You are here
Home > Sports > Golfers raise green on green for recovery

Golfers raise green on green for recovery

recoverygolf1CLEWISTON — When 45 golfers yelled “Fore!” on a recent Saturday morning at Clewiston Golf Course, they did it against drug, alcohol and gambling abuse.

Twelve teams, more than a dozen Tribe employee volunteers and a smattering of spectators turned out for the Firecracker Classic fundraiser to benefit the sixth annual Florida Native American Recovery Convention led by Helene and Andy Buster, founders of the Seminoles in Recovery program.

The last convention, in March 2013, attracted 300 people throughout Indian Country.

“News of the convention spreads by word of mouth. Every year attendance grows larger and larger,” said Andy Buster, a retired judge for the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida.

Those recovering along with supporting family members and friends come from as far as Canada and Oklahoma. More than a dozen speakers, all in recovery, will also attend.

Helene Buster, who is the director of the Family Services Department and a registered nurse, said she and her husband started the Seminoles in Recovery program about 22 years ago – years after the two battled their own demons.

“Recovery is constant,” Andy Buster said. “At the root of the program are care, passion and support from people who have been there.”

Helene Buster has been in recovery for 25 years; Andy Buster is at 31 years and counting.

According to Helene Buster, about 50 percent of all Tribal members are affected by substance abuse not because they are all addicts, but because the addiction of one family member shakes the entire unit. She said pharmaceuticals (pills) are the current most popular mode of getting high.

“The problem just doesn’t seem to get better; in fact, it’s increasing,” Helene Buster said.

She blames the Tribe’s financial success.

“Before we used to work all week then go out (to party) all weekend. Now, we don’t have to work so they drug and drink all week long,” Helene Buster said.

But the financial consequence of abuse can eventually devastate a family. Addiction can lead to expensive health issues. Legal nightmares follow arrests on drug- or alcohol-related charges.

“Then you have to pay to be bailed out. You have to pay attorney fees,” she said.

Some Tribal members pay with their lives.

For Helene Buster, the convention, the golf tournament, and other fundraisers and activities provided by the recovery program prove that “people can have a good time without drugging and drinking.”

Family Services offers a variety of programs to assist people who want to stop. Staff is in place to help with residential rehabilitation, transition back into the community, job searching, support meetings and relocation – if necessary.

Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous and Al-Anon (for family or friends of addicts) are part of the support system.

“Sometimes people don’t want other people to know they are struggling. Early in the recovery, they want to keep it to themselves because they are afraid of the stigma – not everyone in their lives may be accepting,” said aftercare administrator Tommy McGee.

After care programs are in place on all reservations, starting at 30 days before the release from treatment, McGee said.

Groups to help manage relapse triggers are available in Hollywood, Big Cypress, Brighton and Tampa.

Sober House facilities in Brighton, Hollywood and Big Cypress are also open to the recovering to provide social fun that does not include drinking or drugs.

Family Services also reaches out to prevent drug abuse. Families, including children, are welcome to attend a calendar of events that includes barbecues, bowling, fish fry dinners, afternoon lunches and other happenings to share laughs, love and hope.

“The whole thing is about fellowship,” Helene Buster said. “We do everything we can.”

Another golf tournament fundraiser for the convention will be held in October. Proceeds pay for guest speakers to attend and for amenities.

Andy Buster said the Florida Native American Recovery Convention is open to all ages. The schedule will include talking circles, tradition sharing and sweat lodge sessions.

For Andy Buster, recovery is a constant learning experience about life.

“You have to go in depth with your own spirituality in the universe. When you come to that, you can tie our creator into nature and all the Mother Earth contains. It’s all about healing,” he said.

For more information about Seminoles in Recovery, visit