Gone fishin

Well not literally. I don’t even like fishing. It’s boring and I hate eviscerating worms. But I am sort of entering holiday mode, and that’s why you haven’t heard from me for awhile. Judging by page-view statistics, many of you are in vacation mode as well. I HOPE you are having fun.

We drove for 12 hours from the Netherlands to the south of France a couple of days ago. Played an audio book for six of those hours and the boys slept through most of the rest. Now we’re staying in a very relaxing spot in Provence, the kids have a pool and other pastimes to occupy them, and I can hide away with my laptop and write write write. That is actually bliss for me. The best vacation I can imagine. I plan to finish my book, “The Biology of Desire,” within another month. Think I can do it?

We ended this season with three splendid guest posts that dealt with treatment/recovery issues. That followed my blow-by-blow account of getting off painkillers after spinal surgery. I think that was a good way to end “the season.” As with the Netherlands’ accomplishments in football, we maybe didn’t win the cup but we played well and got close. And okay, cheesy metaphor, but I really do feel that we are a team. The flurry of comments and discussions following each post were moving and intelligent, informative and productive. You wouldn’t believe how many emails I get congratulating me on the quality of this blog. A lot of that credit goes to you, my readers and co-posters.

By the way, my back is in great shape. Zero pain, which is very nice for two reasons: (1) I really don’t like pain and (2) it does have a tendency to get me thinking about painkillers. I’ve been off pain and painkillers for a couple of months now, and it’s all good. Life feels interesting, full of possibilities, and relatively content.

I may post the occasional piece in the next month or two, but probably won’t really pick up until we’re settled in California — Isabel’s sabbatical and my chance to start another book, beginning in September.

Until then, I wish you all a wonderful summer, full of peace, fun, mindfulness, relaxation, happy abstinence or moderate controlled use (whatever works for you) and — what seems to make it all happen — a healthy dose of self-forgiveness.



30 thoughts on “Gone fishin

  1. Dustin John July 20, 2014 at 4:59 am #

    Great to hear from you and the happiness within your family! I finally purchased your book and I am rather thrilled to dive into it. Dont worry, there are some people who have had a fishing licence for 9 months now and have yet to throw a line out. Pathetic really. Good to hear you are healing up strong as ever and that your thoughts are not snapping into painkiller heaven. Have a great summer as well Marc!

    -Dustin John

    • Marc July 20, 2014 at 6:33 am #

      Hi Dustin! Thanks for your good wishes. I’m glad you bought the book — I’m still hoping to achieve the NYT bestseller list, but it’s tough going. Still, some people quite like it.

      Have a great summer yourself, whatever you’re doing — which I assume will not include fishing!

      • Dustin John August 1, 2014 at 5:48 am #

        You’re welcome. What has to happen to hit the NYBS list? That would be pretty cool if it happens! Working graveyards I haven’t had a lot of daylight to do much outdoors but my wife and I took our dogs and camped up a nearby canyon. Other than that, I’ve just enjoyed not shoveling snow and scraping windshields. Not a big fan of winter. When I get through the book I will stop back in with my thoughts. Have a great week Marc!

  2. Matt July 20, 2014 at 6:14 am #

    Fishing was never really my thing either. Not the activity per se, just watching the fish flying over the shoulders of all my friends, while my efforts led to the inevitable result— getting skunked. Eviscerating, vivisecting and exenterating (why do we have so many words for disemboweling things?). No matter how I abused my bait, the trip always ended the same way: feeling like I missed out on something I had no idea why I was searching for to begin with.

    I much preferred burying the hook in Velveeta cheeseballs, that way doing my small part to prevent heart disease in the world. I certainly did a knock up job burying the hook in my own palate over the years. What was I bait for? What was I using my body to troll for? Some squirmy, slippery elusive thing that was already inside me, but I was too busy looking for to see it had always been there? Missing the tree for the forest? When I finally found it, it was like getting slapped in the face with…you know… a wet fish.

    Happy trails, Marc.

    Never give up.

    • Marc July 20, 2014 at 8:59 am #

      You are the Leonard Cohen of the addiction treatment world! What a metaphor. Did any of this involve a place near the river? Where only drowning men could hear you? And I have never met anyone who knew the word “exenterating” — I didn’t, until now. (so how come you misspelled my name? It’s ok, I corrected it)

      Usually we imagine the bait to be the thing we’re after, we being the fish. But indeed we are in many ways the bait, waiting for the fish to present themselves. And the fish, when they do arrive, are always too small to do anything with.

