Tuesday, January 19, 2010

the healing power of the sweat

to keep the homefires burning and the wolves at the door, i write a lot of articles that are a bit meh (don't tell my editors!). but, every once in a while, i get to sink my literary teeth into one that reminds me why i became a journalist.

i've got an article in the current edition of halifax magazine that fits into that category - and it has a superb picture from my old daily news colleague mike dembeck to go with it. the story started last summer, with my road warrior article on my experience at a mi'kmaq sweat lodge.

the halifax article picks up the story with the deep healing coming out of the Mi'kmaq Friendship Centre in Halifax.

here's an excerpt: (read the whole thing here.)

A Spark of Hope

He woke up viciously sick, sprawled across a hotel bed in Toronto. He had just scraped himself off Skid Row and found enough money to drink himself into oblivion. AWOL from the army, skinny, hungry and dirty, he fell crying to his knees and prayed for help.

Someone knocked on the door. He opened it.

“You ready to go to the bootleggers?” the stranger asked. The two had apparently made plans.

“I had $28 in my pocket and to an alcoholic, that’s a lot of money. It’ll fix you up,” says the Mi’kmaq elder of that morning in 1976. In keeping with his commitment to humility, he asked not to have his name printed in this story.

To his surprise, he said no to the stranger and instead started a long walk to the detox centre and the even longer walk to sobriety.

“I drank for nine years and I didn’t know I was an alcoholic. That’s the weird part,” the elder says. “I had no idea.”

He was 23 years old then and spent six months in a rehab centre for native people. “It saved my life,” he says. “I realized, ‘Holy fuck, I’m an alcoholic! When I first came out of it, I didn’t know how old I was, I didn’t know if I was married, I didn’t know where I was from.”

While he rediscovered himself, he had to retrain his booze-addled brain to read and write again and to muster the guts to face life without the “false courage” of the bottle. “You get better physically first, then mentally and the last part is the praying,” he says. “You should work on the praying—that’s what saved me.”
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