It was the early 1990s and Monique Gray Smith was with her mother watching the Vancouver Canucks play the Los Angeles Kings at Pacific Coliseum when her drinking caught up with her.
“I passed out in my seat from drinking to much,” Gray Smith said.
Her mother had to wake up her up halfway through the third period of a game that featured Wayne Gretzky scoring a natural hat-trick, although she never saw it.
“She dragged me out of the arena,” Gray Smith said.
After the game she realized she needed help.
“It was that moment that I realized something that I wanted to be so special for her didn’t turn out that way because of my drinking and how my drinking was impacting other people around me,” Gray Smith said.
Gray Smith, who is of Cree, Lakota and Scottish ancestry, returned home to Kamloops and began logging the first series of kilometres on long road to recovery.
“It was seeing a counsellor at the Friendship Centre in Kamloops and then going for treatment at a specific First Nation’s centre that really allowed me to connect with my culture and who I was as an indigenous woman,” she said. “I know, had I not gone for treatment at that centre, that I would not be sober today.”
Since recovery, Gray Smith has remained sober for more than 20 years and has gone on to become a successful author, speaker and holds a diploma in psychiatric nursing. She will be speaking about her latest book, Tilly: A Story of Hope and Resilience, at Gabriola’s Vancouver Island Regional Library on Saturday (Jan. 4).
Tilly: A Story of Hope and Resilience is about a First Nations girl who struggles to overcome alcoholism. The book is based loosely off of Gray Smith’s very own experiences.
“It’s the story of one woman’s journey from early addiction and alcoholism to discovering who she is as a mixed heritage person,” Gray Smith said. “Even though it’s a story based on First Nations people and history, it really is a story of common humanity around recovery and the ability to move past early obstacles in life.”
Gray Smith began drinking with her friends on school lunch breaks when she was 11 years old. Eventually, the drinking became so frequent that she plunged into alcoholism and spent years recovering.
She said that since 1980s there have been major improvements for First Nation’s people regarding alcoholism, health and wellness.
“I think that there has been so much healing that occurred and has continued to occur that recovery is a very common theme in our community.”
“There are so many young people growing up who haven’t seen their parents drink,” she added.
Monique Gray Smith will be speaking at 3 p.m., at Vancouver Island Regional Library on Gabriola Island, 575 North Rd.