What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Alcoholism and recovery: stories from Canada’s Yellowknife

NewsHour Weekend has been bringing you personal stories from members of Indigenous communities in Canada’s Northwest Territory of Yellowknife--this week, we hear from Devin Hinchey, who is Métis, or of mixed Indigenous and European ancestry, as he shares his journey from addiction to recovery. The short documentaries address difficult topics within the community as part of a series called "Turning Points," in partnership with the Global Reporting Center.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    For the last few weeks, we've been bringing you personal stories from members of communities in Canada's northwest territory of Yellowknife. The stories, which address the difficult topic of alcohol abuse, are part of an empowerment journalism series called "Turning Points," done in partnership with the Global Reporting Centre.

    Today we hear from Devin Hinchey, who is Métis, or of mixed Indigenous and European ancestry, about his road from addiction to recovery.

  • Devin Hinchey:

    There's no typical alcoholic or addict. It doesn't matter, you know, your ethnicity, where you come from, the life that you've lived.

    I had a pretty decent upbringing. I didn't have crazy, crazy stuff happen to me like a lot of my friends have lived through, and I still encountered the same issues with drugs and alcohol.

    When I left Yellowknife, I went to a high school where there was really no supervision, and for me, already kind of experiencing, like, some depressive thoughts, every night I'd come home from school I knew that I could smoke weed or drink and I'd feel better.

  • Tye Hand:

    I think I really noticed a change, it probably wasn't till the end of grade 12. We had one night where you got trashed and you hit me and, and I think that's when it really clicked into me that there was something else going on.

  • Devin Hinchey:

    In the middle of like a really dark addiction, it's really impossible to say exactly what's going on while it's going on, but I think Tye was the closest person I got to saying that. And basically to get back, 'whatever you need or, like, whatever you do, I'm there for you.'

    And then I went to university and the first hard drug that I tried was ecstasy. It was MDMA. And from there, it was honestly kind of like the floodgates opened. By November of my first semester, I was using something every day.

    I started developing, uh, like these really dark, kind of life-ending thoughts. And I remember near the end of that year, I was really high on MDMA. And I remember being in a cab and looking outside of the windows and the streetlights were almost, like, stretching out. Like, I just kind of stopped feeling my heart beating. Like, I couldn't feel, didn't have a lot of feeling in my chest. And I remember thinking, like, "I am overdosing right now." Like, "I am overdosing on MDMA. And I'm probably going to die." That was when it got really, really real.

  • Tye Hand:

    I'm glad that you reached out and I'm very glad that, that it, it wasn't too late.

  • Devin Hinchey:

    That was the first time I felt comfortable. You know, I'm not alone and I'm not crazy. I'm not insane. And I'm going to be at least accepted by someone if I get help with this.

    When I went to treatment, it was really frustrating at times. I'm 19, I just failed out of school. I've spent a, a ton of money that wasn't mine. Stole money to fund this addiction. Why couldn't I just stop? Like, that was a lot of my thoughts. Like, why couldn't I stop? So, treatment was really good for learning that addiction and alcoholism are diseases. And, like, the word that's used daily is, like, powerlessness. I had no power over my alcoholism. Over my addiction.

    I think the biggest part for me, though, was coming back from treatment, your response was like, "What are you comfortable with? What can I do? Where can't we go?" You just wanted to understand …

  • Tye Hand:

    …the limits. What, what was going to set you back or what I could do to help you move forward. It's helped me, um, understand that what I see isn't the whole picture. Like, there's, there's more to it than what people are showing you. I think it made me a better friend. It made our friendship stronger, that's for sure.

  • Devin Hinchey:


    Just because I'm sober or because someone is sober doesn't mean that you have to completely change.

    All right, you ready?

    When I got out of treatment, we were texting about matching tattoos. I think it started out half as a joke and you suggested the Inuksuk.

    In the past two years of my life, I've had more fun being sober than I did ever.

    Well, I just finished, uh, my university diploma, which is honestly something I never thought I would say. And now that I have that, my next step is going to be pursuing a career in social work. And working with people and just trying to help whoever and whatever I can.

    I've lived in Nanaimo, Toronto, London, and Yellowknife, and Yellowknife is a lot different, especially regarding drugs and alcohol. It's so easy up here to go down the rabbit hole. People react to drug use differently up here. It's known that it's a problem and it's, like, accepted that it's a problem but I feel like there's a stigma around sobriety and recovery.

    You know, when I spoke out about my story, I had people in the recovery community telling me it was a bad idea. Like I shouldn't do that. I shouldn't speak about that. If there's one person who can hear someone share a story and that urges them to reach out, why is that not okay?

    I'm not going to speak like I know all the answers to how to change that, but it's something that needs to be changed. And that can be changed.

Listen to this Segment