      So…on to new sports. Hang-gliding and wind-surfing appeal to me. I’ve tried each about twice, got a few bruises, but lots fresh air.

      Take care, Matt. See you soon I hope…

  3. Denise July 20, 2014 at 9:03 am #

    As always, your blog gives me a lot to think about. What strikes me about this one is how full of stimulation your life appears to be. Intellectual and aesthetic stimulation, doing the things you love in different and beautiful places.

    My own experience is a life in which “things” are very much the same from day to day, month to month, year to year, and very much not stimulating. When I can’t (or it’s quite difficult to) make changes of scenery or activity I historically have turned to things that were readily available to provide a sense of change or difference: substances, sex, gambling, shopping, eating – to name a few – to provide that sense of newness or change. I’ve come to think of these as replacement behaviors for they replace experiences that provide what we need to keep ourselves motivated. They also replace feelings that the circumstances of our lives don’t readily allow us to have.

    Because I do understand that even the most exotic eventually becomes old, I know that it’s up to each of us, on whatever economic level we find ourselves, to generate interest and excitement in our daily lives so we don’t turn to those things mentioned above. Having greater financial resources may make it easier to provide stimulation, but even with limited resources it’s possible to find genuine ways of making life interesting instead of turning to the replacements. I just need to work harder at it.

    Finally, thank you for the shout out to your responders. Thanks to you for giving us so much to think about.

    • Marc July 22, 2014 at 5:49 pm #

      Hi Denise. I think that having the funds to travel and taste a variety of life experiences is indeed a gift. I’m grateful for it. I know I’m lucky. But I can be traveling through France and get a sudden urge for the codeine that is freely available here. So travel itself…..variety, scenery, all that stuff….is in no way a final protective wall against addictive impulses. That sense of newness and change that you mention: it can backfire, leaving one confused, disoriented, and lost, and making one even more vulnerable to seeking old solutions that never worked well to begin with.

      To be honest, my greatest adventures occur when I meditate for five or six days straight (not all day — I mean even 20 minutes per day). There I find new ways to experience my present tense, with all the shades of positive and negative emotions I ever come in contact with. I do love travel and novelty, and i”m glad I can afford it. But it’s not a buttress against addictive behaviors. As you imply, even with limited resources, there are opportunities to throw yourself wide open into the kind of adventures of the mind and spirit that make addiction a boring second choice.

      And you’re welcome. This blog is a great support, reminder, and compass for me as well.

  4. William Abbott July 20, 2014 at 10:15 am #

    Au contraire Marc– hint thats French since you are in Provence – the place of the second best food in the world after tuscany

    Fishing with a fly in fresh or salt water the most sublime but extreme of mindful experiiences and this summer , as in many past Im doing it several times a week

    Also now reminded that I promised you a post on CRAFT and the dilemmma of family of those with addiction

    • Marc July 22, 2014 at 5:53 pm #

      Well I think we’ve clearly established that different folks need different strokes. Are there a certain number of steps involved in successful fishing? Do the fish do pushups while you’re arranging your bait? Just kidding, of course. At least the metaphor still appeals to me.

  5. John July 20, 2014 at 10:51 am #

    Forgiveness is when you stop wishing for a different past. All forgiveness is self-forgiveness.
    And I wish Happy Holidays, for all of you,

  6. Guy Lamunyon July 20, 2014 at 11:41 am #

    Put me down for a presale of the new book ! ! ! !

    Guy Lamunyon
    Sedona, AZ

  7. Al July 20, 2014 at 12:41 pm #

    Your vacation sounds great. Your success moving from pain killers to sans is also to be applauded. Gives me hope. I wish I was over the pond. 🙂

    • Marc July 22, 2014 at 5:56 pm #

      It is very beautiful here. But I also sometimes long to be back in Canada. Where the dog doodoo landmines are few and far between. And thanks for the support. I’m quite pleased, myself.

  8. Melia Bosworth July 20, 2014 at 2:01 pm #

    Hi Mark,
    I’ve done that exact 12 hr drive. From Nimegen to Marselle (sp?)
    I was tired!
    Where is your wife’s sabbatical?

    Really enjoy your blog and the other folks that respond.

