Recently I became sober. On the surface it happened quite easily. I attended a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournament with some of my wonderful dojo community members and promptly woke up sick the Monday after. Utilizing a skill I call “allowing environmental changes to prompt behavioural changes,” I stopped smoking, stopped drinking and went to bed early. My ill body was happy for the early bedtime, which allowed me to wake up in the mornings. Memories of the tournament, including competitors who showed determination and humility gave me drive to get to the gym and dojo more. Now over a month in and I have a completely different set of day-to-day behaviours.
At first I related the ease of change to investments made over the last few years. For two years now I have been in a state of harm reduction. As a former late stage alcoholic, this period has been both affirming and terrifying. Having gone through intense recovery several years ago, I knew how to put into practice the pieces that can sustain my personal goal of sobriety (these goals can be different for everyone) including consistent sleep, nutrient dense foods, supplements, non-substance based community activities, investment in safe and stable relationships, and creating consistent life patterns. Even with all these pieces, I hit the worst levels of use in the past few months. Like many folks coming from intersecting communities of poverty, the hits just kept coming. It was hard to imagine a life without the easing force of substances.
The thing that really changed in the past month, however, was for the first time in my life, I had stable housing, food, and job security simultaneously. Prior to that, I had reached wages that enabled me to engage in healthy behaviours, but it still wasn’t enough. Though I had skills built through recovery programs, therapy, grassroots spaces, threads pulled from institutional castles, and access to a somatic coach working on body awareness and narrative restructuring, I was still using. Slipping into inconsistent sleep and dangerous behaviours, it felt like a never ending battle.
Just prior to the tournament I became staff appointed at a major institution. This change provided me with a level of security that could sink into my bones. Access to housing, food, the basics of life are, for now, within a reach of stable ease. For those of us that come from chronic duress, life threatening stress and unstable resourcing such as housing and food, it can be hard to conceive what it would do for us to not be afraid. For those microfibers of distress to take a breath and maybe even a break.
What it did was change everything. I walk taller now. I breathe easier. I look forward to my day and believe that there is something to live for. That more than anything is how I got sober with such grace.
Job security, food accessibility, and housing stability is life changing and life saving, and these safety fundamentals are deserved by all of us.
As wages stay stagnant and job insecurity increases, fighting for decent work is all the more important to build this life within reach. I was so excited the founder of the Amazon Union, Chris Smalls, came to the Toronto area on March 10 to talk about our labour movement and cost of living crisis here in so-called Ontario. I want everyone to feel the peace and safety that a just workplace has to offer.
When workers organize together we can win real wage increases, affordable groceries and basic goods, housing for all, and strong public services. Self-care alone will not get us there, but organizing together will.
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