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I'm a new woman

Kathleen Lippa
Northern News Services

Cambridge Bay (Mar 28/05) - It's a beautiful life, says Millie Angulalik. But it wasn't always that way.

Angulalik, 34, is one of eight women who just completed a 28-day drug and alcohol treatment program in Cambridge Bay.

"I feel like a new woman."

The $60,000 pilot project was funded by the department of health and social services.

But it wasn't the first drug and alcohol treatment program Angulalik has ever been through.

She has been to many, but kept returning to her old ways: drinking alcohol, smoking drugs, stealing, and then, lashing out in violence.

She was nine years old when she drank her first alcohol and 11 when she smoked her first marijuana cigarette.

By the time Angulalik was 15, she lived mostly in group homes. She ended up in jail in Yellowknife, Hay River and Fort Smith.

"It was all because of alcohol," she said. "Fighting. Stealing. I ended up beating up my old man. The only time I got into trouble was when I was drunk."

Often she wouldn't remember a thing about happened when she was drunk. When the police told her, she said she was shocked.

"I didn't know whether I killed anyone or not," she said.

Prayers and hugs

At first, Angulalik was scared to participate in a treatment program in her hometown.

But each day started with a prayer and a hug. The women talked and shared stories, and Angulalik realized the others had been through similar experiences.

"It was hard. Talking about the past. Physical and family abuse. Sexual abuse. It was really hard. But they helped us go through it, talking about the past," she said.

"Let us deal with our anger."

Angulalik said she felt a weight come off her shoulders as she shared stories.

"There are things I held inside since I was a kid," she said.

"I was really down and ashamed. I was running to booze and drugs because I was always afraid. It's so beautiful now. So many days in treatment I wanted to run away. But it's been the best thing. Now I've got my own voice. It really opened up my eyes to a new life."

The program covered topics including addictions, alcohol and the effect on yourself and your family, communication, the effects on alcohol and drugs on your body, adult children of alcoholics, relationships, and unresolved anger and what it does to you.

"Some participants might have grief issues over death in the family or death of a relationship as well," explained Alice Isnor, the community wellness director.

Since the program started Feb. 28, participants lived together in the community's hostel.

"Fellowship builds among the group by living together. It doesn't end at the end of the day. There's still growth," explained Isnor.

Only three people left the program early, something that's not unusual, said Isnor.

It can be stressful for women raising children at home to attend a program like this.

The 12-bed hostel used to house the program will soon be renovated to become the patient boarding home for the Kitikmeot Health Facility, so if the program were to continue it would need a new home.

There is a two week follow-up with the participants to see how they are doing after having time to reflect on the program.

Nunavut needs treatment centres, but, as Isnor said, "There's not an endless amount of money."

Angulalik said she believes there should be a program like this in every community of Nunavut.

"I wish they could have one for men and women. And for the youth. I think it would help big time. Especially for families," said Angulalik.