Record number of Nunavimmiut sign up for February sobriety challenge

“The further I keep going the more I want to stay sober,” says Kangirsuk participant

Nunavik residents in the Pingngupaa sobriety challenge, hosted by the Isuarsivik regional recovery centre

Kuujjuaq residents enjoy a picnic outside their community in March 2018 as part of the first Pingngupaa sobriety challenge, hosted by the Isuarsivik regional recovery centre. (Photo courtesy of Isuarsivik)

By Sarah Rogers

More than 250 Nunavimmiut plan to go dry for the month of February.

As part of Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Centre’s annual Pingngupaa Challenge, participants can register with a sponsor to help abstain from drinking alcohol for a 28-day period.

In Inuktitut, Pingngupaa is an expression that means you’ve had too much of something.

The Kuujjuaq-based recovery centre has run the challenge for four years. It started in 2018 with fewer than 20 participants; this year, there are 265 people taking part.

This year is Patricia Itigaituk’s second time participating in Pingngupaa.

“Last year I joined when I was much more dependent on drinking,” she said.

She didn’t complete the full month in 2020, but this time around, Itigaituk has already been sober for five weeks.

“I’m challenging myself to go longer,” said the Kangirsuk woman.

She points to benefits of sobriety, like having more money and more energy.

“At first it was a decision to take a break from drinking, but the further I keep going the more I want to stay sober,” Itigaituk said.

To register for Pingngupaa, participants need to have a sponsor and collect a minimum of $28 throughout the month to donate to Isuarsivik.

The event is designed in part to raise awareness around alcohol use and encourage responsible drinking. But it also aims to raise funds for Isuarsivik’s new $37-million facility currently under construction in Kuujjuaq.

Normally, Isuarsivik would co-ordinate activities or gatherings for participants. This year, with COVID-19 restrictions in place, and more participants spread out across Nunavik’s 14 communities, the recovery centre is hosting the month-long challenge through a dedicated Facebook page, which will offer tips, encouragement and a place for participants to interact.

“More and more people are becoming more aware of [the harms of] alcohol use,” said Aputik Forrest, Isuarsivik’s administrative manager.

“They want to make a change and this challenge helps motivate them to do it.”

Forrest herself has been sober for six years. The growing interest in the challenge makes her feel proud that Nunavimmiut are looking to make healthier lifestyle choices.

The February challenge comes on the heels of Dry January, a growing movement of sobriety where social drinkers are looking for a break, either temporary or permanent, from alcohol after the festive holiday period.

But Forrest acknowledges a sudden, month-long break from alcohol does not work for people who may be living with a serious alcohol addiction. Anyone who struggles with daily alcohol use can call Isuarsivik to learn about treatment options at 1-866-964-9994.

COVID-19 has prompted Isuarsivik to suspend its programming and to delay the opening of its new facility.

Construction on the new Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Centre in Kuujjuaq was set to begin in 2020, but measures to limit the number of construction workers coming into the region mean that work will have to wait until the summer of 2021.

The organization now plans to move in the new facility in the fall of 2022.

Isuarsivik’s existing centre in Kuujjuaq is preparing to re-launch its services this month, with its first treatment cycle for Nunavimmiut women set to begin on Feb. 17.

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(10) Comments:

  1. Posted by Donations on

    There’s no doubt about it. Fcnq is making such incredible profits on the sale of wine and beer at the kuujjuaq and Puvirnituq stores. It’s over inflated prices, playing on the vulnerability of the population. When will the local board in agreements with Fcnq, participate in offering donations to addiction in Nunavik?

    • Posted by don’t agree on

      FCNQ has nothing to do with drinking its the person themselve, beer and liquor are always around, I am fine with FCNQ its the bootleggers that we need to get rid of, I know one that receive booze through Mail and is profiting from our poor people, it is not hard to stop drinking, in fact it is very easy.

      • Posted by I disagree with you on

        Whether from bootlegger or fcnq, it’s the source to how people gets the booze. We’re talking about a population with many that goes nuts with a few drinks. Fcnq supplies booze, therefore they need to contribute to treatment for those that require it. As far as bootleggers goes, police and the municipal authorities need to do a bit more, and alert revenue Canada and Quebec about those regular workers with regular pay, who have too many items in their possession, that could only come from bootlegging. I like to see more community involvement. We have drug dealers and bootleggers who have vital jobs working in the midst of our school children, kuujjuaq for example, everyone knows who a big drug dealer is with a job working with children. No one in the position to do something is doing anything, just a blind eye, in broad light.

  2. Posted by On ground hog day on

    I’m not going to knock down the whole idea, as much as this effort does some good, it’s the lesser of efforts, taking the road most travelled. This would be considered letting not only January’s dry month down, but what efforts were made during Christmas for those that need this initiative the most. Why wait til February, to see if a shallow can be seen? What’s next year, move it to March? Yes keeping moving the date along and we’ll be up on next Christmas, that’ll be good. This says more than I can say on this comment page, but it’s failure trying to pretend it’s not. Nunavik is like that, don’t interrupt party time.

    • Posted by Ebenezer Scrooge on

      I was suppose to cook the turkey last christmas, instead , i ended up getting drunk with the Jack Daneil whiskey , i got that morning for a present

      • Posted by And looked at the jail window on

        I was driving by the police station on about that time during Christmas, saw a man looking out a cell window at his spouse and little child who were outside. It could be from drinking instead of cooking the turkey. Saw that before.

  3. Posted by Donations to be done on

    The FCNQ should be force to make a donation to the treatment center after all the profit they are making!

    • Posted by UNGAVA on

      Forced , its a free country, you can t force.

      • Posted by Free country forces on

        Hey Ungava. A few points about our free country. A free country is it, that has no forcing? Maybe it shouldn’t be called a free country. If you look around, freedom is only to those who behave well. Like can’t you be forced to jail? Forced to pay taxes? Forced off the road, if you drink and drive? Force in our free country is an easier thing then you think. Revenue Canada is a forceful agent. That if you don’t comply.

  4. Posted by How are we ? on

    At the rate of alcohol related problems we now face, something must give. Since wine and beer sales open in two communities, we face significant more issues then ever with justice, dyp, health, grieving, loss work time, loss school for kids. The list goes on. We have dangerous drivers intoxicated on the roads like never before. See mornings of cars and trucks off road in snow banks. The death rate has skyrocketed. This will continue until which time there will be no choice then to shut down the sales again. Not that it makes a big difference in changing behaviour, but it will make some. Just the thought that action must be taken, gives indication that alcohol is destroying Nunavik. Our children not growing up healthy with the alcohol issues in the community. The only relief the community gets theses days is when there’s a death, and most times it’s alcohol related violence, but relief comes in that days of the death, sins are marked and felt for that death , as the local co op dies on the cross, so to speak , and no alcohol is sold that particular day. It’s quiet time, no customer at the co op. It’s actually pathetic. To see such behaviour of people lead so powerfully either which way by alcohol.

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