Another great piece from Ishmael Hope at Alaska Native Storyteller. I find in his story many parallels to my own life. I wonder how many of us are wandering through the non Native world, trying to reject our identity but being pulled back? It is a hard decision to be an active, participating member of a tribe. My grandfather always told me that being Indian isn’t easy, and I think Ishmael’s writing here tells us why. And his explanation of the issues we have around alcohol, even those of us who are not addicted, truly hits close to home for me. I have a few drinks a week and enjoy it and am not addicted. But the weight of what alcohol has done to my family and my people plagues me, and I always wonder about my relationship to this powerful drug.
It’s been about a year since I quit alcohol. Well, I slipped two times, I think– last winter having a beer in Anchorage, and drinking two glasses of wine one night over the summer. I think it was my little test to see if I craved getting drunk. I didn’t, but both times afterward I had a renewed commitment to sobriety.
I guess I wasn’t addicted, though I could be. I abused alcohol at times, binge drinking to the point of sometimes blacking out. I think what brought it on was a feeling that the things I was doing was wrong– that I wasn’t good enough. It was shame. Who knows where it came from? But I feel that way at times. It was also my way of saying no to a fixed place in society– the role of a young Native leader, a positive role model. Many times I just didn’t feel like a role model. I didn’t want any role. I wanted to get lost. I liked the feeling of my belly being totally warmed, a feeling of power.