After connecting with his Native heritage later in life, addiction counselor aims to bring healing to his community
This Q&A, facilitated by Jeremiah Gardner of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, was published for Hazelden Betty Ford’s monthly Recovery Advocacy Update. If you’d like to receive our advocacy emails, subscribe today.
Growing up in Minnesota, Jason Delmont was aware of his mother’s Dakota and Ojibwe heritage, but he wasn’t connected to it. In fact, he says many in the family spent their lives avoiding that part of who they were, afraid to be racially stereotyped. But as he grew older and began to discover his true self in recovery from addiction, Delmont also began to search and connect with the tribal roots on that side of his mixed family. He eventually became vice chair of the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Tribal Community. Now, as a graduate of the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies and a counselor at Hazelden Betty Ford in Center City, Minn. — the birthplace of modern addiction treatment — Delmont is looking to help Native communities in new ways by bringing more culturally attentive care and resources to the patients Hazelden Betty Ford serves and aims to serve.
Q: What does recovery look like for you, and how has it empowered different aspects of your life?
Living in recovery has helped me shed the blinders which hampered my view of the universe in active addiction. Recovery to me looks like a deeper relationship with my Higher Power which, in turn, manifests as greater acceptance of myself and others, less fear, more humility, and genuine curiosity (as opposed to judgment). Recovery has empowered me to step out of a deadly rut and into new territory. This journey has enhanced my work life and more importantly, my family life.
Q: What does your Native American heritage mean to you, to your recovery and to your work?
I think one of the most important aspects of being in touch with my Native roots is the opportunity to be part of a movement that is trying to maintain, educate on, and even revive ancient ways of fostering relationships with each other and our environment. As for my own recovery and work, it’s all tied together. As someone living in recovery and following a Twelve Step path, it is essential that I do not neglect the 12th step (carrying the message of recovery to others and practicing recovery principles in all my affairs). I am grateful that I can share the beauty of recovery in a way that will touch our Native families.
Q: What is the Medicine Wheel and its importance to people seeking or navigating recovery?
To keep it simple, the Medicine Wheel is a way of illustrating the continuity as well as stages of life, the interaction between the Spirit world and the physical world, and the harmony of balance. We can use it in recovery as it also depicts the necessary balance between physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional well-being in the individual. It reminds us of how everything is connected.
Q: Why is culturally attentive care important, and what are some of the specific ways you intend to bring more culturally attentive care and resources to the patients at Hazelden Betty Ford?
Culturally attentive care is necessary in creating effective communication. People need to feel they are understood. It may be very difficult for some to understand how social policies have created and fostered resentment, mistrust, mental illness, abuse, and addiction to pass down generationally, but gaining this insight allows caregivers to connect with patients and clients on a level that can begin healing. Here at Hazelden Betty Ford in Center City, having “good medicine” available is just a start. Right now, we are working on getting a wall adorned with the Medicine Wheel for all to see and I am working on getting an introduction to the “The Red Road to Wellbriety” set up so that anyone can begin this approach to the Twelve Steps. These small movements along with the availability of Native American literature and a well-used smudge room will help grow the awareness needed for our still-suffering people.
Q: What role does family play in your life and recovery?
To be really cliché, I would have no life without my family.
Q: What does it mean for you to advocate for recovery — both within your community and beyond?
For many of us, recovery is very personal. We are all traveling this road or know someone who is. I have lost family to addiction. This is a fight that, while very discouraging at times, is impossible to give up. In our Native community, this disease could very well accomplish what much of our government set out to do 160 years ago. We need to nurture our “healing forests” to supplant the sick ones.