'One day at a time': Cambridge Bay MLA marks 21 years sober

Jeannie Ehaloak's two-month-old grandson inspired her to take a break from alcohol two decades ago. Now her grandson is an adult, and Ehaloak has no plans to drink again.

Jeannie Ehaloak stopped drinking when her grandson came into her life

Jeannie Ehaloak is the MLA for Cambridge Bay. She says her grandson inspired her to quit drinking 21 years ago. (David Gunn/CBC)

Two decades ago, Jeannie Ehaloak came home from a Halloween beer dance at 4 a.m.

Her two-month-old grandson, Calvin, woke up two hours later.

"I had to stay up with him and nap with him during the day, and I was like, 'this is foolish,'" said the MLA for Cambridge Bay.

Calvin had just come into her life at that point, and Ehaloak decided she'd wait until her grandson was a bit older before imbibing again. Now, Calvin is an adult and this Nov. 1 marked 21 years since Ehaloak had her last drink.

"My grandson was my biggest motivation to stop drinking," she said. 

"As he got older I realized I didn't want him to ever see me in that situation, so I decided just to stop."

Ehaloak is telling her story for National Addictions Awareness week, which runs Nov. 25 to 30. Communities across the North are holding workshops, sharing circles and other activities to encourage sobriety.

Ehaloak describes her decision to quit drinking as an easy one to make. She said she had close friends who accepted it and supported her, and the ones who didn't, just stopped calling. 

"That's when you find out who your true friends are," she said.

And those friends who stuck around became very important, according to Ehaloak. 

Looking back, 21 years is a long stretch of sobriety. When asked whether she thinks she'll ever have a drink again, her answer is simply that she likes her life and lives a healthy lifestyle.

"I always say, 'one day at a time.' That's how I made my stop," she said.

"I've seen so many people hurt, so many people we lose because of drinking. I just don't want it in my life. I don't want the suffering. It's too much."

With files from Mark Hadlari