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Strong Native woman

Char, New York

My name is Char and I’m an alcoholic. I qualify for just about every 12 step program out there, but this is AA and to keep to it simple, I’m an alcoholic. I belong to the Stockbridge-Munsee, Oneida, and Menominee Native nations.

  My earliest memories are of pain, and lying about it because I was told, “don’t tell”. This abuse lasted from ages 4-18. And I never told. I found out when I drank alcohol and smoked cigs I was cool and pretty. I was the leader of the pack. I got in some trouble, fought with my parents, moved into an apartment, and then the fun began. The blackouts, waking up to strangers, not making it home, and my money somehow always lost.

 At 18 I moved to the Menominee Indian reservation with my dad. This was like third world living. We took in hock and sold drugs and on welfare day we would get all our money back, then we had to be careful. It was rough but I felt like I fit in, another drunken Indian. I had accepted the fact that this was my life and that jails, prison, and mental hospitals were to be my destiny.

 I landed in a mental hospital on my one and only legal drunk on my 21st birthday. Usually it was just a 72-hour hold and they would let you go. Only they didn’t let me out of there for 3 months. Every week they would ask me if I wanted to go to treatment. I didn’t know what treatment was so I said no. One day I noticed people who went through a green door got to go outside. So I asked, "What is up with the green door"??  Tthey said, "That’s treatment" so I said, “Ok, let’s do it”. I hadn’t been outside for so long.  I wanted to smell the grass, hear the wind, I could hardly wait.  I didn’t know I was supposed to get sober.  Through the green door I learned a lot about myself, but I wasn’t sure about this AA stuff, lots of God talk, and seemed the book was written for white men.

 On day 25 of treatment I got a call from my home. My father was asking for me from his death bed. The staff didn’t want me to go, I think they took bets on if I was coming back.  My father died that day and I stood on the corner wondering if the bus would come before I turned around and went to a bar.  I remember looking to the sky and saying “Please help me” and meaning it.  Not a fox hole prayer, but a true prayer asking for help . I went back to treatment and I was confronted at the door. It seems they thought going to the funeral was too dangerous for me. I had 2 dads but my blood dad just died and I needed to be sober and do this. I was told if I went I couldn’t come back so I packed my little brown bag and big book and headed out on my own.

I went to my grandparent’s house. My grandmother was my rock. She was always the stability and love in my life. My grandfather was my main abuser, and I’ll never know if grandma knew (I don’t think she did). Turns out all the women in my family had a hint something was wrong but not till a few years ago did it all come out.  Anyhow I went to dad’s funeral and of all his kids I was the only one sober. His 2nd wife was so messed up she almost fell in the grave. I looked up and there were 3 eagles circling over head. It was amazing and I thought..... “Now you are free, you can fly with the eagles. You can have peace”.

 In AA they tell you lots of things, one is make no major changes in your first year of sobriety. Well I broke that one by day 4 out of treatment. I moved to New York, I didn’t know where I was going, just knew the old play grounds and playmates were gonna be too much. I went to a meeting the first day there. I loved it, a college town withlots of young people. I fell for the first guy who was nice to me and married him. Old behavior, I know now.

  Turns out I had a baby coming and she was born one day after my 1 year anniversary. The marriage was disastrous. I ran out of there so many times swearing never to return. I would get sweet talked back in, until one day I reached my bottom, my life flashed in front of me----- it was not pretty. I was scared to death, I looked at my daughter and said “You deserve better”. Why get sober and end up in an abusive relationship. I wanted better.

 My life was about to change again.   I worked hard on the steps. I was brutally honest, I held nothing back. Two times through the steps, I’m doing my service work, and everything is clicking along. I decided it would be better to raise my child with my people and traditions and give her a homeland. So off I go back to Wisconsin again. My present company transferred me and I found a little apartment and went to work. I don’t know about you all but I like action, fun blinking lights. So I applied for a job at local casino. I became a blackjack dealer. Good money lots of action, tons of fun, and horrible hours. My fellow workers were mostly alcoholics. So I let my meetings slip, found myself out with a guy, at a bar and a drink in my hand.

 I didn’t drink it but it scared the hell out of me. I ran to a meeting.

  Then I met a man and had two more babies. He wasn’t sober when we met.  He says he caught alcoholism from living with me. Could be all that AA literature I used to leave laying around. 

  At seven years sober I found myself in a deep depression., I wanted to die.  I threw myself into the program harder. But you see..... all those years of stuffing my emotions and denying my mental illness came flooding down. I was hospitalized more than I was out. I even went through shock treatments. I lost a lot of memories. There are whole trips and months just missing. I went to the meetings at the hospital the whole time I was there. I knew one thing, I wanted to die sober, and it wasn’t my time yet. I hung on to those facts. This is also the time I heard someone say “this too shall pass”.  I’m sure someone else said it before but I heard it this time. The way that I feel right now will pass, another gift from AA.

I find that the creator has helped me most, right when I needed it. Today I come through my bouts with my mental illness. I started seeing a councilor because a sponsor is not a councilor. Prayer is so simple...... some days I just say “my Creator I need help”. I also see things everyday that make me smile or feel that warm feeling in my tummy and I simply say “Thank You Creator”.

I also have fibromyalgia, a severe case. I have had to give up my motorcycle and there are lots of things I just can’t do right now. Again the program tells me to do the best I can each day. The sun is shining and I feel good enough for a little walk. Thank you for letting me share parts of my story.

Today I walk tall, I'm a strong native women.


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