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Sunday, December 31, 2017

As the New Year comes upon us, I thought I'd share the remainder of the story of Patrick's 
life, a life renewed and changed over many years.

(Please forgive the letters being cut off/moved to a different line. I couldn't figure out what iscausing that and or fix it).

Part 2: At the close of the two weeks of withdrawing in his mother’s basement, Patrick’s uncle drove him to a sweat lodge where all the toxins were removed from his body. After being clean and sober for four months Patrick lied about how long he had been clean and enrolled in university for counseling sciences in order to give back to a community he had once tormented. The manager at his job encouraged him to attend school, but Patrick says he enrolled only to prove to the manager that he was dumb. However, Patrick finished at the top of his class. His first job while in school was working during the day with people with schizophrenia who also had drug and alcohol addictions. At night Patrick worked in harm reduction: talking to kids as they were high, providing a needle exchange, and making sure the kids were alive. Many of the youth were children of those he had once done drugs and committed crimes with. After graduation Patrick worked in family services. Because of Patrick’s jail record he needed a letter from the state to work around kids. After graduation he worked in family services. Then, he went back to Saskatchewan to his reserve, where he worked in many different avenues of child protection. Since starting his employment journey he has been a children protection worker, counselor, cultural facilitator, spiritual advisor in corrections, and a correctional programs officer where he helped inmates deal with their trauma. . Additionally, he established the first aboriginal healing unit for maximum security inmates, where he sang songs with the inmates, held a native ceremony, made moccasins, and led a sweat (not previously allowed in a max before). He also worked with active addicts, teaching them a sense of self, and provided employment assistance training.

Patrick loved being an aboriginal correctional officer, but was forced out because an inmate that he did time with in prison recognized him and an assistant warden didn't think ex inmates should be working in prisons. However, two officers who hated him as a kid saw his life change. In 2002 the officers called him to their station, requesting him to sign paperwork. He was worried, wondering how he could be in trouble again. But they presented him with a pardon application. Both officers wrote glowing recommendations for him to have a full pardon as they had seen him befriending and working with youth.

Patrick and one of his professors in school who worked for BC mental health teamed up together to design trauma programs. Patrick designed the cultural part, while the prof designed the mental health portion. They created best practices for aboriginal families as well as healing aboriginal communities. They also helped set up youth aboriginal treatment centers. However, Patrick’s work changed when he and his current wife decided they didn’t want him traveling out of town so frequently, as they had a blended family. Patrick then created the organization Blackhorse 361 which consists of program development, public speaking, and cultural workshops. Blackhorse 361 teaches the facilitators, who have been chosen among the community members as the community will already have a trustworthy relationship with them. "In order to connect with a group or individual you have to relate it to something they understand and are hopefully passionate about so I use metaphors to teach. I create a lesson using activities such as gardening, mechanics, or an event or hobby they have experience with​.”

When I asked Patrick how he incorporates native spiritual practices into addictions counseling, he said he doesn’t phrase his interactions with people as “addictions counseling,” especially because people have preconceived notions about what that means. Patrick works with them to deal with the problems underneath, the poison and root causes of the problems. He uses simple means, such as connect​ing​ them with animals or walking to a river or trail with someone as they talk and share. This keeps the body activated so the mind is less likely to overthink or filter what they are sharing. Using visualizations, he helps the adult remember the child that he was,  then helps that child as an adult would so that the person feels a sense of accomplishment. This also allows the adult to differentiate what his child self did and what his adult self can do now. Patrick teaches them to write letters to past people in their lives then they burn them without sending. Patrick also encourages them not to make any big decisions until going into ceremony four times, which teaches them to think for a period of time, delayed gratification and patience.

As our conversation neared its end, Patrick explained about the 7 sacred teachings of his tradition. They are: wisdom, respect, courage, love, humility, truth, and honesty. “Is what you did or about to do or say in accordance with these? When you get up in the morning, think about what you are going to do for your spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental health. When you go to bed at night, recognize what you did or didn’t  do to honor those aspects.” Patrick commented that as humans we tend to talk twice as much as we listen “which is opposite of what the creator intended for us; he gave us two ears and one mouth so that we could listen twice as much.” An old teaching says, “you can only keep what you have by giving it away and you can only keep peace by sharing it with others. You can only keep knowledge by giving it away."

When I inquired of Patrick about what has helped him to change after being involved in addictions and incarcerated, he said that moving away from Vancouver was necessary or he knew he’d use again. He moved to Abbotsford with his mother, where his sister also lived. Additionally, a buddy in school with him, Jackson, was part of his support system. His uncle kept him involved in traditional ceremonies, as well as involving him and empowering him to facilitate groups for offenders being released from prison. Patrick worked with their families to prepare them to know how to help their loved ones getting out. He also continued to correspond through letters with his uncle still in jail.

As a result of seeing his mother being abused  during his childhood, Patrick swore he would never hurt a woman- but he in turn became the victim as an adult.  He was involved in volatile relationships and addictive behaviors during his first marriages but he himself was not physically violent. One of Patrick's eye sockets was cracked and a woman broke his nose. An ex also hit him with a telephone and injured his face.

The person Patrick identifies as his biggest support now is his wife, who herself came from a 20 year abusive relationship. She is the first person he processes with. They have “rules of engagement” for how to communicate and deal with conflict. The only emotions Patrick knew or understood as a child were anger and depression. Patrick says that he intellectualizes everything. His wife helps him understand his emotions and he helps her with the logic aspects of life and their relationship.

Patrick came from a rocky childhood and regrets many of his actions from his past. Now, he is in a stable, loving relationship with his wife, serves and loves children in foster care who are under the care of him and his wife, and is involved in teaching and learning from his community and an extensive network through Blackhorse 361.