A recently sober Baker Lake widower has started a new Alcoholics Anonymous program for the community.
“Not to bad name Baker Lake, it’s a beautiful place, but too many people are drinking nowadays,” said Allan Qiyuaryuk.
The 38-year-old father of four has attempted to quit drinking several times since his wife died in 2012. The loss of his partner at such a young age led him down a self-destructive path.
“When I lost her that made me one of the worst alcoholics in Baker,” Qiyuaryuk confessed.
His drinking problem eventually led him to seek help at the end of 2018. To qualify for treatment, he had to be sober for two months. He then flew to British Columbia for rehab, before spending several months in a halfway house.
When he returned home in January 2019, he once again struggled with personal circumstances and fell back into the grips of alcoholism.
“I felt so empty and alone,” he said.
A few months later he went back to rehab. Despite his struggles in the past, Qiyuaryuk is now three months sober.
“I don’t want to lose my family from my life,” he said. “I lost so much already. I’m tired of losing. I want to start gaining stuff back.”
Qiyuaryuk decided to start the Alcoholics Anonymous program in Baker Lake so that he could connect with and help other people who are trying to overcome their reliance on alcohol. The move was particularly important following the community’s April liquor plebiscite, in which not enough residents voted for regulating the sale of alcohol to change the status quo, Qiyuaryuk said.
After he reached out to the community on Facebook for somewhere to hold the meetings, the a local pastor contacted him.
“I couldn’t find a place to do the meetings so he suggested we could do it at the Roman Catholic Church,” said Qiyuaryuk.
Aaron Solberg, Reverend Deacon at St. Aidan’s Anglican Parish, just moved to Baker Lake last year. He had been thinking of starting an Alcoholics Anonymous program himself, but then he connected with Qiyuaryuk.
“From the get-go I saw that AA is a necessity,” Solberg said.
Although he has some familiarity with the way Alcoholics Anonymous functions, Solberg said he was happy to let Qiyuaryuk take the lead with the meetings.
“You help people the most often when you want to help yourself,” he said.
So far Qiyuaryuk has hosted three meetings. Although just a handful of people have attended, he’s hoping the number will grow as more residents find out about it. He added that people who are uncomfortable coming to the meetings alone are welcome to bring a friend to support them.
Although he had to cancel a recent meeting because he was working, Qiyuaryuk is planning to regularly hold the gatherings at the Roman Catholic Church on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m.
“I think there is hope,” he said. “There are good people here. It’s just bad when they’re drunk.”