Back to Love: A Reflection
by Kendi Tarichia
To understand what the Tatamagouche Center means to me, you should first understand me. From the beginning.
I was born of love. Intense, big, dramatic love. My parent’s names are “the one who loves” and “the loved one”. I was literally born of love. My life always centered love. I mean, my name does mean small loved one. God wasn’t subtle when it came to me.
I had a picture perfect childhood. There was nothing material I ever wanted for. We lived in the most beautiful places. From the lushness of Nairobi to the beaches of PEI. Vacations in Zanzibar and Masai Mara for the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises. Beauty in nature was something I understood early. Something I related to early. Something I escaped to early.
Even something as beautiful as love can be dangerous. My parents love had cracks in it. Cracks they may have known and understood. Some cracks they were born with, I don’t know. I do know that I was born with their cracks. They were always with me yet I didn’t understand them, no matter how much I tried. I was bound to shatter. Two beautiful, breaking, loving people made two beautiful, broken, loved babies. We were “perfect”. Beautiful, smart, mischievous and loved. The cracks were there though, just not visible. Eventually, we broke. We became addicts.
There is nothing loving about addiction. There is nothing beautiful in addiction. It is the absolute opposite of everything I described above. I know I am writing this for believers, so this is the part I get to bring my God in.
In active addiction, I found myself homeless, living at a shelter on Lennox Island First Nation. Living with the Mi’kmaq, listening to conversations that centered the Creator and understanding trauma caused a change within me. A tiny AF change, but a change still for an addict.
The clinic calls it a panic attack, I like to call it… my sitcom.
On the left side of the shelter, there is an intersection and a long stretch of road that leads to the end of the Island. We were walking on this road back to the shelter and everything got strange. Like a 90’s sitcom.
All the things I did, the tears I cried and caused. The amount of pain I was in and in turn was causing others…It all played out. Years of everything I wanted to forget just kept playing. By the time we got to the shelter, I was in crisis.
I mentioned earlier that my God is not subtle. With how my life was going, my God could not be subtle. The sitcom was a message I would understand. Eventually.
A few weeks later, I was invited to the Tatamagouche Center for a Peace and Friendship Gathering. I was not yet sober, even after my sitcom situation. However, for the first time since I started drinking, I chose to be sober for something. I did not know what I was going to, I just knew I was going to try and stay sober while there. Let’s say it was a gigantic spiritual conspiracy to sober me up because that sudden will power came out of nowhere.
Back to beauty
Tatamagouche Centre is magic. I get to plug some of my favourite things about it in this paragraph:
The bridge, sunrises on that bridge are perfect. The otters by the women’s dock that come out to play when I’m sad. The sacred burial grounds that hold so many before me and their pain. The eagles! that visit when I find magic. The big trees outside Campbell house, now my old friends. The deer that dart as I walk through those trees. The blue jays, caterpillars and curious squirrels. Nature does a full show for me when I’m there. Why? Because it’s something God knew I would understand. And I did, right away. That this place, it was different.
Over those few days, I realized what I was feeling …was God. And for the first time, I met people like me. People with cracks from trauma, people that had cracked open to the world, healed and embodied love. I met beautiful people. Not broken but whole beautiful people.
These people would leave a huge impact on me. My cracks were starting to make sense.
As things started to make sense, I found myself in the darkest places I’d ever been. Places I was never meant to walk into. Places that scared me. Places with no beauty, no love, just emptiness. A place where I couldn’t see the color of people’s eyes, my own included. I used to read about the depths of despair, I found it. There’s a certain level of darkness that you find and it either keeps you or you walk away from it. I chose to walk mostly because I saw others that did. I chose love and beauty over darkness. I will always choose love and beauty.
The next time I went back to the center was for Peace and Friendship 2019. I’d been sober for almost 3 months but I was struggling. I knew I needed to be sober but the darkness/void was growing which would have led back to drinking. This time at the center, I met more people like me. I saw how much they honored themselves and through that, each other. Again, but intentionally sober this time, I saw a glimpse into a life I wanted. A life I deserved.
Back to love
With all the love around me, I had a lot to offer others but I had never loved myself. Tatamagouche brought me to self love. Radical self love.
As an addict, like many addicts, I struggled with love. Especially love for myself. I figured, if I could not love the God of the sky and the bible, if I could not love others then surely I could love myself a little bit. And if I could not see God in anything else then at least I could love that little image of God in me. So I internalized God while there to save my life. And the healing began.
Tatamagouche gave me an unexpected gift as well. It repaired an old friendship with a God I prayed to often. While in the chapel with some ministers I felt a familiar love, a familiar God. A God I was once close to and missed. The Centre gave me the God of my childhood back and even though that God doesn’t hold the highest seat in my world anymore, it is a most welcome presence.