    Happy Summer!
    Melia from Northern California

    • Marc July 23, 2014 at 8:33 am #

      That’s good to hear, Melia… I mean that you like the blog and the comments.

      Yes, it’s a tiring drive! We ended up in some horrendously crowded part of Germany that somehow gets between the Netherlands and France. Mostly bumper to bumper coming the other way, evoking pity, or maybe (because we were in Germany) a touch of schadenfreude.

      We’ll be in L.A. through the fall. Isabel has colleagues in the area, and I just go wherever she takes me…especially if it’s California, which I love.

      Happy summer to you!

  9. Donnie Mac July 20, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

    I Love this one ,

    “There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.”

    Steven Wright

    • Marc July 23, 2014 at 8:34 am #

      Very funny. I wonder if there’s any line at all.

  10. Stephen Creagh Uys July 21, 2014 at 11:27 pm #

    I’m delighted at your continued writing. The normal paradigm of the addiction memoir/writer of, is: good person, (cheerleader, quarterback, etc..,) develops problem, then loses all they were meant to accomplish, hits some murky bottom, finds 12-steps, god or very occasionally a well of resolve, conquers ‘problem’ thinks their story is so different, writes about it (generally poorly,) is patted on back and becomes contributing member of community, church, Lions Club. None of this is bad per se, but it is rare that they continue to write. You do not fit this construct, but a far deeper, more important one. You never play victim and take credit where due. I commend you. Your blog alone proves you have much more to add. I will email you a link of my first novel, which is a subtle cautionary literary look at active addiction. Cubby Selby, who had been substance free for ages loved it. I think you may too. It is reading for the summer of ones discontent..
    Anyway, I feel you are one of the few who would have written excellent books about any subject. You merely happened to fall into addiction. I look forward to it, and wish you and the family a wonderful, productive time

    • Marc July 23, 2014 at 8:40 am #

      Hi Stephen. I’d be glad to get a copy of your novel. I just finished the third book of the Patrick Melrose series by Edward St. Aubyn. It seems to be a memoir packaged as fiction. He goes through a horrendous phase of addiction and then comes out on the other side, but I’m not sure yet where he lands. Have to keep reading. Anyway, in terms of literary quality, it’s absolutely masterful.

      Thanks for your kind words. My first book worked out as a compromise between narrative writing and science writing — just right for where I was at. I’m still going on in that vein, but now using other people’s stories. But I think book 3 will be more narrative and less science. I love the flow of good writing and I occasionally feel like I’m getting there.

      Greatly appreciate your good wishes. All the best to you as well.

  11. Gary July 23, 2014 at 8:05 am #

    I really want to thank you Marc for having a Blog where the dialogue has been insightful as well as thoughtful!~ With respect to meditation, life itself is exactly that rather you’re on vacation, fishing, or perhaps eating Lobster in good ole Nova Scotia. My two hour drive to work each day reminds me just how beautiful our province is along the South Shore. I’ve had the opportunity of working at sea and first on a Ferry between yarmouth Nova Scotia and Portland Maine then aboard a Coast Guard Vessel servicing buoys, lightstations (lighthouses) etc; and aboard a Scallop Dragger. I love and respect the ocean and have seen many whales and sharks. I’ve witnessed a calmness on the ocean that is serene as well as two hurricanes.

    However, as Jon Kabat Zinn stated; “Wherever You Go, There You Are”. Regardless of money, property or prestige, your state of mind, will determine your level of peace, contentment and/or happiness. For me, over and above any sense of desiring happiness, I prefer to just be aware of each moment as it is.

    It’s great to have such converstaions with people of like minds and once again I want to thank you Marc and wish you peace wherever life may bring you!~

    – Gary

    • Marc July 23, 2014 at 8:56 am #

      This is really turning into a love fest. But I’m very pleased. The value of the blog in your eyes and those of others is inspiring to me, and that’s what I’ll need to crank it up in the fall again. Amazing how addiction can shift from a state you live in, to a subject you study, and finally to a network of interactions with a community of people who just happen to be quite fascinating, probably in large part because of the struggles they’ve endured and the solutions they’ve come to.

      I love these conversations too. Being aware of each moment is a wonderful place to…be.

  12. Janet July 24, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

    Marc, I’m glad you can feel the love coming your way. And everyone else as well. This is a healing place. And summer vacations are essential, too. I am very excited about your new book. Glad it is on the forefront. You do know there is a book The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan. (?) Another very fine writer… different subject.
    Well, here’s more love… I so enjoy hearing all of your voices and being part of this UP lifting group of thinkers, writers, and fellow travellers.

