By Molly Bryant, Puyallup Tribal News
Excitement filled the air as participants, staff, family and friends of the Reentry Program trickled into the Little Wild Wolves Youth Center for the quarterly Honoring Ceremony that was held on Friday, Sept. 29.
Put on by the Puyallup Tribal Reentry and Community Family Services departments, the event serves as a way to honor the newest participants who have started their addiction recovery journey, as well as celebrate sobriety birthdays in which tokens are given out based on the number of days the individual has been sober.
In addition to sobriety birthdays, they also hold commitment ceremonies. Peer Coach Danny Leonard said, “it’s a gesture for the participants to be active in their recovery and to also spread the word to others who are either experiencing addiction or very young in their recovery. We started by smudging to cleanse ourselves and come to this commitment with a clean mindset.”
Attendees exchanged hugs and handshakes, highlighting a sense of camaraderie in the group. A slideshow played in the background featuring heartfelt photos of employees and people who have participated in the program.
Director Mona Miller has been working in the Reentry Program and CFS Department for two years. Previously, she worked as a clinician in South Dakota. Once she moved back to Washington, she started working for the Reentry Program as a coordinator.
Miller pointed out how the drug epidemic has worsened within the community. “We are at war,” she said, “like no other time. We are at war with this epidemic of fentanyl, meth, and everything else that’s coming our way. That shouldn’t be happening in our community. It’s happening more times than it should. It affects my staff. It affects our families, it affects our community. We need to be out there talking about this stuff with our children.”
The opioid epidemic has gotten progressively worse. The number of people who died from a drug overdose in 2021 was more than six times the number in 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the number of drug overdose deaths increased more than 16 percent from 2020 to 2021.
While the topic of addiction can be heavy for some, organizers of the event made sure to emphasize the event’s family-friendly nature. There were festive balloons, cotton candy and a photo booth to appeal to the children attending the event.
Miller acknowledged the large number of children present. “I love that we have a lot of children here,” she said. “Our children need to witness this. We need to show them that we do recover and we become responsible people and not only do we witness as a department, people that have been affected from drugs and alcohol. We see them getting their children back.”
Participants of the program received a token, certificate and blanket, honoring their recent achievements. Many made moving speeches about their journey toward recovery and encouraged others to continue to follow the path. The room was full of emotions. Some showed their support in an uproar of cheering, while others couldn’t help but tear up.
Puyallup Tribal Councilwoman Monica Miller and Councilman James Rideout were also in attendance.
“I love to come to your guys’ meetings,” Councilwoman Miller said. “Mona lets me know every time and I try to make it to all of them because I love to hear your stories. I love to hear your achievements every day that you guys do. It’s a struggle and I know it. … I’m proud of each and every one of you guys.”
“I just want to say this evening, my heart is full because when I walked into this room, I seen all these children that are unifying with their families,” Councilman Rideout said. “And that means a lot. … We’ve always had this struggle, alcohol, addiction, cocaine, all these other things that were plaguing our people. Today, other things plague our people, fentanyl, all these things, these substances that attack us. Because why? Because we’re targeted people today. As Indigenous people, we’re targeted because we have a source of revenue. And when you’re vulnerable, outside people come into our communities, and they take advantage of us.”
If you or someone you know has a substance use problem and are looking for help, or want to learn more about the Reentry Program call 253-573-7919 or email ReentryServices@PuyallupTribe-nsn.gov.
Pierce County Crisis Line 24/7: 800-576-7764 or text 741-741
Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: 988