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Norman’s Story

From Healing Circle to Healing Journey


Norman grew up in Toronto, the oldest in a family of five children. His grandmother was Mi’kmaw, from Nova Scotia, but he was not raised with his culture or Indigenous identity. Norman’s homelife was not easy. His father drank and was abusive towards them. Norman recalls, “trauma was very prevalent in my family.”

Norman turned to drinking at an early age and slowly began to distance himself from his mother and siblings. He admits he lost himself over the years. Norman explains, “I used to go drink in the park or to the woods and drink by myself or with friends. This went on for years.” Norman continues, “One night I went out and drank. The next thing you know I woke up in a police station charged with stealing liquor from a liquor store.” That night changed Norman’s life.

“My lawyer recommended when I got caught stealing alcohol, for probably the tenth time, to go and check out Anishnawbe Health. I was going through a lot of pain initially. I had lost three family members. I had just finished burying my stepfather six months before that.” Norman remembers, “I was trying not to drink, and I was really scared, but I saw other people feeling the same pain in the circle, and it was very healing. I could see myself when I was younger in a few of the guys and heard their stories. I forgot about my pain for a while, I started learning all this stuff. I really got into it and it’s probably the most important thing that’s happened to me in my adult life.”

Norman has been in recovery for over six years and has not had a drink since the summer of 2016. He credits his sobriety with the help he received at Anishnawbe Health. Norman explains, “being around people like myself felt different than being in different treatment programs I had tried. I could see what they were saying is what I was thinking and feeling too. We would find a solution together in the circle. In the end I came out a better person.” Norman continues, “There’s so much to learn, especially if you’re not immersed in your culture if you don’t have traditional parents. It affected me so strongly and deeply. I love the place. I think it’s sacred, I really do. To sit around other people in their healing journeys and me being in my own. It’s so powerful.

When asked why Norman wanted to share his story, he says, “Now maybe I can do something positive. I can be a good example. If I share my healing journey, others can see there is something worthwhile; A life worthwhile after they get sober.” Norman concludes, “I’ve learned so much going through the pain. It’s important to confront the pain instead of having a drink. Going through that pain, you realize you have to ask for help. There are options, and it makes you stronger. Anishnawbe Health has my heart. That’s why I want to share my story.”

For more information on how you can support clients and staff at Anishnawbe Health, like Norman, please visit click here.