Spiritual mentors have played a significant role in my recovery, whether through philosophical guidance or simply showing me how to conduct myself during critical moments. Mentors, in general, have accelerated my life in many ways. For this story, I wish to discuss my spiritual mentor and loving friend, Koda. This man embodied compassion and never judged anyone for their situation. Whether you were in active use or a CEO, everyone was treated the same.

There were two defining lessons I learned from Koda. The first was six months into my recovery journey when I experienced one of the most painful events in my life, the death of my mother. This devastated me to the point where I began to question my recovery and the direction of my life. The pain was overwhelming, and I did not have the skills to cope or manage it. I felt lost and alone, with no clear direction. It was at that moment when Koda walked up to me and said he would host a sweat lodge for me that night. Confused, hurting, and directionless, I went to it. That night, I sang my first song in the darkness of the lodge and cried the whole time. The song was about a grandson raised by his grandmother. While he was away, his grandmother died so he created this song and sang it at her grave. It was a powerful moment for me. I got to cry in front of the creator and express myself through song. After that ceremony, the pain didn’t seem so devastating and I was able to organize the funeral services and send my mom on her journey in a good way. I felt honored to step up to the responsibility of picking out my mother’s casket, the clothes she would be buried in, and the person who would conduct the ceremony. She got to see, for a brief six months, the man she knew I could be underneath the substance use and trauma.

The second lesson was one year into my recovery when I got a full-time job, a driver’s license, financed a car, paid insurance, and hit my one-year milestone. These were all major accomplishments, yet I felt sad for some reason. I couldn’t figure out my feelings and expressed them to Koda. He had a knowing smile and said that when we are used to failing repeatedly, we don’t know how to succeed. We may feel like we don’t deserve happiness or the rewards of hard work, so we self-sabotage our progress. It was then that I started telling myself things like “I deserve happiness” and “I deserve to work hard.” This self talk changed my life.

This is just a small view into the impact Koda had on my life and how vital spiritual mentors can be. No matter what religion or culture you subscribe to, find a mentor early in recovery and utilize their wisdom as I did with Koda. He recently passed away, and it hurt a lot. However, he has given me the tools to use in these moments. I will sing the songs he taught me and wear the medicine bag he made for me with honor because I know I wouldn’t be standing here today without that great man. Mi’iw

Colin Cash