Sam is a street artist who I met several years ago. He created the beautiful work of art above.
I asked him to do a wood burning workshop with the youth from the art group. Sam shared his story with the youth, and we were all blown away by what he had to say. Sam gave my permission to share his story here, but he asked that I use his real name. He wants people to know his story and what he has learned.
Sam grew up in the Land of Nanabijou (Sleeping Giant), Fort William First Nation. His childhood was abruptly disrupted at a young age when he was taken from his mother and his Ojibway community and placed in St. Josephs School for Boys. He spent 5 ½ years in this residential school, where he was subjected to physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
The trauma he experienced at this school was unthinkable, and as a result, he suffered from horrific nightmares during his adulthood. These nightmares could only be silenced by alcohol, which led to 45 years of addiction. He spent time in prison and then ended up on the streets of Ottawa. He said that during these years on the streets he harbored anger towards his abusers that was slowly destroying him.
He thought that by bringing his abusers to justice his anger would vanish. But even after testifying in court and seeing his abusers sentenced, the anger persisted and the nightmares continued. There were many events that transpired that led to Sam’s sobriety…hitting rock bottom and nearly dying, losing friends to addiction, building a relationship with an Elder, re-embracing his spirituality and Ojibway culture…
But Sam stressed that the most important thing was letting go of the anger he was harboring and offering it up to the Creator.
When he made the decision to quit drinking, he prayed to the Creator for protection. He asked the Creator to keep negative people away from him while he was withdrawing and most vulnerable. He said that during these few days of heavy withdrawal, he was shaking uncontrollably. He held a pencil in his hand and with every shake he would draw a stroke on the paper. He said that focusing on the pencil marks helped him forget about the withdrawal.
The Creator answered his prayers: he has been sober now for 5 years.