  13. jasmine July 27, 2014 at 4:50 am #


    I’m sure I speak for many (of us) in sending you humble and heart-felt applause on (nearing) the completion of your new Book. After reading your post, I sense this (too) is quite a labor of love, reflection, insight and hope. So, I hope I’m not the only one that will call you on your 1 month completion challenge – dated July 19th 😉

    I hope you (all) enjoy your summer holidays. I just went on a similar jaunt, and have no doubt you will be filled with appreciation and inspiration (and, maybe a few pounds from all the lovely indulgences ;).


    • Marc August 2, 2014 at 9:25 am #

      Thanks, Jasmine. It really does help me to feel that there are a few people in the stands watching as I trundle toward the finish line. Huff puff huff puff.

      Did I reply to you by email? Well anyway, happy holidays to you too. I’ll save a space for you in Europe by moving to the U.S. for a few months.

      Very best!

  14. mimesis August 4, 2014 at 12:35 am #

    It has been such a long time since i wrote in this blog, i hardly know what to say. other than the fact that i also HATE fishing, and welll i am reading up on so many posts that i have missed,,, 30 months in (it IS possible) appears to come with losing friends, dive bombing into life and love, caring way more than most people to about issues and values… and also scaring people. scaring people by the strength that you have. a relentless desire to drive on keep going even god dam fishing.

    I like the fishing idea though as well as one thing i am still struggling with is direction in a way – i want so much from life. fishing makes me think, as on top of patience (not any addicts strong point i gues) also the fact that when you try and pick something out of water you always put your hand in in the wrong place, unless you can change your persepctive.

    Anyway, if this is a love fest, i want to be part of it as even though i have been off line for so many months trying to fish – it feels so at home to be back. ps i have also learned to meditate though i think i am grade c at the moment.

    • Marc August 4, 2014 at 4:40 am #

      Welcome back, Mimesis! And yes, this is a sort of love fest — climb aboard. It’s good to hear you being alive and well and feisty as always…. and meditating? That’s graduate school! I hope you’ll stay with us if I continue this blog in the fall, which I’m very likely to do. Till then, happy trails!

      • mimesis August 4, 2014 at 5:03 am #

        Yes, and I think i wrote all of that in one breath..! I also posted again on catchmeawry after reading all the posts that I had missed. I will be here as long as you are bloging and everyone on this site is reponding. I learn so so much. Happy swimming!

  15. Jim Maguire August 10, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

    Marc, did I read California? Are you guys moving back or just a vacation? Interesting if so, moving from one Socialist Country ,The Netherlands to another The Peoples Republic of California ! Oh sorry ,did I say that out loud ? That was a paid political comment by James Patrick Maguire III .
    On a serious topic . Did you experience any depression after the opioids. I just had a ” procedure ” that required a couple days of Percocet( hair transplant ,don’t go there I might be sober but Im still vain) . I had no trouble with the drugs but for the next ten days or so I had to force myself to function, I was so depressed.
    I see Gabor Mate’ is doing a talk in Vancouver this November.Its only one night and the next day . I wish it were longer to justify the six hour flight . I may go if I can scare up someone o travel with.Love his book ,not as much as yours ,of course.
    Best wishes to you and your family . If you come to the east coast ,let me know,Jim Maguire

    • Marc August 12, 2014 at 8:56 am #

      Hi Jim. Good to hear from you. Yup, we’re on our way to California, but not the People’s Republic. Just good old dog-eat-dog L.A., where the promises of capitalism are transformed into everyone’s favorite dreams.

      Yes, I did experience depression. I’d compare it to having a fling with an old lover and then missing her like crazy when it ends. The emptiness is inevitable, I think. But it got topped up pretty quickly with a feeling of freedom. I’d been on oxys much longer that just a few days — both before and after my surgery. And it was getting pretty boring and stultifying. I sympathize.

      I like Gabor Mate too — and I like his book. As you say, almost as good as mine. Here’s a wave from Kingston, Ontario, while on our westward journey.

  16. George August 13, 2014 at 2:41 am #

    Thinking of Robin Williams this evening, and wishing another step, reaching out, or connection would have been possible. Following in the wake of Philip Seymour Hoffman,

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