If you haven't read The Only Good Indian is a Dead Indian may I suggest you do so before reading this one? There are several references to events and places in here that are explained on that page. It will make a lot more sense to you that way.
Hello, my name is WebGranny and I AM an alcoholic. Those words were hard to face. But at least I came by my drunkeness honestly, I inherited it. I come from a long line of drunks, on both the white and Indian side of my ancestory.
Well I can't honestly say long line on the white side, but I do know that a couple of my uncles sure were.
But the Indian side? Hell, my Grandma Bessie was a bootlegger who enjoyed her own product very much. I have never seen Grandma Bessie with she was not drinking. All the pictures I have ever seen of her show her with a drink in her hand.
My mother? Oh yeah, she enjoyed the bottle too. She was even given Social Security disability because she was an incurable alcoholic. When my mother died all that was in her refrigerator was a half loaf of bread and a bottle of whiskey.
Me, hell yes I followed the family tradition. I could drink with the best of them, or worst, and did. Unfortunately I passed the family tradition on to my children.
There are all kinds of studies on why so many Indians become drunks. I won't even try to be an expert on the subject. It is curious tho, that prior to our hostile take over by the White man we had very little drunkenness.
What I am an expert on is my own experience. And, truthfully, that is all any one is expert at. Most of my childhood memories revolve arround booze. When a party is thrown, after the guest list the alcoholic, oops, alcohol list is next. And like most kids when my parents partied, we snuck tastes. It must
be fun, look at Mom and Dad laughing and partying with their friends.
My dad was a logger who was gone a lot; he was only home on the weekends most of the time I was growing up. Somethimes it was every weekend, but if the camp was too far away he would be every other weekend. This left my mother alone with three children that she was ill equiped to handle by herself. She began drinking more and more and soon the booze took control of her life.
In the town with the "hanging trees" we had more "uncles" than ten kids put together After the bars
closed during the week, she would bring her male acquaintences home to spend the night. They deserved it. They had been buying her drinks and should be shown how thankful she was. It was after my father found out what had been happening that he left. We three children ended up in the orphanage.
My own drinking began after graduation from high school. I was living on my own in Colorado, where at the age of 18 you could go into a 3.2 bar. It sold only 3.2% beer and wine. You had to be 21 to go
to a bar that sold whiskey and 6% beer. At first my drinking was very lite. Truthfuully I could not tell you when it gained control of me rather than me controlling it, but I know it did happen.
I do know that soon I was stopping for a "couple" or a "few" after work everynight. My excuse? I was divorced, single mom and I deserved a break between work and home. One thing that drunks are good at, making excuses for their drinking.
The main reason it was able to gain control is I was not aware.
I was not aware that Indians have a lower tolerance for alcohol than most other races.
I was not aware that you inherit the tendency toward alcoholism the same way you inherit the tendency toward other diseases.
I was not aware of how it would control my life, my finances and, to an extent, my children.
While the government was busy managing us on the reservation system they did nothing to educate us to the biggest danger we face after the white man himself.... Alcohol.
Many of us drink to forget what we have to face every day. We face low paying jobs, racial slurs, and not being accepted by people we would like to be friends with, the White man. We have tried to be your friends from the first. We fed you when you were still learning how to survive in this great land we call home. But since we were "savages", we were not good enough for you. Oh not all of you, there are always exceptions, but by and large it has been and is so.
Many of us drink to forget the prison you call a reservation. Originally, that is where the white race forced us to live....We live there for many reasons today. First, it is home, it is the home of our grandparents. Second, many of our medical benefits are not available if we do not live on the reservation. Part of the agreement that was made when we were forced onto the reservation was that health care would be provided for us, but ONLY if we live on the reservation.
Many of us drink because you do. We so want to be accepted that we emulate you. Only for us it is not drinking, it is taking poison. It will poison our bodies as surely as if we had taken arsenic. It will poison our souls and make us forget the teachings of our fathers.
When we learn to put aside the white way of socializing and return to our family based social system then we will be able to help ourselves and others get over this disease. Until we do, we will continue to be "drunken Indians."
We must develop educational and social programs to help each other. We must make everyone aware of what alcohol does to us. We must stop trying to be like the white man and learn to be proud of ourselves again. So next time you see a "drunken Indian" stop and think:
Think long and hard about how he/she got that way.
Think about what your ancestors did to cause this.
Think about what you are doing to continue the tradition.
Think about what you can do to stop this terrible disease. Oh, it is probably too late for the one you see today, but please try to help the young ones who are growing up.
I am very thankful that of my six children only one is still an abuser. His drug of choice is not alcohol but the same weakness that made me an alcoholic helps him be a drug abuser. Another of my sons has joined me in sorbriety and is doing well. Maybe we can start a new family tradition.
Oh, how did I get sober? I was arrested for drunk driving. How humiliating!! That was the luckiest day of my life. That made me take a long hard look at myself and what I was doing, not just to myself but to all the people I love. For an alcoholic isn't just hurting themselves, they hurt all who love them. I didn't like what I saw and knew I had to change and CHANGE FAST.
It wasn't easy nor was it fast but I got the job done and I am so very, very grateful to the policeman who arrested me. I know without him I would have continued and ended up like my mother.
Again a special thanks goes to Marsha. She did superb work for us, again. Thanks a bunch.
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