Nov. 13-19 is National Aboriginal Addiction Awareness Week.
This year, communities across the province and across the country will celebrate addiction-free lifestyles by hosting feasts, community walks, educational events and family events that promote this year’s theme “living the good life.”
“Living the good life” is another way of referring to healing, or walking the red road on our healing journey. Living the good life is essential for balance and harmony.
National Aboriginal Addictions Awareness Week began in the northern community of Kugluktuk 22 years ago. Now thousands of aboriginal people across Canada are celebrating healthy, addiction-free lifestyles. In 2010, more than 700 community activities were held across Canada. NAAAW celebrations help give hope to aboriginal communities by celebrating the good in our people and our communities and the strength we have to make changes. NAAAW is a chance for our communities, bands and First Nation organizations to celebrate our people who have faced their addiction and won. Drinking, drugs, gambling and smoking have taken their toll on aboriginal health, but many people and communities are taking action. Many aboriginal people have beat their addictions and have made changes in their lives by returning to their culture, following their spiritual paths and helping others to find their way out of addiction.
Tobacco misuse, the number one cause of death and health issues in our communities, has sometimes been overlooked due to a focus on the devastation caused by drugs and alcohol.
However, things are changing and many aboriginal communities are now including overcoming tobacco addiction in their NAAAW celebrations. Community role models and family members lead by example and can influence others in their community when they conquer their addictions and make changes in their life. When a family member quits smoking, other family members tend to follow. If a parent does not smoke or quits smoking their children have a much better chance of never taking up smoking.
Nothing speaks louder then people walking the talk. NAAAW celebrates a healthy lifestyle not the lifestyle of addiction. Living a life free from addictions has healed individuals and families giving them the freedom to enjoy what once was their right as healthy native people. For information on NAAAW events in your area check with your local aboriginal organization.
Kym Howay is an Aboriginal Community Tobacco Reduction Coordinator with Interior Health.