My name is Shawnda Toulouse and I am a band member born and raised within our community Sagamok Anishnawbek. I am part of the Mental Health & Addiction team. I completed the Mental Health & Addiction program through Windsor Canadian College. Although I had taken this course for my own personal growth and wasn't expecting to work in the field of mental health, I ended up doing my placement with the Mental Health and Addictions team here at CWD. This is where I started building relationships with others struggling, like myself.
Someone once asked me, "if you could explain your childhood in one word, what would it be?" The first thing that came to mind was TRAUMATIZING! I grew up in a household with a single parent; my mother, where we lived with her parents and most of her siblings. This is where I saw a lot of alcohol, physical, mental, verbal and emotional abuse. I lived in constant fear, not realizing that living that way was not classified as "normal". Growing up in an abusive environment, it’s all I knew; it’s all I saw. As I grew older, I was left feeling unworthy, having very low self-esteem, not knowing who I really was. I felt lost and alone.
I grew angry, and I began to display toxic behaviors. However, I never truly understood why. I became an addict to marijuana for 26 years of my life, and alcohol became a large part of my life. It wasn't until I was in my mid 30's that I had stopped going out drinking, due to traumatizing events led by the alcohol. I found myself continuing with my addiction to marijuana, again, not understanding myself as a person, and using the drug to mask my pain.
The older I got I kept telling myself that I didn't want to be consumed by my addiction as I became a grandmother. This change in my lifestyle was not easy. I had relapsed so many times before I started to let that part of my life go. I did reach out for help many times only to find myself back where I began.
I was finally able to get myself into counseling through Noogmowinteg in Espanola. This is where I became more aware of my own behaviors. I was shocked in the way I treated others as well as myself. This was when I began to have a better understanding of who I really was, and who I wanted to become.
Years after this I continue on my healing journey today by helping others the way I was helped, and bringing the counseling that saved me to Sagamok. Even if it’s just offering a listening ear that many of us need during difficult times in our lives. I am truly passionate about being here, it has given me great feelings and honor to have community members reach out to me and share some of their life experiences. I will continue to move forward and make each day better than the last. Each day is a new beginning.
Z’gamok Enterprises Inc. is a corporation 100% owned by the Sagamok Anishnawbek. It is mandated to maximize the economic development opportunities of the Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation within its traditional lands and within the Northern Ontario region in the resource sector and in services related to construction and resource development.