Thu Sep 12th, 2019
The journey of recovery from substances is exactly that – a journey. The journey involves many stops along the way. It involves setbacks. It involves reflection, healing, and moments of instability. The recovery journey is not a formula. The journey starts with an individual spark. Whatever the method each person chooses, their recovery is part of their story, part of their legacy, part of their strength. As September is National Recovery Month, I am happy to share such two stories.
Mr. Hanley Frost, the Culture Education Coordinator for the Southern Ute Tribe. He is also the current Sun Dance Chief and the lead instructor for Ute language classes held at the Southern Ute Museum. Hanley was raised by his grandparents on the Ute Mountain Ute reservation.
A pattern of drinking and drug use resulted in two years of jail time for Hanley. He had a couple life changing moments that nudged him into sobriety. He stated that while he was in jail, “my brother died and I couldn’t go to his funeral.” Hanley was not able to mourn the loss of his brother alongside his family and that moment hit deep, causing him to reflect on his future. Another moment of change was when, “I saw an elderly man in jail with me and I didn’t want to be that guy.” Hanley emphasized that a major strength in his life is his wife, “she helped me emotionally. She never told me ‘you’re gonna fail.’” Rather his wife continued to encourage him saying things like, “we have to take of things.” He reflects that “she’s someone I can lean on and keep moving forward.”
A long-lasting relationship has been a huge strength to Hanley’s recovery. Hanley admitted that when he was using, “I never put my trust in anyone because I was mean.” Now he understands how a supportive person helps, “we can communicate, just joke and talk about things.” In his quiet and insightful manner, Hanley says that he never thought that he would be Sun Dance Chief for the Tribe, a role he has held for about 15 years. He never thought that he would see his grandchildren born and be a significant role model in their lives. As he speaks of his grandchildren, he also takes a moment to acknowledge how strength can grow from tragedy especially when discussing the suicide of his granddaughter. Hanley emphasizes traditional teachings to heal. Hanley continues to lead the sweat lodge on the grounds of the former Peaceful Spirit, held every Wednesday at 6pm.
Hanley’s words of encouragement to those who are thinking about recovery or are on the red road currently is to “keep going, if I can change, anybody can change,” he says with a wide grin.
I was also able to reach out to Ms. Daisy Blue Star, the Ute Language Guide at the Southern Ute Indian Montessori Academy. Her road to recovery started with a hard reality check. Daisy heard the news of her mother’s passing while she was in jail on a DUI charge. Daisy recalls, “I had lost hope in my life because of the problems I had when I was drinking. I felt hopeless and like I was giving up on life. I thought my kids would be better off without me.” While she was trying to get a hold of things in her own life, she wasn’t able to “wrap my mind around my mom’s situation.” Daisy recalls being told that her mom was in a car accident and saying, “She’s a strong woman, she will make it.”
Daisy eventually went to treatment and started the fight for her sobriety. She fondly reflects how her “mom gave me a lot of advice before she passed. To this day, her words of wisdom help me remember to stay strong. Her strength helps carry me through my obstacles.” Daisy has been maintaining the fight for sobriety for the last four years. She clearly remembers that the “first year or two was the toughest battle. I got cravings on the weekends and when I had down time.” Daisy used a lot of checking the facts to get through the tough times. She contemplates, “I have to think about how much pressure and sadness my children went through when they saw me partying. Seeing my kids cry when they watched me get arrested for stuff I did, will never be a highlight of the addiction I faced, but it’s a reality.”
Daisy has worked hard to change reality. She is a single mother of five children and committed to her recovery by strengthening her cultural ways, “I’ve taken a huge interest in helping our youth understand that we are Native and we are strong. I don’t preach about it. I just try to create events for them to participate in. When we are weak, culture always makes us strong. Culture is a huge part of recovery because there is a lot of praying involved. I feel like Creator’s spirit and guidance helps overcome any and all obstacles.”
Daisy is strengthened by her service. She has taken leadership roles in coordinating sober events for the community that engage in youth empowerment and cultural revitalization. She assists in parent groups at the Montessori Academy and with the Daughters of the Red Road who help organize the annual Children’s Powwow. She is currently focused on coordinating the Run Against Drugs 2020.
Daisy’s journey has been one of triumphs and setbacks, but more importantly a willingness to fight for a prosperous life without substances. Her words of encouragement to those who are in the struggle are motivating and straight from the heart, “Know that some people can only help you with so much, but it’s truly up to yourself to make the sacrifices to stay sober. Sometimes it means entering a sobriety home or two, sometimes it means going to AA and NA meetings regularly on your own. Never be afraid or ashamed or embarrassed to do what’s right for you. Let me remind you, it does take sacrifice! Never forget that. Sobriety isn’t handed to you, it’s an earned process of new-found strength. You can accomplish it if you want it! Some people choose to except help in a setting meant for sobriety, and some are able to do it on their own. Both are courageous.”
Daisy’s final thoughts inspire all that a cycle of addiction can be broken, “I come from a long line of abuse that stems from drugs and alcohol. I chose not to become the next generation of addiction. We need more people who know what it is to struggle. There are gifts that each of us have on this path of sobriety. I sobered up with some of my friends around Ignacio. We started this Red Road together and we continue to no longer drink! If you find someone who wants it as bad as you, ask them to walk with you. You never know who might be interested. SOBRIETY IS POSSIBLE!”
One final reminder to all that you are invited to attend the Wellness Court Dinner in Honor of National Recovery Month: Wednesday, Sept. 25 at 6pm – Southern Ute Multi-Purpose Facility. For more info call Esther Belin at 970-563-2875.