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Survivors and addicts bare all
Circle hears about struggles and journeys to recovery

Stewart Burnett
Northern News Services
Thursday, November 24, 2016

If it wasn't for positive decisions made years ago, Winston Moses wouldn't have been able to share his story at the candlelight vigil that kicked off addictions awareness week.

NNSL photo/graphic

Darrell Taylor leads the room during the first event of National Addictions Awareness Week Sunday, Nov. 20. - Stewart Burnett/NNSL photos

"I was on the doorstep of suicide two times because of alcohol," he said in front of a circle of close to 50 people at Ingamo Hall on Nov. 20

"I thought no one cared. I thought nobody liked or loved me. I lost two jobs and I almost lost my family."

He was on the verge of suicide when he took a moment to think about his life.

"You'd be surprised how much thought can fit in that two minutes," he said, wondering aloud if those who did not survive took that same time. "Because of that one (or) two minutes, I'm here speaking to you."

He was glad to be standing in front of the room sober.

"Many times in my alcoholic years, I did not know from day to day what I planned, what I said, and my only thinking was where my next drink was going to come (from)," he said.

Moses is a well-known elder in the community. On the other end of the spectrum, 26-year-old Tanya Snowshoe spoke next.

She has struggled with alcohol for almost 10 years. She got clean once after nearly committing suicide in school.

"I moved in with my parents and started my sober life again and at that point I had two jobs, I hardly went out.and everything was good," she said.

That was up until June 2015, when she lost her godbrother.

"He too suffered with addiction and he committed suicide," said Snowshoe. "Right after that I drank and drank and drank. The whole summer I must have had maybe six days sober. Those two jobs turned to no jobs."

'People who are smiling'

She moved back with her parents and had to begin rebuilding herself again, eventually landing a job with the Gwich'in Tribal Council.

There, she helped spearhead programs that support youth and teach them not to grow up and take the path she and many of her peers had.

Tyson Joe was all smiles when he stood up and took the microphone.

"I'm new to this, talking in front of people," he began. "This is me trying to refocus my socialization without alcohol."

Joe said he's been in recovery more than two years now.

"It feels so good to say that and be around people who are smiling, and there's no alcohol involved, drugs or nothing, just people," he said.

Joe talked about a dream he had where he visited a bar and couldn't remember what he did.

"That right there was a sign to me that I never want to explain myself again without knowing what I did," he said. "I don't ever want to feel like that."

He was in awe of the happiness he was feeling being around people while sober.

"I'm never going back that way," said Joe. "I already know who that guy is. I already know what he does, I know what he says. I never want to explain myself for that guy again. What I want to do is build this new guy up. I really don't know who I'm becoming, but all I can say is when I start speaking like this, I get happy, nervous. I guess I'm doing something right."

He encouraged others to pursue sobriety, saying the feeling is amazing and it's never too late for anyone.

After Joe spoke, others came forward to share their stories of struggle with addiction.

People to support him

Ernest Bernhardt cried as he detailed his struggle with alcohol. Talking to people has helped him, he said, and he never realized before how many people were there to support him.

"I thought I had friendship with people when I was drinking," he said. "I didn't know there were so many people out there who cared."

He's trying to live a better life.

"If you are thinking about changing, go for it," said Bernhardt. "It's scary at first but it's a good change. You're not going to miss nothing from the old days. When you wake up sober and you know you can do something with your friends, with everybody around you, I feel good."

The group spent more than an hour sharing stories of addiction.

National addictions awareness week will finish with an old-time dance at Ingamo Hall at 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26.

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