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If You’re Ready for a Change Right Here is Where You Need To Be

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Students and community members of the Valley were treated to an intimate speaking engagement on Tuesday (March 13) when the Swan Valley Committee for the Elimination of Sexual Abuse, in partnership with Tracia’s Trust and the Elbert Chartrand Friendship Centre (ECFC), presented ‘The Warrior Within’ with Aboriginal role model and motivational speaker Mike Scott.
The ECFC filled with tears, and even some bouts of laughter, as Scott shared his story and transformation through addiction, family breakdown, violence, poverty, crime and loneliness.
“If you’re ready for a change, then right here today is where you need to be,” said Scott, to the room.
“The things I’m about to tell you, they’re real, they’re raw, and they’re situations I’ve been placed in, and that my family is currently still in.”
Scott, an aboriginal from Sturgeon Lake First Nation, who was born and raised in Saskatoon, Sask., spoke to the crowd about the trauma that was inflicted on aboriginal students who attended residential schools, and how he felt this was the reasoning behind his parents pain and addictions.
“You don’t have to forgive the people that have harmed you in your life for their sake, you do it for yourself,” he said. “You free yourself from the power, the harm, the control they have over you, and then you can start to rebuild, relearn, and love yourself again.”
An Elder, support workers, teachers, and chaperones kept a close eye on the crowd of approximately 200 students and community members in attendance, as Scott rehashed the abuse he watched his mother suffer through at the hands of an old boyfriend. Hearing glass smash, and watching her almost lifeless and beaten body lay across the living room floor as social workers dragged him and his siblings out of the house kicking and screaming, and separated them, before he found himself standing in front of the mobile crisis building.
He continued by speaking about the different levels of racism, discrimination, loneliness, and sexual and physical abuse he faced inside the 30 different foster homes he resided in by the time he was nine years old, and the description of him scrubbing his skin raw trying to turn it pink.
Back with his mother, drinking bottles of Listerine and hair spray to get drunk, and his father walking down his own dark and dangerous path, Scott explained how he found a role model in his older cousin.
“Every single one of us in this room, from the youngest person to the oldest person, is a role model. Whether we like it or not, we’re leading by example,” said Scott.
“That’s why you have to be careful with the choices you make in life. There’s someone looking up to you.”
At the age of 10, Scott found himself trying to be exactly like his cousin and experimenting in drugs. His first joint felt like freedom and he was able to exhale his problems along with the smoke. He taught himself how to suppress emotions with addictions, just as his parents had been doing for years.
“What I got addicted to, was the feeling of not feeling,” he said.
By the age of 11, Scott was sleeping outside and stealing from his community to support his new habit, when his cousin introduced him to a new source of suppression.
“I’m not here to sugar coat these things, too many people do that. I’m here to be real with you guys,” he warned.
“My role model was sticking this needle in his arm then he filled it up and handed it to me. I made the wrong choice that day and almost took my life. I was laying on the ground, shaking, and he was telling me to take it. This is the person I wanted to be like and he was laughing at me while I was dying.”
Fortunately for Scott, he made it past that day, but many of his family members did not.
He explained to the crowd how, one by one, he was forced to bury his cousin, his oldest and younger sisters both, and just recently on Sat. (March 10) his aunty because of overdoses.
“That’s the reality of what this can do,” said Scott. “I’m sick of burying my family and friends. My spirit needs a rest from all the death that’s happening because of drugs and alcohol.”
With a new habit to feed, Scott and his cousin begun robbing stores, stealing cars to sell parts, and attacking people on the street. The two of them ended up beating up a couple of young men so badly that they were placed on life support and, at the very young age of 12, Scott found himself locked in a jail cell like an animal.
“The first thing they did to me was a strip search,” he recalled. “Let me tell you, you may think you’re gangster, you’re not gangster when you’re standing there butt naked in front of a full grown man. You turn around and bend over – that’s just the first thing that happens.”
Scott urged the crowd to stay away from sources of drugs and alcohol that would increase their chances of ending up where he did.
“I’ve already lived this for you, you don’t need to do this,” said Scott. “It’s empty.”
At 17, Scott overdosed once more, but this time on cocaine. Paralyzing anxiety attacks followed the incident, but the birth of his daughter would have him making promises of a better life, only to fail again.
Scott explained to the crowd how his mom was given money from the government to compensate her for the horror of her time at residential schools. But, giving an addict a large sum of money could lead them to their death, and in this case, it did.
The room broke down as Scott reminisced about his mother’s downwards spiral and how she began using needles repeatedly, his nieces and nephew that were in her care were taken to foster care and she had nothing left to do but get high, until the day she told him she was dying of HIV.
“I didn’t know how to hear my best friend tell me she was dying,” he said. “I went to visit her in the hospital and when I was leaving I said ‘I love you Mom’, she looked back and said ‘I love you too my boy’, that was the last time we ever talked to each other. I’m glad it was those words though. I didn’t get to say sorry to my sisters. At least I said I love you to my mom and least she said it back.”
Tears crept across his face as he described holding her as she took her last breaths and how no matter hard he cried, he wasn’t able to keep her.
“Drugs and alcohol don’t care how old you are, what your ethnic background is, or how rich or poor you are, they will destroy everything you’ve ever cared about if you let them,” said Scott.
His own down ward spiral quickly followed her passing, and he described the day his daughter walked into his room to find him shaking up against the wall. Desperate to have her father feel good again, she brought him a 26 of alcohol and told him to take his medicine. This was the day everything changed for him.
Checking himself in for treatment he began on a path completely unknown to his surroundings.
“Coming this August, I will be six years clean and sober from drugs and alcohol,” Scott shared to a room applauding him.
“Drugs and alcohol were one of the hardest things I’ve ever had it let go of. It was my safety blanket when I didn’t want to feel. But nothing amazing in this world will ever be easy to get otherwise every one would have it. When you feel, you become that much stonger, you become less scared and more aware.”
Scott now dreams of building a live-in-shelter in Saskatoon where families do not have to be separated as they heal and find a new life together.
“I need you to start dreaming,” he said. “Only you can put a limit on what you can and cannot do in life. Don’t limit yourself with drugs and alcohol.”

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Jakki Lumax
REPORTER
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