Coming Back Full Circle From Addictions: Cecile Deneyoua Leads a Healing Path
“If you really want to do something in your life, you have to go for it. You can't just sit back and dream about it. It's good to dream, but you have to take action,” Cecile Deneyoua urges. She is from Deh Gáh Got'ı̨ę First Nation near Fort Providence, Northwest Territories and she worked for sixteen years at the only treatment centre in Hay River. She knows a thing or two about taking action herself.
Deneyoua has an alcohol and drug addictions diploma and she got her job at the centre after completing a practicum there. In her time there, she facilitated cultural programs, provided counselling and spent a year straight doing night shifts. Her last role was as the cultural coordinator, something she did for three years.
In 2011, the Centre closed its doors and it hasn't been reopened. While the counselling profession is one many people can only withstand for about seven years, she managed to do this work for more than twice that. “I like working with people,” she smiles.
She was inspired to do the work because she and her parents are all residential school survivors. “That really affected my life. I also got into addictions, too. It was very difficult for me to break that and so I thought that if I knew all there was to know about what it was doing to me, then it'll help me because there's a lot of times when I just wanted to go back to my old ways,” she explains. Having been there herself, she’s better able to understand where clients are coming from in their struggles.
Her advice for students who want to move away from their small communities for school or work is to seek help. “We know a lot of times, we don't ask for help. We don't even know that it's there. Just reach out for help because it's always there,” Deneyoua counsels. From counselling to financial issues, she believes if there’s a will there’s a way. “Don't give up. Just keep going,” she encourages.
Some of the barriers she has had to overcome outside of addictions has been childcare and making ends meet financially. To maintain her mental health, Deneyoua has taken part in counselling. In talking about setbacks, she’s able to move past them. She’s had a lot of professional help which helped her move forward, and without that help she’s not sure she would have made it this far. The teachings of her parents and grandparents helped her a lot too, as well as the support of her relatives who made time to talk with her as she pushed forward.
These days she’s inspired by her children and grandchildren. “I want them to have a better lifestyle. and education is part of it, too,” she explains. She wants them to learn the language and know that anything is possible for them. Deneyoua likes to speak it out loud because she knows it matters. “To hear it come from a grandmother is much more powerful, because I remember my grandmother's words when I was growing up,” she relays.
Her mother and grandmother inspire her too and she learned early on to listen to her elders. “Elders have lived it, have seen it and they've overcome it. So that's where your help will begin if you're really really serious about making changes,” she concludes.
As someone who overcame addictions and helped others do the same, she knows a thing or two about taking action. After all, If you really want to do something in your life, you have to go for it. You can't just sit back and dream about it. It's good to dream, but you have to take action. That’s what Cecile Deneyoua says, and she’s guided by the wisdom of her ancestors as she creates a better life for her children and grandchildren, so one day they can, too.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article
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