Hopi Tribe member shows addiction recovery is possible and now she wants to help others

A Hopi woman is using her own experience with addiction and recovery to bring hope to others.
Published: Nov. 14, 2023 at 8:54 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Drug and alcohol addiction impacts tribal communities in larger numbers per capita than nonnative communities. However, there is hope with recovery centers in Phoenix working to bridge the gap between culture and recovery.

Michele Honanie grew up on the Hopi reservation. Her youth was marked by addiction. “Everything bad you can think of, not taking care of my children, not taking care of cultural duties,” Honanie said. “A lot of selfish addiction behaviors. We’ve lost a lot of family members who have lost a lot of youth.”

According to the American Addiction Center, 10% of Native Americans have a substance abuse disorder. This includes the younger generations, with nearly one in five Native American young adults having a substance use disorder.

Honanie decided she didn’t want to become another statistic. “I looked in the mirror and I was sick and tired of waking up sick and tired,” she said.

Her mother took trips down to Phoenix and would take Honanie with her, for fear of what would happen when she was not around. During one of those trips, Honanie decided to stay and find a way to get sober. “What else to do? I got on the bus in Phoenix and rode the bus to Native American Connection, and I told them my story, and Jan. 4, 2007, was my last drop of alcohol,” Honanie said.

Honanie continues to be sober and works at the NAC recovery center. That’s where she met Allen King. “My addiction started at a very young age, probably 8 or 10 or 12,” King said. “I ended up going to prison and then got back out and started my journey and that’s where I met Michele.”

Now King has been sober for over a decade, and this year, he started his own recovery center, Whispering Creek Health in Phoenix. One of their goals is to combat fraudulent recovery programs that have taken advantage of Native Americans and the funds designated for their treatment and recovery.

The other key component is using culture for connection and treatment. “Our biggest thing is called Native Informed Training, meaning we come up with ways to provide not just care and reigniting that culture piece that’s missing,” King said.

The cultural part is something Honanie needed to feel at home. “Just being with other natives is probably the most important because you could pump each other up. You can talk about things from home,” Honanie said.

Now, she is working to build a recourse center in town to give back to those who supported her. “I’m really really appreciate and grateful and thankful that nobody gave up on me and that when I returned home all that support was there,” Honanie said. “Everything I do now is to benefit somebody else.”

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