Jeff Gobeil: Morbid Stuff

Now I see people in need, not drug users, but people who are trying to help themselves, however they are able to. Everyone has a story. Everyone deserves love, help, and support.

My name is Ozawii Makoons, my English name is Jeffery Gobeil. In 2015 I read a sticker on my sisters’ laptop that said, “I love someone who uses drugs”. At this time, I was in a dark place mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I thought, “how stupid. Doesn’t she know harmful “harm reduction” really is? My sister is going to waste a lot of time before she realizes people who use drugs are beyond hope.” It would take me 3 years until I finally thanked her for that sticker on her laptop, as it forced me to re-examine myself and my understandings. I had lost the understanding that people struggling with addiction are people. Now I see people in need, not drug users, but people who are trying to help themselves, however they are able to. Everyone has a story. Everyone deserves love, help, and support.

My family life is complex, but to me it is as normal as it gets. In April of 2012, my half siblings came to stay for the summer and due to unexpected circumstances, they never left. Child Family Services (CFS) became involved and together with my sister, Raven, we raised them. Things became even more complicated in 2015, when our siblings’ father passed away in January of 2015, and then our mother on Christmas Eve in 2015, followed by my father battling cancer and then passing away in the spring of 2017. The 5 of us siblings shared a house until I was fortunate enough to secure housing close by.

Our family has had some Child Family Services involvement, and overall it was a big help, even if at times it is like pulling teeth to get support. Some workers have described our family as “an unusual success story”. An unusual success story. I take pride in that title. My sister Raven and I are a team like no other. We draw a lot of strength and support from each other and from our sense of humour in our awareness. Raven and I have a third sibling, a young mom who lives close by us as well. I also have 4 older siblings, three from my mother and a brother from my dads’ previous marriage. We joke that we are functional disfunction at its finest. 

I have had a negative school experience; in high school I was removed from Honour Roll for having a “negative attitude” after my family home burnt down in 2007. In elementary, I was suspended over an inappropriate e-mail from a student to a teacher for “association”. In Red River College I got publicly humiliated and warned of the possibility that I would have to repeat a level due to a severe dip in my grades. I explained that my mother was on her death bed with cancer and they forgave a lot of my grades. My moms’ illness and death led to me falling behind in my apprenticeship because I did not understand some concepts, and I worked extra hard catching up in my own time.

I am a survivor. I am a survivor of witnessing domestic violence between my parents. They separated when I was 4. I am the survivor of a controlling relationship that I spent 9 years in. I am the survivor of sexual abuse as a child. I am the survivor of rape when I was a teenager. I worked through understanding and learned to live with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety attacks and depression. A blog could not allow the opportunity to share my whole story, but it does allow me to speak on my personal growth and healing, I know not to define myself by these traumas, but to draw strength from these horrible experiences. I am proud of my past, my present and my opportunity for a future I can be proud of.

I am Anishinaabe. My spirit’s name is Ozawii Makoons, meaning Little Golden Bear. There is a joke in my community that goes “Old Native Proverb – stay out of the comment section.” As a native man, my heart hurts in the comment sections of news stories on social media as the prejudice against my people are loud and clear. I have an auntie whose murder took 25 years to close. That is a lifetime to many Indigenous people. Missing and murdered Indigenous Women and girls are near and dear to my heart. 

Although there are a lot of small stories of racism I could share, one particular situation stands out. On a jobsite I had almost completed stage 1 of a 3-stage project, and the clients sat me down for a conversation. I am a contractor, I carried on my dad’s business after he passed. The clients said “You know we were skeptical to hire you. We know you’re Native. Usually, Native guys take our money and only do half the job so me and my wife said no more Native people.” I let them that was disappointed to hear about their difficulties with previous contractors and that I would no longer be able to complete stage 2 and 3 for them. I received an apology e-mail, regardless, I was hurt. 

My first experience with therapy as an adult was with Talk Space. After my father passed, I had a suicidal episode, and I was becoming aware that the relationship I was in was a relationship that I did not want to be in any longer. The first therapy sessions were about addressing my own misconceptions about mental health. After this, my siblings and I completed family therapy which brought us closer together. After I left that relationship, I sought out a professional therapist that I could speak with in person.

My biggest struggle with therapy was thinking that my therapist would hold my hand through every step of the way. I had to rely on my inner strength to make it through the hard times. I relied on journaling, online support groups, sharing with friends and family and yoga. I discovered meditation, and podcasts about mental health. I have read many books and I sit with an Elder. I have cried, had panic attacks, and questioned everything. I survived. Now when I have difficulties, I did not deny them, I addressed them. I take my time to process and grieve. 

I am a 30-year-old, Anishinaabe man. I am a musician in my own right, I write stories and poems daily. I am an older brother to my 5 younger siblings; I am an uncle to their children. I am a cat dad, a friend, and a confidant. My spirit’s name is Ozawii Makoons. My given name is Jeffery Robert Ginew Gobeil, and I love someone who uses drugs. 


Jeff Gobeil

Jeffery Ginew Gobeil is the Indigenous Program Coordinator at the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba.


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