Brett Larson Inaajimowin Staff Writer
Like many addicts and alcoholics, Lindsay Misquadace-Berg started drinking at a young age. She had four older brothers and used to sneak their beers when they were drinking.
When Lindsay was 5, she moved from Minneapolis to Big Sandy Lake in District II. She and her brothers and two sisters lived with their grandma, Agnes Chief.
Lindsay drank and got in trouble throughout her school years, but things got worse when she watched her brother take his own life. Lindsay was 20 and her brother had just turned 22, so the two were close.
”That pushed me over the edge,” said Lindsay. ”Alcohol was always my drug of choice, but after that it led to other things — anything to numb the pain.”
For several years, she was an active addict, and her drinking led to other problems. ”I went to jail at least once a year, and every one of my charges I was using,” she said. ”I look back at my record, and if I wasn’t drinking or high, I never would’ve been arrested.”
Finally she went to treatment at Mash-ka-wisen on the Fond du Lac Reservation. She was finally starting to deal with the pain and trauma of her past when tragedy struck again.
Her oldest brother, Wes, took his own life.
”It rained for three days straight when it happened, and I was having a really hard time,” Lindsay said. ”I wanted to leave, wanted to use, but my boyfriend talked me into staying. One night I felt somebody sit at the foot of my bed. It was my brother Wes. He said, ’Lindsay, everything’s going to be okay.’ He was like an angel. I would go out to the lake and talk to him, and it helped my spirituality come back. It helped me to believe.”
As with so many in recovery, though, that wasn’t the end of it. ”I’d like to say I got out of treatment and never used again, but I did relapse a few times,” said Lindsay.
Lindsay is grateful to her kids for helping her find a reason to finally stay clean. One night when the kids were in foster care, her 10-year-old son tucked Lindsay into bed when she was drunk and walked his sister home. The next time they were together, Lindsay’s daughter said, ”Mom, don’t you miss us? Don’t you want us to live with you?”
”Of course,” she said.
”Well, why can’t we?”
Looking back, it seems so easy. ”All I had to do was be sober. I never knew how easy it was. But when you’re in active addiction, maintaining sobriety for a year is a very hard thing to do.”
Lindsay is also grateful to her husband for encouraging her during the dark times. The two used together for years — and ended up getting sober together.
More help came from an unexpected source: the justice system. ”I was in an intense 18-month sobriety court program,” said Lindsay. ”It took me two years to get through it.”
During the program she had a ”dirty UA” (a urine sample that showed she’d been using). They told her she’d have to sit in jail for the weekend but would be let out on Monday.
”I never believed they’d let me out,” Lindsay said. ”I didn’t like courts or police. I thought they were always out to get me. So to have them do that, it helped me see that they do want to help. There was so much support in that courtroom, and to have others tell me they were there for me, it was a great feeling.”
Finally, Lindsay learned another lesson that she passes on to her clients: the importance of meetings. ”Early on in recovery, I thought I could do this all on my own,” she said. The first meeting she was court-ordered to attend was composed of a bunch of old men. As a teenage girl, there wasn’t much appeal.
Lindsay tells her clients to keep looking until they find the right meeting. Lindsay and her husband started an NA meeting in Aitkin when they couldn’t find something that worked for them, and it was just what they needed at the time.
”Meetings were a big thing for me — to be able to go in and share with others and get feedback and know it’s a safe place to discuss wanting to use. Knowing I had that meeting twice a week that I could go to, that helped me.”
”Relapse is a part of recovery, but you need to know how to come back from it,” she said. ”You need to go to a meeting, reach out, call somebody.”
When Lindsay first decided to pursue higher education, she got an online business degree from Argosy. ”I wanted to be like those people in suits I saw at the casino,” she said.
But after her husband told her he wanted to be a counselor, Lindsay felt a pull to help others suffering from addiction. She went back to school at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, where she earned an associate’s degree in human services and a certificate in counseling.
Lindsay interned at Four Winds Lodge treatment center in Brainerd, which is owned by the Band, and when she finished she was offered a full-time job.
For now she’s working under a UMICAD (Upper Midwest Indian Council on Addictive Disorders) license but she intends to complete her bachelor’s degree and become a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor.
Lindsay likes the Four Winds team and philosophy. ”We meet people where they’re at,” she said. ”When I do a treatment plan, the first thing I ask is what their needs are.”
She has heard from clients who went through the Four Winds program in the past, when it was run by the state. ”They say it’s more spiritually based now, more culturally based,” she said.
Lindsay’s experience so far has convinced her she made the right decision. ”I love it,” she said. ”I’m very excited to help others who are in active addiction, after all the ways my life has changed to bring me to this role.”