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Tribal citizens share successful recovery stories at Gratitude Dinner

By Naji Tobias

CLEWISTON — Jordan Billie and Annette Jones showed lots of courage during the Dec. 13, 2011 Gratitude Dinner at Clewiston’s John Boy Auditorium.

Though somewhat hesitant about sharing their stories to a group of fellow Tribal citizens, both captivated attendees through their honesty and willingness to move forward in life.

Billie, who hails from the Hollywood Reservation, spoke of how he overcame years of addiction to drugs and alcohol.

“It has been an amazing experience for me,” Billie said. “When I was younger, I didn’t care about myself, even if it meant hurting somebody else.”

Billie, 27, talked about a tough experience he had years ago, when his sister, Amber, passed away.

“I felt like a part of me was gone,” Billie said. “I lost my rock. I felt detached from myself. I wanted to die. I thought living was like punishment.”

Billie eventually discovered for himself that life is worth living, thanks in great part to Seminoles in Recovery.

“When you’re getting help, it’s good to have someone that’s exactly like you,” Billie said. “Having people around who care about you is a wonderful thing.”

Billie said he wants to become a certified drug and alcohol counselor for the Seminole Tribe’s Family Services Department one day with an emphasis on serving the Tribal youth.

“I want to work with the youth because I want to see them succeed in life,” Billie said. “I want to help people and listen to them. When I listen, it helps in picking me up when I’m down.”

Billie said he’s grateful to Seminoles in Recovery’s Helene Buster and a host of other individuals for helping him along the way.

“I feel like a brand new person,” Billie said. “I’m glad to have my family back. Because of all the help I have received, I have a lot to look forward to in my life.”

Meanwhile, Jones opened up on how she overcame her individual struggles with drugs and alcohol. 

The Okeechobee Tribal citizen spoke of a personal tragedy that hit home with a lot of the attendees at the Gratitude Dinner. Jones, who spent many of her younger days living on the Big Cypress and Hollywood reservations, lost her husband to brain damage after he suffered a tragic fall several years ago. 

“I broke down and cried,” Jones said. “It was really hard to take.”

Not long after the tragedy, Jones said she got into a car accident, among some of the setbacks she experienced in her road to recovery.

One day, however, Jones sought help from the Seminole Tribe’s Family Services Department. From there, the recovery process took place in her life.

“I learned that I could have a good time without drinking,” Jones said. “I’m grateful for the program that I’m in right now. I’m also thankful to everybody who has worked with me in getting better. With the help of a higher power and my sober friends, I can say that I love myself now.”

Immokalee Tribal citizen Johnnie Jimmie said that both speakers touched him in a special way.

“It gives me inspiration that one of our young people is taking control of his life,” Jimmie said. “It also gives me great joy to hear Annette’s story. We’re all clean and we’re all trying to live a good life.”

Buster, who helped spearhead the eighth annual Gratitude Dinner, spoke on how Seminoles in Recovery has been a positive outlet for many Tribal citizens in the program.

“We’ve gone through a lot in our lives, and we’re reaping the harvest of the seed that was planted in us,” Buster said. “This program has worked a lot for us.”


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