January 2, 2012
This week, we have a story written by Laura Gagnon, from Thunder Bay, Ontario. Laura is a student at Anishnawbe Skills Development Program and is also a filmmaker. Along with 9 other northern Ontario Aboriginal youth, Laura made a film under the coaching of artist/filmmaker Keesic Douglas, as a part of the imagiNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival's northern tour.
When I was 6, my Mom moved my brother and I from Geralton, Ontario to Thunder Bay to a lower income neighbourhood called County Park. Going to school was one of my favorite things to do. I also loved to run and be involved in extra curricular activities. I was a strong long distance runner and had great grades all throughout grade school.
When I was 15, I became the winner of the Thunder Bay Model Search; winning a trip to Toronto. I went on to win the first runner-up for the Runway Competition as well as being a Cover Page Finalist. My poor decisions began when I was given a joint at my own kitchen table with my cousins. I also started drinking on the weekends. I met a man who became my first love. I moved out of my parent’s to his parent’s house in a small town called Nakina with less than 500 people. Living in isolation and desperate for an escape, I started smoking up and crushing pills routinely. I thought I’d be happy finding the “love of my life” but really I just wanted to disappear and not be found. It wasn’t long before I was addicted to hard drugs and thought of nothing more to do. Constantly being dependent on men and using them for a place to live; I never made a decision on my own or felt self-supporting.
Living with one of my ex’s doing nothing but watching TV, I knew that there was more for me. When I was 25, I made a promise to myself that it was going to be the cleanest year of my life without drugs or alcohol. I decided to quit prescription painkillers and start fresh with a job at Tim Horton’s and did well for 5 months without Oxycontin, morphine, or pot. A co-worker convinced me to go to an AA meeting for the first time and I learned to have confidence in myself. I was able to step into the doors of the Indian Friendship Centre while I was still withdrawing from pills. I reconnected with my spiritual side when I read a book called The Sacred Tree by Herb Nabigon, a First Nations scholar. I studied the Medicine Wheel teachings and started picking sage and other medicines. Eventually I went to Dilico, an adult treatment centre and asked for my traditional name during a sweatlodge ceremony. I found my passion for running again one August day after I was clean for 2 months. I ran all the way around Boulevard Lake. My passion for being connected to the world had reignited. Walking through the basement doors of the Friendship Centre was a turning point for me to enroll in school and complete my high school.
When I turn 28, I hope to be registered in University taking psychology, specializing in addictions. I want to share my experience, strength and hope to help others who thought there was no other way of life. Living everyday with excitement, joy, being happy, and free. I've been gifted with so many blessings. My spirit name is Giniibowich Mishdodim, meaning “Standing Horse.” Knowing I have a responsibility to myself, and my people I can now be the powerful woman who stands on her own.