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Portrait of a Family in Recovery—Transcript

DONITA, SHOSHONE-BANNOCK TRIBES: I started drinking and doing drugs in the early '80s, when I went to college. I don't think that I became an active alcoholic during that time. It was later on, after I had married a man from this area. He was a very controlling and abusive individual. It built…the abuse had built up over some time. I didn't even really know that I was a victim of abuse.

ANNA, SHOSHONE-BANNOCK TRIBES: I remember my mom being gone a lot, and when she was home, she was in her room. And so, like, eating, feeding ourselves was completely up to my brothers and myself. We didn't have clothes. We didn't...we were pretty much just living on our own, and so that was hard. We had five acres of property, and we would just try and go play, basically, to forget that, you know, that was how we were living inside of the house. It was really unstable. I remember a lot of random people in and out of the house a lot and having the electricity shut off often. It grew into this situation where we were constantly looking for comfort and stability through neighbors, babysitters, teachers, anybody outside of the family, just because our family was so crazy.

DONITA: I was drinking more than a fifth a day and I had reached my rock bottom. And it escalated to being incarcerated, being homeless, and not having custody of my kids anymore, and not having a driver's license or a job. And while I was incarcerated, I had heard about the Native American Rehabilitation Association—NARA program. And so as soon as I was released, I bee-lined it straight for Portland. And I wanted to put my life back together.

ANNA: She's been out of treatment for a long time now, but for me, when she got out, she had been away from me for so long that she missed really important parts in my life. And so I didn't know her as a mother, I didn't know her as a friend, I didn't know her as a support system. And I felt really abandoned.

DONITA: My daughter, who was 15 at the time, made several attempts on her life. It was actually a cry out from her. She wanted her mom. It makes me tear up. And so that was her attempt to get the recognition in order to be able to pull me closer.

ANNA: And then I wouldn't talk to her for months at a time. I pretty much just worked against her because I figured if I got close to her that she would just be gone again. And so, it was important to me to not let her in at first. And I went downhill to the point where I was selling drugs and living in a party house, sometimes didn't have anywhere to go at all.

DONITA: I can't imagine ever wanting to go back to those dark days, but they are part of who we are as a family today.

ANNA: We are able to talk about what has happened in the past, I think. For a while I didn't want to talk about or I couldn't talk about it, but it's gotten a lot easier now. And when we talk about it, we're able to laugh about certain situations that were just so crazy and I can't believe they happened. Just talk about them and laugh it off. And so, it's worked, and she has apologized. So that was important to me. Mm-hmm. Yeah.

DONITA: One of the things that I use in my recovery is prayer. I connect with Creator and just ask for guidance in how to be a successful parent. How do I parent my kids now? It's something I had to learn because I certainly didn't know it while they were in this big formative time. We have so much gratitude for what we have today because we've been there at those really low points with many, many challenges. I really appreciate my family, and I embrace this attitude myself that all of those challenges that we go through, individually or as a family, they're only opportunities for us to grow stronger and learn, because we've been at those low places.

ANNA: And now we do have a strong relationship, so that's good. We both work here at NAYA, so that's awesome. You have to make sure...I love working with students that are going through the same situation as I went through. And I think, you know, for me, it helped me to connect with them, to let them know, "Hey, I've gone through these issues, too. I know exactly how you're feeling right now and I'm here to listen to you and support you in any way that I can. Because I know that if I would have had somebody to do that for me when I was their age, it would have changed a lot.