'I've come a long way': Beatrice Deer on moving past addiction, anxiety and anger

Writing her latest album, My All to You, was an emotional experience for Beatrice Deer. "I remember feeling that verbal expression is very limited but music is like 1,000 words coming out all at once and you're not even talking," Deer said.
Half-Inuk and half-Mohawk, singer Beatrice Deer grew up in Nunavik in northern Quebec. (Joseph Yarmuch Photography)

Originally published June 3, 2018.

Writing her latest album, My All to You, was an emotional experience for Beatrice Deer.

"I remember feeling that verbal expression is very limited but music is like 1,000 words coming out all at once and you're not even talking," Deer said.

Deer started expressing those feelings through her guitar, making this the first album where she not only wrote the lyrics but the music, too.

"It felt really good to release those feelings. I think that music touches so many people. Without the words, the person that's listening still feels the song," she added.

My All To You is a look back at her past and envisioning herself in a better space. 
Beatrice Deer's music is described as a mix of traditional Inuit throat singing and indie-rock. (Joseph Yarmush Photography)

"All those traumas shaped me"

"My family has  gone through a lot of loss. I've lost a sister to suicide and two siblings in a tragic fire. There's so many of our people that experience so much trauma and we've never had time to process anything until another trauma happens, and another one, and another one," Deer explained.

"Ever since I was a teenager, I started drinking right away, I started a family right away. And I was so angry. And I didn't understand why," she said.

Deer said she experienced childhood sexual abuse and was in a dysfunctional relationship from a very young age until she went through a divorce. She experienced physical, emotional and mental abuse.

She found her life had no direction. Depressed, angry and describing her life as joyless, she also battled with crippling anxiety.

"The more I think about it the only things that I looked forward to were drinking ... the weekend. But I didn't have long term goals. My kids were small and yet I didn't plan weekend outings with them. I was only focused on having fun with friends. So that song, [My All to You] is really about being lost. Because I was lost," she said.
Deer performing at the Bergen International Festival in Norway. (Beatrice Deer Band/Instagram)

Deer explained the song was written about the moment she heard a calling and decided to make changes in her life. 

"I was sitting at my computer desk and crying, crying, crying, like I always had been for years. Just crying in despair and thinking there's gotta be more to this. There's gotta be happiness and the only way I'm gonna find out is if I do something that I have never done before — quit drinking," she said.

It's something Deer had tried many times before.

"And I would make every excuse to have a drink again. 'Oh, it's my birthday, it's my friend's birthday, it's Christmas, it's summer now, I sing better,  I'm sad, I'm tired.' Like, the list was endless. So I decided, before I kill myself, I want to see if I can just taste a little bit [of] what genuine joy feels like. So I have to do this. And I did," she said.

Deer also decided this time nothing was going to get in her way.

"I decided no matter what, no matter how tempted I am, I am going to quit drinking because I want to get to the bottom of this feeling, this depression, this sadness, this worthlessness, this hopelessness. And no one is going to do that for me except me."

The Beatrice Deer Band in Aupaluk, Quebec in 2017 (Beatrice Deer Band/ facebook)
Now sober for seven years, Deer said she thought quitting drinking would fix all her problems. But when she no longer had to deal with the drama created by being drunk, she found herself dealing with raw emotions that had been suppressed. Being sober forced Deer to go back to her childhood, to the roots of her problems. She started going through healing and therapy.

"I understood the roots of everything I was going through and feeling and the more I took responsibility of going through this process, the more empowered I felt, the more I saw my strength and my independence," she said.

"I've gone through hell and I want to share that you can come out."

"There's hope. And if I can come out of that. Like, I'm not perfect. I come from a  small town where there was zero resources for emotional health, mental health. I took charge of my life and it took a long time but it's so worth it. I've been suicidal. I had no help. And the only thing that kept me alive was I didn't want my mother to lose a fourth child." she said.
Beatrice Deer co-hosted the Indigenous Music Awards in Winnipeg on May 18th, 2018. (Indigenous Music Awards/facebook)

"I have hope and dreams"

Deer said she now wakes up happy and content.

"The biggest thing is that I have trust in myself. Because I didn't have that. That was broken when I was broken, when I was a child. And then from that it remained broken until I took it and started opening it up and sorting all the broken pieces, and mending." she said.