Skip to content

Wake-up call becomes inspiration to help

Baker Lake couple running sobriety meetings
Aquilla Amaruq and Darlene Nukik have spearheaded a new healing and recovery group in Baker Lake, where community members can confidentially share their challenges with addictions and strive to overcome them. Photo courtesy of Darlene Nukik

Two years ago in January, Aquilla Amaruq was at the height of his addiction to alcohol.

“We were drinking a lot, and I had way too much again,” remembers the Baker Lake resident.

He went outside for a smoke, but due to his inebriated state, fell down the stairs and couldn’t get back up. With no gloves on, Amaruq passed out, hands freezing.

He was found by his youngest daughter.

“That really affected us, me and my wife, and I’m sure it really affected her too, because she found me outside passed out, hands frozen,” recalled Amaruq. “That was a real wake-up call.”

Sober since then, Amaruq and partner Darlene Nukik have now launched a healing, recovery and sobriety group in Baker Lake, titled in Inuktitut as ᒪᒥᒋᐊᖅᑕ. The group had its second meeting this month, with four community members attending.

“We see people struggling with addictions in Baker,” said Amaruq. “We ourselves struggled with alcoholism. We just want to help them out, with our own struggles, help one another.”

The pair are “not certified counsellors or anything,” but two residents who just want to help their community, especially in light of some of the challenges around accessing professional help. They also receive support from a mental health worker in B.C. named Sheila Vaughn, said Nukik, and they FaceTime with her during meetings.

“We know that a lot of people have tried a mental health nurse, but each time they go to their appointments, it’s a new nurse,” said Nukik, referencing the turnover in the profession in the North. “So it gets frustrating to repeat why they’re there. This group, each time they come, they don’t have to repeat.”

Those in the group meetings simply share their experiences and discuss their journeys. In the future, with funding or donations, Nukik hopes to involve activities beyond just meeting and talking.

“We just share our experiences with alcohol and encourage the others in the group or whoever shows up to talk about their addictions or problems,” said Amaruq.

“We’re permanent residents. We’re not going anywhere. We just want to help our local Inuit. We’ll do what we can. We don’t have all the answers, but I feel like when we speak with the people that show up, that we can work together to find the answers to our problems.”