By Jensen, Randy on June 20, 2020.
In his youth Blood Tribe member Alvin Mills was a gifted athlete. He was a boxer, and he played multiple sports at a high level of skill. He even won a basketball scholarship. But it wasn’t his athleticism which would come to define the course of his life as many expected, it was his early addiction to alcohol and then later drugs which would define his path for decades to come.
“I struggled most of my adult years with alcohol and then with the drugs,” he says. “It’s just a matter of finding your way, and for me I had to work on myself. I worked on some issues I had. I am a survivor of residential schools, and I have had my issues with being institutionalized and incarcerated for periods of my life. Until I was able to address these issues, and the trauma I had buried inside for so long, I was not able to find my way.”
For nearly 40 years Mills walked this “dark road” until receiving a revelation about nine years ago.
“I got stabbed in the throat, and just about got murdered,” he explains. “That happened in Lethbridge, and I think that was the turning point. I knew if I kept the lifestyle I was living I wouldn’t be around much longer.”
Mills entered treatment and began to work on the internal trauma and grief which had kept him in a downward spiral for many decades and to finally come to terms with it. He admits he still struggles every day with these things, but has now found new purpose in life helping others.
Mills has become a well-known advocate for the homeless and vulnerable populations in Lethbridge, and works to help those with addictions find sobriety and a better life for themselves when they are ready to take that step.
“I focus on the at-risk and vulnerable because I have walked in their shoes,” he explains. “I want to help, and it gives me a sense of accomplishment to keep helping people.”
Mills created the organization Foundation of Hope with the purpose of helping those on the streets in any way it can. A big part of the foundation’s work is in the area of addictions, and the organization recently received charitable status to begin work on Mills’ dream of building an aftercare drug treatment centre in southern Alberta.
Mills says many addicts, particularly those from First Nations, have unresolved trauma and grief which leads them to the drugs in the first place or keeps them locked in the cycle of addiction. Because there is currently no place to work on that grief and trauma for an extended period of time after conventional drug treatment and counselling, the unresolved trauma often leads to relapse.
The proposed Kii maa pii pii tsin (Kindness to Others) Renewal and Healing Centre would provide that longer term aftercare counselling for recovering addicts to confront the emotional sources of their ongoing addiction.
For Mills the Kii maa pii pii tsin Renewal and Healing Centre continues his mission of helping those who are vulnerable in society find a firm foundation for a better way forward.
“Regardless of the choices we make, be that struggling with addiction or other issues that challenge us, regardless of what we do -everybody deserves that dignity and everybody deserves that help,” he says. “And even moreso the ones who are struggling out there on the street.”
See Pages C1-4 for more stories on prominent southern Alberta Indigenous people.
Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter