Jordin Tootoo was a happy and contented man as he celebrated being 10 years sober earlier this month.
It's been a long hard road for the former NHLer from Rankin Inlet, and one he feels he'd no longer be on if he had continued with his former lifestyle.
Tootoo said his life has been quite the journey.
He said he's looking forward to everything the future has in store for himself and his family.
“Living up North is hard with the substance abuse, domestic violence, dysfunction in the households and all that,” said Tootoo.
“I tell people — and I said it in my book — I don't resent anyone. I don't resent my parents for the experiences I had. I'm actually grateful because it's opened up my eyes in sobriety to understand the cycle.
“I don't go around preaching to people because, to me, it's each to their own. I try to lead by example for our people and our Indigenous communities.
“I chose this life and a lot of my buddies who I grew up with in Rankin now see. We learn by watching, especially in the Northern communities. What you see is what you do.”
Tootoo said he's honoured to be an example of someone who chose a better way of life.
He said it was something that he chose — to stop one cycle and start a new cycle for he and his family.
“For me, the first two years of sobriety was probably the toughest experience of my life.
“I had to find different avenues, different ways to keep myself busy.
“Ultimately it was the land that kept me grounded. When you go out on the land nothing else matters. You're living in that moment.
“It's out on the land where we heal as Inuit, as Indigenous people. It's where we come together and help each other out and, that's what really kept me going on a day-to-day basis during my first two years of sobriety.”
Tootoo said when he first went sober, being in the south during the NHL season, he really didn't have those kinds of opportunities.
He said having the support of the Nashville Predators organization meant a lot to him, and he surrounded himself with positive people who wanted him to succeed.
“You find out pretty darn quick who your real friends are when you change your life.
“You start to eliminate people who want to take you down. And I've seen that first hand in our communities.
“When someone starts to become successful or is doing good, jealousy sets in and some community members want to bring them down to their level.
“I choose this path and when someone says, ‘Oh Jordin look, you've got everything thanks to your God-given talent,’ I say, ‘No! I've worked hard for this. I earned every darn bit of what I have. It wasn't just given to me.’
“I started learning during sobriety that when you become comfortable and content in your own skin, you start to become successful within yourself.”
Tootoo said he didn't want to get sober to impress others. He wanted to do it to stop one cycle and start another.
Grateful for wife and children
He said he wouldn't have what he has today if not for his wife, Jennifer, and their two daughters Sienna Rose, 4, and Avery Grace, 2.
“This is what sobriety has given to me. I know for a fact that I didn't fix myself. There's no possible way I would have the life today that I have without support and it takes time for individuals to heal.
“During the first three years of my sobriety, I felt like every day was a damn test, but that's how many people I affected throughout my life by using and I just said, ‘Wow!’
“I had three years of every other day when there were people coming up to me and asking if I remembered this happening or that happening, and for me to be able to say, ‘I'm sorry’ took all that weight right off of my back.
“But I knew, deep down inside, that if I didn't stop what I was doing I would be the next victim. I would be the next person six feet under. I knew my late brother, Terence, didn't want that, and I chose to believe him that, at the end of the day, everything will be OK if you have clarity and the right mindset. My mind had been foggy for the past 15 years — from the age of 12 until 26, when I entered rehab.”
Tootoo said it's a battle in the mind but as the days, months and years go past you start to become comfortable in your own skin and choosing a different way of life has become OK.
He said he couldn't imagine being in an isolated community up North and trying to change your perspective on life, because everyone around you is stuck in a stagnant life of living pay cheque to pay cheque and looking for someone else to make them happy.
“Ultimately, you create your own happiness and, for me, the future is about being a present father for my kids, being there to watch them grow and learn.
“And now, with sobriety, I'm able to do that. I'm able to get up at 6 a.m. to feed them and be a part of their every day life.
“It's something that, oh man, it's something I am so grateful to have.”