“Gathering Our Warriors”, a program designed to help men who are struggling with alcoholism and addictions, began its second year on Feb. 5.

The weekly drop-in support group is based on 12-step recovery programs and emphasizes personal values and beliefs, and traditional teachings that will help the ‘warriors’ heal from trauma and addiction and navigate sobriety.

Richard Jackson Jr., a drug and alcohol counsellor at Conayt Friendship Society, is co-facilitator of the program, which he says focuses on new ways to live a happier, healthier life.

“Some of the things we’re looking at is anger management, which is very important. Becoming a warrior, the seven sacred grandfather teachings [Humility, Bravery, Honesty, Wisdom, Truth, Respect and Love]. We have talking circles and healing workshops. I bring in facilitators on a gender balance, so male and female, to do workshops with the warriors. Each with a different expertise, like domestic violence, recovery, healing – anything that has to do with the men becoming whole and also starting to look at abstaining from drugs and alcohol,” said Jackson.

The program welcomes all men who are struggling with alcoholism and addiction, not just those within the indigenous community. The sessions are every Wednesday from Feb. to April and run from 12p.m. to 3p.m. at the Conayt Friendship Society.

“We start at noon and we serve a hot lunch from 12-1 and from 1-3 we do the work,” said Jackson. “Two of the biggest problems I see in the addictions field, is shelter and food. Those are the two main things that they need. So, we feed them a hot meal, maybe that’s the only hot meal they’re going to get for the day.

“It’s a very structured environment, very safe. I think it’s very important that the warriors feel safe and secure.”

Jackson, who has sat on the board of the very successful Round Lake Treatment Centre in Armstrong for the past 16 years, believes that “Gathering Our Warriors” is a valuable resource to those who have made the commitment to become sober. The Round Lake Treatment Centre operates on the premise that “Culture is Treatment”, and Jackson brings that attitude to his work as a counsellor with the warriors.

True wellbeing is based on the balance of the traditional medicine wheel: physical, spiritual, emotional and mental health are treated as important parts of the whole. 

  “What we’re trying to do is heal the spirit. Because when you take alcohol and drugs, the spirit wants to leave your body,” said Jackson.

“The home is your body, what you put into your home reflects who you are. So, we need to be accountable and take responsibility for our actions, that’s very important. The three things I ask the warriors to do is to be open, honest and transparent. With everything they do.”

Conayt Friendship Society is located at 2164 Quilchena Ave. next to Merritt Moms and Families.