One First Nations Man's Recovery through Sports, Culture, and Traditional Healing Practices *Content Warning* This message contains a community member's journey with alcohol, as described by them, and their path to wellness that may bring up complex emotions, thoughts and feelings. Please contact the 24-Hour KUU-US Crisis Line at 1-800-588-8717 if you need emotional support.
Buzz Manuel (Upper Nicola Band) is FNHA's Cultural Wellness Events Coordinator, Upper Nicola Band Social Services Team. FNHA is honoured to support him in sharing his wellness journey with you.
Growing up, sports was a huge focus of Buzz's life. He played hockey, basketball, and baseball, and his father coached the men's hockey and baseball teams.
Sports can be a positive contribution to physical health, but unfortunately, Buzz says alcohol was often a big part of the after-game or tournament celebrations with his dad, other coaches and players drinking and partying.
“The drinking was everywhere and felt normal. So, when I was 17 years old, I started experimenting with alcohol. My 19th birthday was like my 'rite-of-passage' celebration where you go to the bar and your friends buy you drinks and make it fun. It was addicting. Right after high school, I went to college and although I attended, I didn't accomplish much; I learned how to party. I was living life the hard way."
During this time, Buzz was still going to school and playing hockey, but now hockey and drinking came hand in hand, with Buzz and his friends drinking heavily three to four days each week.Buzz was blacking out sometimes and not taking care of himself. His drinking became damaging for his well-being – and others'. He got two Alcohol-impaired driving charges and lost his driver's license for four years. As his drinking became more severe, it began eroding his self-esteem.
“I felt ashamed for getting the [charges]. I felt ashamed that I didn't finish school. I felt ashamed that I wasn't successful in sports. The fun was long gone, and I realized I was now drinking to cure my blues. So, I took a step back and reflected on my decisions, the path I was on, and where that could lead if I continued. I had to think clearly about what I was doing. Was I going to be that drunk who injures someone? I couldn't go on like that anymore."
Everything changed starting in 2006, when Buzz got the opportunity to work at the Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy. This experience helped kick-start his sobriety and recovery journey and reignited his passion for sports in the form of coaching.
“I wanted to work with kids in sports, I wanted to be a role model. Obviously, I could not be drinking to excess and promoting a healthy lifestyle at the same time".
Buzz decided to quit drinking completely.
“I was sick of it; I was sick of the feeling. I wanted to be happier and stronger."
Buzz went to treatment for 28 days, and during this time, he learned a lot about himself and began his healing journey. After treatment, he turned to culture and began participating in sweat lodge ceremonies with his cousin, who was also on his own recovery journey. They held sweats every month for a year to help support their journeys and nurture their spirits with good medicine. Witnessing his cousin prepare the sweat and participating in those experiences was powerful and humbling.
Although Buzz was still struggling and “fighting with his demons" at times after he got sober, his life changed for the better, and more and more doors started to open for him.Buzz returned to school and completed his diploma in Recreation Sport Management, making the honour roll. He celebrated his first year of sobriety, and his first son was born shortly after that. Buzz and his wife had another two sons and moved back to their community of Merritt, where Buzz started coaching lacrosse and hockey all year round. He says that being a role model, not just for his kids but other youth in the community, was huge for him and helped strengthen his healing journey.
“I'm happy that my kids have no idea what it's like to be in a house with parents who are intoxicated or having to watch your parents drink weekend after weekend. We have stopped this cycle for ourselves and our kids."Buzz and his family's focus is love and spreading that love to support healing for all. The most important thing to him and his wife is their children and raising their children in a good way.
Buzz Manuel has the honour of supporting First
Nations families in need, youth in care, and Elders in a number of
different ways. These include getting them out on the land and teaching
them about medicines, traditional foods, and food harvesting. Next month
through his work, they will be building sweat lodges to help support
communities in a more wholistic way.
For more information and support on Treatment and Harm Reduction, please visit our website for previous year's Sober for October messages. We hope you are inspired by this story and inspired to continue your Sober for October wellness journey! Help us inspire others! Tag FNHA on social media or email your wellness story to the Wellness Initiatives Team at wellness@FNHA.ca and we can write your story with you to share on the FNHA website!