.
Christmas and New Year’s for me is filled with memories of hard times and crazy days and nights. I lost my older brother Philip, who was only 16, on Christmas Eve in 1990. I was two years younger than him at the time and I was busy coping with all the drinking and dysfunction around me in my own community.
Memories like this never go away. I thought I would never drink but like all of my peers, in my later teen years, I fell into this addiction as well. I have only faint memories of the holidays over the years. I don’t remember much happiness surrounding New Year’s or Christmas. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember much at all.
For almost 20 years now, I have been living clean and sober. I am one of the lucky ones as I figured out I had a drinking problem at a young age. I am so thankful to all those family members, friends and to Alcoholics Anonymous for helping me to turn my life around. I don’t mind admitting at all that I am a recovering alcoholic. I am even proud of it.
I feel as though I have some control over my life and that I can do things I only dreamt about before I became sober. Not every First Nation person I know has a drinking problem. Many people can take or leave a drink but some of us just can’t handle it. I am extremely grateful to realize that I am one of those people who has a problem with alcohol.
I work with interesting people on creative projects. I have traveled much of the world and I plan on seeing a lot more. Getting sober was not such an easy thing to do but in comparison to leading a life in the fog of alcoholism, it was a piece of cake. I know what it feels like to wake up in the morning and feel sick with a hangover, with little memory of what transpired the night before. I know what it feels like to lose family and friends because of alcoholism.
These days I look forward to Christmas and New Year’s because I know very well I won’t be celebrating them with alcohol or drugs. In the clear light of sobriety, I find it more and more possible to reflect on that tragic Christmas Eve that took my brother. I don’t feel so guilty anymore because I understand that I played no role in his early death. I will forever remember him as an adventurous, positive and popular teenager. He was very handsome and had curled black hair. Philip was very kind and open. He was one of those people who could walk into a room and light it up. His sense of humour was amazing but never mean-spirited. Of all of us in the family, he may well have been the most precious one.
So I take time every Christmas Eve to celebrate his memory in a quiet way with good friends and no alcohol or drugs. I think of him and who he may have become if he had not passed on so early in life. I remember the good times we had and how much he loved us all. I know he has always been with me on my journey and by my side. I know he is proud of who I have become in my sobriety. When I think of him, I will always see him as a 16-year-old, strong young man. He will be forever young in my mind, even though I have grown older.
Now that my dad Marius has gone too, I imagine that they are both together again, comforting each other. Perhaps they are on Akamiski Island at our old hunt camp traveling along ancient traplines or drinking tea around a fire. They are in another world and some day when it is my time, we will meet again.
If you think you might have a problem with drinking and you want to do yourself or your loved ones a favour, get in touch with your local Alcoholics Anonymous chapter which is listed in your phone book and online. Don’t be afraid, a simple phone call to a new sober friend at AA could turn your life around. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.