Speaking and sharing about an abuse is a part of healing.

Daisy Ratt tells us about her abuses, and by her having the courage to speak so openly she shows us that silence can be broken.

And for many of us, we are given by her words the hope and that light.

—Marilyn Bearskin Herodier and Irene House

4:20 a.m… Awakened by a noise… footsteps… walking up the stairs… wondering who is home… or who came in… then later, someone walking out again. I lay there wide awake… couldn’t go back to sleep. Then I started thinking… feeling sad. I sort of blame myself for my youth in my family. I used to do that. Very dysfunctional… very lost, still walking around at wee hours of the night, that was me. I know there was a dance last night, yes that was me again, recalling me youth days… Then my mind wandered off… thinking, “I wonder who is drinking or drugging tonight” My mind went farther back to the meeting that was held two weeks ago about alcohol and drug abuse. I went to the meeting… I see a lot of people in my family, my friends, my people… very concerned. I listened, I observed, the reactions, the tone of their voices, confusion. There was so much pain, hurts, hatred, resentments, pointing fingers and a lot of sadness. I wondered, “Do they understand?”

Yes some do, I could hear some trying to explain where alcoholism is coming from, but no, a lot don’t understand, or they are in denial, in guilt, in shame. I recall the Chief saying, “Respect each other as someone shares, no matter who they are, young or old.” But there was no respect, others mumbling, others joking on when someone speaks, others making facial expressions, a lot of negative reactions. I thought, “No wonder our community is sick. We make ourselves sick by these negative reactions and attitudes.”

Long before alcohol and drugs, long before bootlegging and drug dealing in our communities, there was already abuse. There was mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, verbal, psychological and sexual abuse. Alcohol and drugs are recent EXTENSIONS of abuse. There are so many abuses today—Gambling, Batteredness, Negligence, Vandalism, Laziness, Workaholics, Money and Materialistic Oppression, Stealing, Cheating, Religion, etc. Nothing is really balancing anymore. Let’s ask ourselves, “Which category am I?” It didn’t start from alcohol and drugs. It didn’t start from bootlegging and drug dealing. This is just another extension. These bootleggers or drug dealers are people, our people—if you believe in God, God’s children. There are positive ways to deal with these issues instead of doing things angrily. If we start dealing with things negatively, things are bound to get worse. Besides, the youth never started this problem, they are acting up because they are tired of us nagging them, blaming them, putting them down. How are we going to have a better future if we adults, Elders don’t grow up? Our better future is when each of us starts focusing on ourselves, starts cleaning what’s inside of us. A lot of us have carried so much burden, we are just passing this on to our children.

Let me share a little bit about myself. I, too, once used alcohol and drugs. I know what it’s like to be an alcoholic, as a matter of fact, of being a victim of almost all of the abuses. It didn’t change until I wanted to change. I was sick of being sick. In April 1990, I finally got to the final stage of my alcoholism. I couldn’t run away any more. Wherever I went my problem was always right there. On the day of my 37th birthday, I was admitted to the treatment centre in Oka. Because I was so ashamed I didn’t even want anybody to know that I was going in. Only a few friends knew and my immediate family, but I knew some didn’t understand why, because I didn’t understand what treatment was either.

My impression about the treatment was feeling safe in that house. I was not the only one there. My expectations were that they would teach me how to drink slowly or socially. I was also a liar, but I couldn’t lie to these people. They were experts. Little did I know what I got myself into. They told me it was not my alcoholism, but that I had to dig into the past I asked myself angrily, What past?

Who wants to know my past? There was nothing to be proud of, that was my attitude. I had so much to blame on others for why I drank. Well, my counselor saw through me, she was an expert. By the end of the sixth week, I was able to admit one thing, that I was an alcoholic. In the treatment, there I realized why I drank, why I was so unhappy, why I had nightmares about a child who had so much fear, loneliness, anger, sadness and sickness. In the treatment I was given tools on how to deal with different issues about my past, especially my childhood. I was told I had to clean out my system inside in order for me to feel better. Today, I realize why I used alcohol and drugs. I was only covering up my feelings, because there was no other way. I wanted to forget my pains, hurts, anger, etc. I came to a point where I had no feelings at all.

Numb! Drank myself to numbness. I abused myself because I thought I was no good for nothing, nobody cared. I wanted to die a lot of times,

I was even suicidal, because as a child I was sexually abused more than once. As a child, I was physically abused. In my growing up years I was verbally abused, mentally abused, psychologically abused. But who cared? I didn’t care. I wanted to hurt everyone, anyone that came in my way, because I blamed everyone, anyone, about my life. That was my attitude. But you know what? Someone did care. He was always there to watch me. My Creator cared. He always sent someone to watch and look after me, but I didn’t realize that He saved me for a reason.

Today, I can say I am a survivor of different abuses. Even to this day, I still get tests, but I know how to handle them now. Native people all over have helped me through my healing. I am grateful that I have found honesty, faith, trust and other positive attitudes. I am also saying I’m not perfect. I will never be perfect. I still have my bad days, my ups and downs, just like everyone else. All I’m saying is, I was taught how to handle negative things when they cross my path. This recovery and healing is a life time process. Today, I am not ashamed of myself. What I experienced in the past, I can now use myself, as a tool. I have to let go of most of my abuses and I am still working on other abuses. I have also worked on forgiving people who have abused me. Some are gone in this world. That too, I was taught how to forgive them. But first, I had to forgive myself and love myself before I could go on. I understand now why my life has turned out the way it did. I became an abuser myself, in many ways.

Today, I carry another load of pain. Some of you may be aware of the accident a year ago in the fall. I am going through a grieving process. And also another one, this one I don’t know if I should grieve or not. I can’t grieve because this is unknown. My missing nephew, Kevin, this is the hardest part, not knowing what really happened. So you see my friends, like I said earlier on, it’s a life-time process. Even though these incidents occurred during my healing process, I know now alcohol and drugs would not be the answer. If I went back today, I would be back to square one, but in worse shape. We are told we are tested, temptation every day, but as long as we recognize them we are doing okay, at least for the day.

So you see my friends, there are resources out there, there are resource people out there too. If you want to get well, it’s just waiting for you. It doesn’t come to you, or maybe it does, but you don’t see it. What I did was I looked for it and I found it. You, too, can make the move. Yes, it was hard. Trying to be good is the hardest, but if you really want it, it helps! It helped me, it worked for me and I am still here.

Every day I thank the Creator, God, my Higher Power, for helping me get back on my own two feet again, for watching over me when I couldn’t watch myself, for giving me another chance to live again in a better understanding and for the guidance through my healing. I know I have to do my part to watch over myself too! So that way I can walk hand-in-hand with Him. I am not a perfect person and I don’t think I’ll ever be, but as long as I can watch the ground I walk on then I’ll do just fine. I don’t want to judge anyone because of my past mistakes. I only want to be equal with everyone. I came this far to heal and if I ever go off the track, I have only myself to blame.

So you see, this is just a little part of my life story. Today, I am happier because I have more understanding of who I am and a better tomorrow for myself and family. I share these stories with my family, my children, not all of them yet, I know they can only handle so much. I share these because I love them and I don’t really want them to go through what I went through. I want my children, my grandchildren, at least to be a role model of healing. I only can share and assist them daily as they walk in this path.

I share this story because I care about life and I care about you out there who are still in pain. You, too, can lead a happier and healthy life!

A Survivor of many Abuses

Daisy Ratt