Clarence Jones of the Gitxsan Nation lives in the small community of Gitsegukla, where he is a family wellness worker for Gitxsan Child and Family Services and a Terry Fox Run organizer since 2001. He shares his story of sobriety, physical wellness and healing, walking a million steps, and walking more than 7,500 kilometres.
Clarence began his physical wellness journey on the morning of January 1, 2012. He woke up that morning and decided he would go for a chilly, five to six kilometre long walk in his community. Then and there, he decided to quit drinking alcohol and begin his wholistic wellness journey. When he told his wife his decision, Clarence shares that he could tell by her eyes and the expression she made, that she did not believe his dedication to the journey. At the time, they had two kids, a 16-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter, so his wellness journey was for not only him or his wife, it was also for their children. Clarence knew he had to break the intergenerational cycle of pain and trauma that he experienced growing up because of Residential Schools and colonization and this was his way of doing that.
The next day and the days after, Clarence continued to walk. At first, his goal was to walk 10,000 steps a day. He then set a goal of walking an hour for 50 days straight, once he made it to that goal; he then added another 50 days, then another 50. He eventually walked for more than 1,000 days in a row. He also increased his steps, going from 10,000 to 15,000 to 20,000 steps each walk. His motivation and dedication meant that not even bad weather and times of grieving would stop him. He kept up his motivation by reminding himself of why he started his physical wellness journey and that giving up was not an option.
Clarence continued his walks and six months into his wellness journey, his family grew to include a four-legged companion named Spirit Jones. Clarence says Spirit gave him even more inspiration to continue walking, even when he did not want to, saying “…sometimes it was a walk and sometimes a slow jog, but we would go out every day. Spirit has been with me for about 80% of my journey and has made a huge difference in my wellness."
In 2021, Clarence set himself a goal to walk across Canada in kilometres. He walked over 7,561 kilometres, the equivalent of walking from Prince Rupert, British Columbia to Cape Spear, St. Johns, Newfoundland. In 2022, he surpassed that goal by walking over 7,600, the equivalent distance to walk back from Newfoundland to BC. Clarence says exercising helped not only his physical wellness, but also his mental health and has helped him open up about his former alcohol use. He shares his story with his community, particularly the youth, in hopes of supporting them on their wellness journey and helping them make informed choices about using alcohol and other substances. Clarence says he has been blessed on this journey by the love and support of his family, the Creator and his dog. He continues to hear from people who are starting or continuing their own wellness journeys and he always has a kind and motivating message to share with them to keep them positive.
Clarence lives his life by this motto “I am not better than anyone, just better than the old me."
Some of Clarence's many physical wellness milestones include:
This post, and the rest of Clarence's physical wellness journey will forever be dedicated to the late and great Spirit Jones, rest in peace.