A story on the struggles with addiction
By Max Winkelman
John Archie started his 26th year sober as of this week. He has been sober since 1992, he says.
“As an alcoholic, I know I can never go back drinking because it’s a progressive disease.”
Archie says he’s been doing a lot of research why he became who he became.
The Indian Act prohibited sale of alcohol to First Nations starting in 1884. In 1951, amendments to the act meant provincial governments had to petition the general-in-council to fully implement the amendment within their jurisdictions. In B.C., that prohibition ended in 1962.
“They opened up the liquor stores and the bars to Indians and that’s when alcoholism exploded on our reserves and probably every rez in Canada,” he says. “I call it the alcoholics sixties, there was, I would say, a 100 per cent of our rez was alcoholics. I grew up in it, the poverty and the alcoholism.”
While there might have been some who weren’t, Archie says his parents were.
“Most of the time they bought groceries but not all the time. But I know other people were worse off than I was. So growing up with alcoholic parents in an alcoholic community. That’s your role models. It seems like a normal life.”
Some of the children on the reserve were into alcohol at 12 years old and earlier, he says.
“When they got drunk [inaudible] it was really bad. It was like an explosion between them. Every time they drank violent explosions started. Not only in my family but other families that, between other families, tribal fights and stuff like that. That’s the kind of environment I grew up in.”
He wasn’t a victim of the violence, but he was sexually abused, he says.
“When I was a child, I was sexually abused, I would say anywhere from four to eight years old and then I went to the residential school and I was sexually abused when I was up there. All those things impacted me. I was quite young.”
The abuse impacted Archie quite severely, he says.
“I guess through being sexually abused I lost my ability to walk and I lost my ability to talk.”
His auntie used to help him with moving his feet, he mimics.
She used to tell him, “come on, lift up yourself. Come on, lift up yourself,” he says, adding that he used to be too scared to talk.
“My auntie and my mother and my grandfather spent a lot of time with me and they got me better.”
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