Oneida Indian Nation Elder, Winona “Nonie” Waterman (Turtle Clan), wants to help younger generations in whatever way she can, especially those struggling with self-esteem or substance abuse, as she has. The work to stay away from addiction is always on-going, but Nonie believes telling her story – and listening to others’ stories – is a therapeutic and productive way to confront those issues.
Nonie has spoken at Nation events, including the annual Elders Conference, and to the Nation’s youth programs to share how her life was affected by drugs and alcohol. She completed her Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC) training in 2016 so she could start helping others in an official capacity as soon as possible.
CASAC requires over 2,000 hours of in-class work, which took three years for Nonie to complete. Attending a 7-hour class for three days a week was an intense adjustment. The program enables her to assist others dealing with substance abuse and sponsor those that need guidance. Even now, she says it’s the support group that carries you through all the ups and downs.
The advice she gives younger folks is simple: “Don’t grow up so fast,” she said. “Learn to trust just one person in your life. It makes all the difference.”
Nonie credits her sponsor of 31 years with helping her stay positive and away from substance abuse. She continues to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous group meetings where they hold speaker jams to stay as connected as possible. In nearly all cases, the people that go want to quit their addiction, but don’t know how. And it’s even harder when you’re the new person in the meeting.
“I can never say ‘no’ if I think I can help someone,” Nonie says. “I try to contribute what I’ve learned when I can.”