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Choosing a healthy life

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services

Fort Providence (Dec 08/06) - It's been seven months since Shirley Gargan had her last drink and she hasn't looked back.

Gargan was one of the 18 residents of Fort Providence who were recognized for their decisions to follow the road to healing during a celebration that was part of National Addictions Awareness Week, Nov. 19 to 25.

Holding a celebration to recognize local achievements is something the band has been trying to do for a long time, said Chief Berna Landry.

The band council decided to take advantage of the awareness week to gather people together, Landry said.

Residents packed the community hall on Nov. 22 for the feast and drum dance that acknowledged a wide range of achievements.

Along with being recognized for choosing sobriety, Gargan was also applauded for being awarded an honorary diploma from Aurora College in management studies.

The two achievements were intertwined, said Gargan, the career development coordinator with the band.

Gargan started drinking when she was 16 and drank on and off for the next 31 years.

Two years ago during a staff evaluation, one of the goals Gargan listed was to quit drinking and lead a healthy lifestyle. Last year during another evaluation in November, Gargan said she finally decided to meet her goal and to also go back to school and get a degree.

She managed to do both in six months.

Gargan was given an honorary diploma in May for having met the requirements for management studies during her nine years working as the career development co-ordinator.

On April 23 she had her last drink.

Gargan made the decision to stop drinking for a number of reasons. Her common-law husband Ronald Bonnetrouge wanted to go back to school and Gargan said she wanted to support him.

Bonnetrouge quit drinking a week after she did.

Gargan's older sister has also been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Since choosing sobriety, Gargan said she hasn't looked back.

"I don't miss it, not one drop," she said.

Gargan said she still has all her friends although she was originally afraid she would be lonely when she stopped drinking socially.

"I feel good," said Gargan. "I feel happy,"

Giving support to those who want to choose the road to healing is important, said Chief Berna Landry.

"I think we need to support and try to encourage people who are trying to quit, even for a month," said Landry.

The commitment to sobriety of the 18 people who were recognized has ranged from seven months to five years. Honourable mention was also given to people who've been sober more than 10 years, said Landry.

Other achievements were also celebrated including last year's high school graduates and people celebrating their anniversaries.

This year Jimmy and Margaret Sabourin celebrate 67 years of marriage while George and Dora Minoza celebrated 64.

Laura Sabourin, Maryann Gargan and Sherri Thomson were also recognized for their work to support culture in the community.

Thomson, a teacher at Deh Gah school, takes two or three elders to church every Sunday, said Landry.

"She takes the time to be part of the community," she said.

Approximately 50 community members were recognized during the celebration.