‘I’m very blessed with the opportunities I have’: North Sask. man humbled after social media post about journey from alcoholism to graduation attracts worldwide attention

Photo from Mike Scott’s Facebook page. Sturgeon Lake First Nation’s Mike Scott poses for a graduation photo.

At one point, Sturgeon Lake’s Mike Scott’s number one goal was to get healthy enough to keep drinking, but things have changed.

This spring he’ll celebrate 11 years sober, and graduate form the University of Saskatchewan with a degree in Indigenous Studies. It’s a big story for the Sturgeon Lake First Nation product, and one that’s getting told across the world after a short Facebook post about his journey went viral.

“My goal isn’t to reach people in amounts of likes and shares and stuff like that. It’s more or less just to inspire people, and if it happens to reach that amount, that’s just the more eyes that get to view it,” said Scott during a phone interview from his home in Saskatoon. “For me it’s awesome.”

Scott’s post in early March began generating interest around Northern Saskatchewan, then took off as residents around the world began to take notice. It amassed more than 6,000 shares, generated more than 21,000 reactions, and spread as far as Peru, New Zealand and Australia.

Scott has travelled to reserves across Canada to speak with Indigenous youth, so he’s no stranger to an audience. Still, he never dreamed a post about overcoming his own struggles would get so much attention.

“Inspiring people is what I’m here to do now,” he said. “Prior to living this way, it was the total opposite, so I’m very blessed with the opportunities that I have to be able to share my message.”

Scott was in and out of foster care as a youth. He was assaulted, abused, lived on the streets, and eventually went to jail. He became addicted to drugs and alcohol, but realized he needed to change following the birth of his daughter.

“I was continuing the cycles that my parents put me through, bringing alcohol into the home and bringing drugs into the home,” Scott remembered. “My daughter was the one who opened my eyes back then and I realized what I was doing to her was going to put her into foster care. It was a really tough moment where I had to realize the reality of what was going to happen.

“It didn’t happen overnight. It took a long time after that one specific moment where I was like, ‘I don’t want to drink anymore. I don’t want to live this way anymore.’ Ultimately I would say my daughter opened my eyes, but I was the one who made the choice to stay sober.”

Initially, Scott focused on small changes. He checked himself into a treatment clinic hoping to heal his body, but didn’t plan on giving up drinking completely. However, the experience in treatment convinced him to give up drinking and drugs for good. He is now 11 years sober, although it wasn’t easy.

“I kept my circle very small,” Scott said. “I didn’t hang out with people who were drinking or getting high. It was very lonely at first until I created the right people I needed in my corner, the right environments, and once I started to motivate myself and I created more goals it was a lot easier to achieve and it just kind of became my life.”

Scott will convocation this fall, but doesn’t plan on staying away from school for long. He’s already been accepted into a master’s program for Indigenous studies, and plans to eventually get his doctorate.

“It’s a lot of paperwork. It’s a lot of reading, honestly, it’s an overload sometimes, but I think just learning in general now, I’m at a point now in my life where I … want to continue learning and growing,” he said. “I’d probably do it on my own, regardless, so why not gain some degrees along the way.”

Even with the busy academic schedule, Scott hopes to keep speaking to Indigenous youth. He wants youth to live clean, sober, and healthy lives, and believes the viral Facebook message will give them a good example of what they can accomplish.

“My story is so relatable to everybody,” said Scott. “There’s at least one part where people can relate in some form, and I think that’s what gives them hope because they see where I am right now today, and how far I’ve come along the way.”

@kerr_jas • jason.kerr@paherald.sk.ca