Six years ago, I was 155 pounds, living on the streets, drunk, high and doing what I had to survive or escape the pain I was living in. The car accident I’d been in had really damaged my head, neck and back, and I couldn’t walk straight because my equilibrium was off. I could barely speak audibly because I had a raspy whisper of a voice. I couldn’t trust the people I surrounded myself with because they were also in survival mode, feeding off whoever they could to keep their habits fed. There was no sense of loyalty and even if there was, it would be short-lived or easily bought out for a small amount of drugs or money. Many times I was beaten down and robbed.
Other times I was conned or tricked out of what little I had. It was a struggle to find a safe place to sleep and, in the cold of winter, a warm place to stay. Even one place I thought for sure I would be safe resulted in me waking up to a mouth full of someone’s steel-toed boot.
Still I stayed in it because I didn’t want to face reality. I didn’t want help and most days I didn’t even want to live. I denied or rejected the love of anyone close to me and pushed away everyone who was important. The shame I felt inside from being the driver in the car accident and for what I had become after almost eight years of walking on the Red Road was too powerful. I became my own judge, jury and executioner. I was allowing myself to die a slow and painful death.
Fortunately, that’s over. By the grace of my Creator, the love of my family and friends, a combination of western psychology and the spiritual beliefs and cultural practices of our First Nations people, I am back walking upon the Red Road.
There came a day when I had to choose to stop allowing myself to be a victim. I had to start taking responsibility for my life decisions – past and present – and choose instead to be a victor. I knew I had a lot of work to do in order to reconstruct my life, to heal from the pain I felt inside and to amend the relationships of those I had harmed.
Oh, to look ahead and imagine how many tears, how much time and energy, as well as intense effort, it would take from me was often scary and overwhelming. I will admit many times the fear made me want to run back to what I thought would be easier.
I didn’t, though. One day at a time, I handed over my fears to Creator, and though I felt the fear, I put one foot in front of the other anyway. I began my journey back upon the Red Road, and one by one, began conquering my fears.
As a result of my decision to take responsibility for my life and put my fear and worries into Creator’s hands, I am no longer living on the streets as a worrier; I am walking a noble road and living my dreams as a warrior. I may have stumbled and fallen down, but I didn’t stay down because I chose to get up. I may have made many stupid mistakes but I didn’t stay stuck in those mistakes because I chose to learn the lessons I needed to grow. I may have ruined relationships with others along my path of destruction, but I didn’t allow them to be permanently severed because I chose to repair those relationships and make amends where they were due.
I have chosen to forgive those who beat me down, robbed me and conned, tricked or manipulated me. I chose to stay in that way of life and so I chose to deal with the consequences of what came with it. Plus, because I grew up with many of them, I knew them prior to their addictions. I knew it was the drugs and alcohol acting out towards me, not the spirit of those trapped in the clutches of addiction. Today I can only wish them the absolute best of love, healing and health in their futures – and that they too, will one day walk the Red Road.
To alleviate the intense, painful shame I once felt, I have learned to accept the truth of my past and take full responsibility for my mistakes. I have made and continue to make amends where needed. I know that one of the best gift of amends I can give everyone is changing my behaviour for the better. I also understand the best gift of amends I can give myself is forgiveness.
Some days I still have to consciously forgive myself and remember that it was never my intention in life to get into a car accident or to relapse onto the path of destruction. However, I choose not to beat myself up with the gavel of guilt and put myself back on trial. My ‘sentence’ has been served and the ‘community service’ I continue to carry out is my career as a motivational speaker and inspirational storyteller, where I am happy to share my experience, strength and hope with others in the hopes that they, too, will embrace the amazing way of the life the Red Road has to offer and do what they can to create a bright and beautiful future… just like I did.
“My past is but footprints in the paths of my yesterdays. The impression I make on my tomorrows is dependent upon my willingness to focus on the steps I take today.”