A cultural approach to recovery

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Aiming to build a strong and local recovery community so the people can heal together, the tribe’s Family Services Problem Gambling program is bringing the Wellbriety Movement to Tulalip. This past May, the program hosted a three-day training called the Medicine Wheel and the 12 steps. This training was limited to the first fifteen people to sign up and was focused on tribal adults in recovery. 

The training was created by White Bison, a Native American non-profit that founded the Wellbriety Movement in order to bring healing and recovery to tribal communities. By utilizing cultural practices and teachings to combat addiction, Indigenous nations throughout the country are seeing positive results thanks to White Bison’s trainings. 

The trainings are often referred to as fire starters, and they are designed to help get the ball rolling for recovering addicts and encourages them to take the initiative to build a recovery community from within the tribe. After a successful training for adults, the Problem Gambling program is preparing for another Medicine Wheel and 12 steps training, and this one is geared toward the youth of the community, ages 13 to 21. 

“We chose to do the youth training because it doesn’t seem like this is an area that’s talked about much with the youth; there’s not a whole lot of support in this area,” said Substance Use Disorder Professional, Robin Johnson. “And it’s intimidating when you’re a youth, to say that ‘I’m in recovery’ or ‘I don’t want to use’. High school and junior high are hard enough, it can be intimidating to take your stance.”

During the youth training, participants will delve into heavy topics including a look at how many of us were raised and how growing up in an environment where trauma lives and thrives, and where drug use and alcohol is often prevalent, can lead many children down a road to substance abuse, acting out, and depression. 

“Hopefully this helps bring a better understanding, because it talks a lot about intergenerational trauma,” Robin explained. “So, a better understanding of that and also their own family dynamics. Because that dynamic – if there’s no understanding, they feel responsible and start blaming themselves. This gives them an understanding of where it started, and why it’s happened within their families, and why it continues to happen.”

By providing that understanding , the program gives young adults the power back in their lives and teaches them how to ‘re-chart their lives with healthy choices and healthy behaviors’. The training harkens back to the teachings of our elders and uses the art of storytelling as an instructional method throughout the program. 

“What sets this training apart is, with the medicine wheel you do the steps in a circle,” stated Robin. “In the linear way, when you relapse you start over. In AA or NA, you start over. But with the medicine wheel, it’s in a continuous circle, so you just continue moving forward and that makes a huge difference.”

Along with the 12 steps, which helps with your personal character development, the youth will also sharpen a number of life skills in areas such as decision making, goal setting, solution finding, and creating a healthy self-image, among others. 

In addition to this training, the Problem Gambling program will also be hosting the White Buffalo’s Warrior Down this August. Warrior Down is a relapse and recovery support program for Natives who are completing treatment, as well as those who are returning to the community from incarceration. It’s also open to anyone with aspirations to become a local recovery coach, those who are on the road to recovery and are looking to be a pillar of support for others in the community who are going through similar tribulations. 

Said Robin, “By providing these trainings, people can then decide if this is something they want to bring into the community. And hopefully, they will get fired up about starting this. The ultimate thing that I would love to see is the youth, with the support of their parents or an adult, get some meetings started in hopes other youth would join in and want to take part.” 

The Medicine Wheel and 12 Steps for youth training is a three-day program and begins on June 20, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The training will be held at the Kenny Moses building. For more information, or to sign up for the training, please contact Robin Johnson at (360) 722-1067. 

“Your present situation isn’t your final destination, take every opportunity to learn and grow, be the next generation of leaders in this community. Find your truth, use your voice,” Robin expressed. “Tulalip offers so many ways to connect to its heritage and culture, this training is another way to cultivate an understanding of the history to influence positive change for the future.”