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
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.