Elder Archie Norberts celebrated 41 years of sobriety earlier this month with a cake in his community of Tsiigehtchic.
For those who didn’t believe in him, he said, “eat your heart out because I’m here to stay.”
Norberts is 77 years old and as a young man he remembers, friends betting against his sobriety journey.
“Nobody had any hope (for) me,” he says because of his bad reputation with alcohol.
Since getting sober, Norbert says he got to accomplish everything he wanted in life. He went back to school, made relationships and became a contributing member of his community by being a drug and alcohol counselor.
“Creator kept me alive for some reason,” he says. “I think this is one of them: to let our people know that you can go through life and not drink and have fun.”
Norberts admits it was no easy resolve to get to. “As a kid, I hated being Indian. For me being Indian meant being second class.”
He attributes his addictions to the pain of his mother’s passing when he was four years old and his experience in residential school.
“I had to forgive residential school people, I had to forgive my mom and dad, I had to forgive white people, I even had to forgive God,” he says, that is how he healed his relationship with himself and combated his addiction.
Norberts remembers the time he spent on Hastings Street in Vancouver, also known as Skid Row.
“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
He spent four years on the streets before he decided to seek help.
Jan. 22 1982 was the last day Norberts had a drop of alcohol.
Now Norberts spends his days going on long walks, playing with his dog, watching documentaries, and advocating for others suffering from substance abuse.
“It’s like Christmas every day for me,” he says, “if you really want to change your life, get spiritual.”
Norberts says he isn’t angry anymore, “I love being sober, I love being Indian and I love being brown.”