Sade: Acknowledging Trauma so Healing Can Happen

Sade Ali
A Native American woman shares her story of recovering from drug use and how, through her new life, she helps others do the same.

Sade Ali - Senior Associate at Altarum Institute and Executive Director of First Nations, LLC

February 14, 1970, at approximately 8 p.m., was the last time I tried to medicate away the pain of historical trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), severe depression and other mental health challenges with the use of life-threatening drugs. I had lost a dangerous amount of weight and was wearing a size 3 on my large frame. Most of the people who I met in the places we used together, because of the constant sharing of paraphernalia, were either dead, in prison, or living with illnesses we had yet to diagnose. It took me a while, and nearly losing my life any number of times, to come to the realization that the solution I sought was temporary and that I was left to face the person in the mirror.

It was a tough detox and, 45 years later, I still remember the horror of it. However, miraculously, a month into recovery, I was offered a job in the field of addictions treatment.

Over four decades ago, as a Native woman, I found my way to the Red Road and recovery for my people and myself. We acknowledge the intergenerational and historical trauma of genocidal tactics that heavily and dangerously impact us and sometimes drive us to seek relief from the mind and spirit-numbing pain.

I began to realize, early in my career, that care needed to be appropriate for the person receiving it and that family and community were of the utmost importance for health and wellness. I already knew, firsthand, the importance of addressing the impact of trauma in order for healing to take place. I also knew that, unless providers were willing to help individuals like me and our supporters and our communities have these tough conversations, we would endlessly cycle in and out of care with the blame for failure being placed on us.

Today, I am still in my field and my life’s work is keeping myself healthy by sharing the healing stories of our people and advocating for care that resonates in cultural/spiritual ways with the people receiving it. Aho...

Last Updated: 12/18/2015