It is still my story



Sunrise from a hospital room.

They say you live and you learn, in my 45 years, I have discovered this is not true.  You are never too old to screw your life up.  I can screw up a garbage bag, but don’t ask me what that means because I just screwed up my analogy.  I had not recently turned back to the bottle.  Instead, I invited it willingly into my life again.  I was so loving my sobriety but, a few drinks at the bar led me to cutting people out of my life, pitying myself, and thinking everyone hated me.


Any reason to invite that evil back into my life. It reached a point where if I wasn’t asleep, I was drunk.  Finally, my son said he had watched his dad watch his mom die, and they all had to bury her.  He said, I am not going to bury you; promise me, I can take you to the ER.  I opened my eyes and said, yes.  I wanted to cry, but I had no tears to fall.


So I went to the ER, which I kept thinking was jail.  Just let me sleep, I kept thinking.  After admission, the nursing staff (poor girls, I was so sick) were the most helpful nursing staff ever. I had two great doctors; I was hoping people “got me.”  No matter what part of life I am in, even when I found out it was “the end” in a way, I am not going down crying, my humor got me through it.   But the most important part was my family.  I hurt them, I could see it in their faces.  I told them not to get mad at my sons, because I begged my sons not call my family.  I didn’t want my family to see me like this.  Which of course, after I called my mom, meant they all showed up at the same time.  My dad even traveled to see me.  I cried, and he held me and called me his baby girl..  Your grandpa is sending help, he said. We are here for you.  Ancestors will doctor you, too.  In the end, my doctors here and my doctors there said the same thing: You will be fine; it just takes time.


I am so thankful. I have been up to watch every sunrise now.  How many of these have I missed?  I grew up in an alcohol culture on a poverty-stricken land and the U.S. government already hates my people.  I grew up in a time and place when you kept quiet if men touched you and you were only 5 years old.  You were supposed to keep it secret while he lived without the guilt. You clung to any man who said he loved you, because that is all you wanted, thinking abuse was love.  I grew up in a time where you couldn’t have sex with your husband without triggering flashbacks.  


I grew up where the biggest thing on my people’s mind, is hunger.  Not the people working in offices in poorly funded programs set up to help us,  but those in line at the commod house, those freezing in the winter, walking in the summer to sell earrings at the corner.  These are my people.  We will find excuses to drink, I did.


Alcohol is susceptible to us all. Some of us are better at hiding it, like we are at hiding our pasts.  Some of us don’t care anymore, and lie around in the streets in Whiteclay, not remembering who we were once upon a time.  Some of us are better at hiding it behind Instagrams for the conferences in Vegas where we learn what is best for our people.  


Alcohol was never part of our culture, but it moved in like a fat tractor – butt settler.  It is here to stay and God, I hope that one of those conferences the “per diem tribe” goes to, will tell us how to deal with it, like maybe putting more money towards treatment centers?
This is me, and this is still part of my story.  I am not asking for sympathy or forgiveness.  I just hope it helps someone else who may need help, too.


9 thoughts on “It is still my story

  1. My dear Dana. As I told you once–i’ve a hunch it didn’t register as strongly as it might’ve because you & I had only just met via social media, so listen carefully this time–you are owed much. You, yourself can’t even agree with this opinion without the fear of mocking self-pity.
    Yet, no one will fault you if goodness flowing into your life is of small comfort without that caring companion with deep pockets isn’t there to feed and clothe you without conditions or droughts. You haven’t mentioned counseling. A life coach is to dream for? I’ll be thinking about you & next in touch will be a bit more private. Your father was good to come. –danwenzeh

  2. I’m not sure there are any words that I can write that will make a dent in the fierce pain of your story. My parents responded to the alcohol menace by becoming teetotalers, but kept the craziness and chaos. That said, I am grateful for their courage in doing what they could. I am imagining that your son, and those that come after, will hold your courage as liberating for them. I know know, do only as much as we can in our lives; to do our best must be enough.

  3. You’re a brave woman, from a courageous people. I’ve had more than my share of alcohol, and I know of the devastation that alcohol has caused Native peoples, having been around them for some years. The only solution that I’ve seen work, and it’s not a guaranteed path, is to go back to the culture and spiritual way of life, sweat lodge, Sundance, ceremonies. But even then it takes commitment, continual working at it, prayer and then walking with that prayer. The dominant culture of fat butt settlers idolizes and uses alcohol, and the temptation will always be there. I wish you good health and happiness in your life and for your children, also. You have been blessed with a loving, caring son. Mi takuye oyasin, Tok’sa

  4. I just finished reading your book and it blew me away. I’m not a Native American but I’m a recovering alcoholic and I appreciated your incredibly detailed depiction of a week-in-the-life. You have a gift for transporting readers into your world, your life, body and soul – the good, bad, beautiful, horrible – all with just twenty-six letters, some spaces and punctuation. One day at a time, sister. I’m praying for you.

  5. You maybe need your spirit animal. Mine is horse. Through all my pain I can keep going, without horse I could not do it.

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