Martin High Bear on Addictions

Lesson 3 – The Warrior


Take a proactive stance against addiction.


Understand that preventive attitudes and actions help protect against the lure of addiction.

The Warrior

During the course of the hero’s journey, you may find it necessary to declare war on those things that stand in the way of achieving where you want to be, or who you want to become. In addictions, the “enemy” may take the shape of your old lifestyle, may be a circumstance, or be individuals or groups standing in the way of your transformation. Choosing to become a warrior is a courageous act.

The Ghost Dance

“The Elders told him that one day he would become a medicine man and help his people restore the ways of his people.”

The Ghost Dance was a revitalization movement of the late 1800’s that spread to many tribes in the West and across the Plains.   Although specific practices differed among the tribes, a consistent element was that men and women danced for hours, even days, without cease.  Ghost Dancers were known to fall into a trance brought on by their rapt concentration and rhythmic movement.  The trance state might give rise to visions of things to come or messages from those departed.

The Ghost Dance movement dramatically underscored the peoples’ rejection of the “civilizing” influences of the white man, which resulted in the loss of traditional hunting grounds, the dilution of tribal beliefs and customs, and even the ultimate destruction of Indian people themselves.  The Ghost Dance represented the tribes’ attempts to separate themselves from the encroachment of white settlers and soldiers, and from the imposition of religious doctrine that forbade the practice of sacred tribal ceremonies.  The people yearned to return to the old customs, to go back to a more balanced and authentic life before the introduction of guns, alcohol, and other trade goods with their corrupting consequences.  The Ghost Dancers held the belief that Europeans would eventually depart, leaving the land and the buffalo once more to the Indian people.

The Ghost Shirt

Tribal people who participated in the Ghost Dance wore a special garment called the Ghost Shirt.  There was considerable variation in its appearance, some having painted designs, eagle feather adornments, even representations of visions from the trance.   Regardless of the complexity of the design, its purpose was to protect the dancer from harm.  Sioux beliefs said that the Ghost Shirt made the person wearing it invulnerable to attack by an enemy—even the soldiers’ bullets could not penetrate.

Prevention:  Find Ways to Become “Addiction-Proof”

The Ghost Shirt represented protection. Wearing the shirt was a proactive choice intended to ward off threatening influences.  Think of ways your attitudes, emotions, and actions might protect you from the harm caused by addictive behavior.    To keep yourself healthy, learn to recognize the early signs of addiction and take proactive and preventive steps to avert that threat.

To get started, consider how the following statements relate to your self-image and how you view others.

What are some of the characteristics of people who become addicted?  Do they appear angry, sad bored, isolated?  To what extent do these characteristics describe you? How do some people avoid addiction?  What personal characteristics allow them to cope with life’s problems?  What are the “secrets” of their resilience?

Proactive steps all of us might embrace include the following self-care ideas.

  • Stay physically active.  Join a group that exercises or walks regularly.  You’ll benefit from both the exercise and the companionship.
  • Make friends with people who are not encumbered by addiction.  The old adage—“you are known by the company you keep”—becomes a serious warning.
  • Develop hobbies that are positive alternatives to choosing addictive behaviors.  Productive minds (and hands) are less likely to engage in risky behaviors because of boredom or loneliness.
  • Get involved in volunteer groups that help others.  You’ll find that giving of your time and energy has its own rewards—good things will flow back to you.
  • Don’t rely on medications to help you sleep, lose weight or relax.  This just sets you up for dependency.
  • Plan things to do when the urge to engage in an addictive behavior arises.  Break or disrupt the cycle before it has an opportunity to become entrenched.
  • Avoid high risk situations.  This includes your friendships and where you choose to spend your spare time.
  • Know when to ask for help.  Talk about your feelings and problems with family and friends.  Recreate a support network to “disarm” addictive inclinations.


What symbols, pictures, and sayings would you choose for your own Ghost Shirt?  Explain to someone else the meaning or importance of your design elements.