APTN News Saturday
Jennie Vandermeer remembers a time where she had to be filled in on parts of the evening where she blacked out.
“I remember when I was still drinking I would be like, ‘I am not going to drink all week. I am going to work out and make it to work every day’. Then 5:01 p.m. Friday I was outside the liquor store right there ‘cause I thought I was good.’”
She can laugh through the pain of it now, but nothing comes easy.
Jennie Vandermeer is a member of the Délı̨nę Got’ı̨nę, in the Northwest Territories.
She is 16 months sober.
For years she struggled with alcohol addiction, was a victim of domestic violence and lived with depression.
“People would come up to me and say ‘Oh I already met you. You were at this party’. I would feel like an idiot because I didn’t remember.”
She is learning how to be comfortable in her own skin. Sharing her story of recovery with the world.
“Me being an alcoholic is the best thing that ever happened to me because all of the tools that I have used in my recovery can be applied to all areas of life,” she said.
Just over a year ago Vandermeer launched Everrrr Sexy Health and Wellness, a health support group online.
“It was actually my partner when I walked into the house with my parka and mukluks wearing bush clothes basically. And it he just stopped and looked and me and said it because he just saw me for who I am,” she laughs.
She garnered an audience through vlogging her own wellness routine and road to recovery.
It worked, people from across the north became subscribing and asking for guidance on their own health and wellness questions.
Vandermeer said she saw it as an investment in herself. She received her resistance finesses certification and some trauma training and began coaching clients beyond the territories.
She is routinely invited to run workshops.
Just this week she travelled to Dechinta “Bush University” at Blachford Lake, east of Yellowknife to talk about her journey and provide consultations with students.
She pulls no punches when sharing her story.
“Living this lifestyle is not easy,” she told her students. “Trying to find a counsellor is like dating. You’re not going to marry your high school sweetheart, calm down. You just have to keep trying even when you have no energy. That’s when that team of people you need to surround yourself with comes in.”
Everrrr Sexy focuses on topics such as decolonizing diets, the history of residential school and wellness, meditation, exercise, self-care and more.
For Vandermeer, the path she has carved out has reconnected her with her culture and her land.
She tells students that her intent is to share vulnerable details of her addiction as a way of connecting with clients.
“I get emails or messages that range from “I went to my first AA meeting today or I bought my last bottle of wine or I left a toxic relationship.”
Vandermeer has her clients evaluate their goals and reasons behind them.
She asks them to separate the aspirations into daily, monthly and yearly tasks which she calls a “personalized action plan.”
For Lianna Rice, a first-year Dechinta student and most recently a client of Everrrr Sexy, her focus is on mental health.
“I like that she breaks things down that we can have these long-term goals and things that we want to see in the future. Breaking them into five-year goals, monthly goals, and daily goals.”
Rice hails from Happy Valley-Goose Bay where the rate of suicide is 20 times the national average. It is just one of the many gross inequities for Indigenous people.
“In Labrador, before I came out west there was some young children passing away from Tuberculosis, something that we have eradicated in most of Canada.”
Jasmine Vogt knows all-too-well that healing must be holistic. She has been sober for more than a year and has brought her son Kurtis out to Dechinta University as she completes her education.
“To me, health and wellness means working on all four aspects of your medicine wheel. Your physical, your mental, your emotional and your spiritual and keeping them all in balance,” she said.
The class is dismissed for the day and Vandermeer will check back with her new clients, but first, it’s time that she checks in with herself and her recovery one-day-at-a-time.