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An Alcoholic Therapist's Fight for Recovery in a Flawed Treatment System

Regular price $19.95 CAD
  • ISBN: 9781771641968
  • Tags: Biography & Memoir, Health & Wellness, Maureen Palmer, Michael Pond,
  • Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5
  • Published On: 01/01/2016
  • 408 Pages
  • ISBN: 9781771641975
  • Tags: Biography & Memoir, Health & Wellness, Maureen Palmer, Michael Pond,
  • Published On: 21/01/2016
  • 408 Pages

A harrowing, wry, and riveting account of a therapist's struggle with alcohol and his quest to find a better way of treating addiction

“With tactile intimacy and surgical wit, Pond invites us to share the tragedy of his addiction with a sad smile. And then reveals a singular truth about how people quit. Truly one of a kind . . . A masterful job of describing the indescribable”—Dr. Marc Lewis, neuroscientist and author of Memoirs of an Addicted Brain

Psychotherapist Mike Pond built a life helping others struggling with addiction, but he could not help himself. In the first part of his gripping memoir, he recounts how he lost his practice, his home, and his family as a result of his out-of-control drinking and how abstinence-based treatment regimes failed to help him.

Not one to give up easily, he, along with his partner, Maureen Palmer, embarked on a quest for evidence-based treatments—science-backed therapies that don’t always demand abstinence—a search chronicled in the book’s new second half.

Michael Pond has a private therapy practice in Vancouver, where he specializes in addiction treatment. He earned a degree in psychiatric nursing from the University of Victoria and a Masters in Social Work from the University of British Columbia.

Maureen Palmer is a critically acclaimed documentary filmmaker and former radio and television producer at CBC. In 2002, she co-founded Bountiful Films.


"A vividly written page-turner...gripping and helpful."
-Gabor Maté, The Globe and Mail

"With tactile intimacy and surgical wit, Pond invites us to share the tragedy of his addiction with a sad smile. And then reveals a singular truth about how people quit. Truly one of a kind… A masterful job of describing the indescribable."
-Dr. Marc Lewis, Neuroscientist and Author of Memoirs of an Addicted Brain

"A passionate book around the struggle and path to recovery from addiction."
-Dr. Bernard Le Foll, Head, Alcohol and Treatment Clinic, Addiction

"Pond's insights coupled with Palmer's section on evidence-based treatments make this an invaluable resource for readers battling their own addictions or concerned about their loved ones." -Publisher's Weekly


From Chapter Six: Come Down Here, Mr. Pond

I need a drink. But I have no money.

Gentrification has crept into Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Well-heeled diners sidestep massive puddles and run the gauntlet of shopping carts to line up in front of the latest hot restaurant. They glance in my direction but my presence barely registers. My cloak of invisibility finally seems to be working. More seasoned entrepreneurial drunks and addicts offer to hold the diners’ places in line, save their parking spots, watch their cars.

As I round a familiar corner, loud, thumping music drifts from a club. When I first arrived in Vancouver some thirty years ago, I probably patronized this place myself.

I have no money, a concept I can’t quite get my head around. “No money” used to mean, just pull out a credit card. Mine are all suspended for non-payment. My one remaining bank account—joint—Rhonda has justifiably frozen.

A rush of blood heat races up the sides of my neck, and my face flushes a fiery red shame. I look down at my feet, put my hand out and mumble to the kind of people I used to be. “Do you have any spare change?” I look down to the shaking hand. That can’t be my hand.

I can’t make eye contact. I can’t be aggressive. I can’t do it.

I’m a failure at panhandling.

The craving for alcohol courses through my veins. It’s my poison. It’s my medicine. I need it to stop these shakes, these tremors, these leaps of vomit up the back of my throat. A vibrating queue of young people snakes halfway down the block.

I scan the lineup, unzip my duffle bag and pull out the one last thing of value in my life: my laptop. My hands caress its leather case, given to me by my sons on my fifty-fourth birthday.

I look down at it for a long moment. This laptop is my life: notes, writings, programs, spreadsheets, databases, proposals, pictures, training materials for my workshops, business plans—everything I would want and need to start some semblance of a new life as a therapist in Vancouver.

I swallow hard and shuffle along the line.

“Does anyone want to buy a brand-new laptop?” I hold it out to the people in line. “Does anyone want a new laptop?” I repeat my plea over and over. It gains urgency and volume with each repetition. Each one in turn looks, then looks away, focusing on the flirtatious dance at hand.

“Let me see what you got, old man.” A young guy surveys my laptop. He wears a slim-fit white shirt opened to the sternum to reveal freshly waxed, shiny, steroid-enhanced pectorals.

“I’ll give you twenty bucks.” He’s rightly assessed he has the upper hand in this negotiation. “That’s all I got, dude.”

“Twenty bucks? I paid fourteen hundred dollars for it. The case alone cost a hundred and fifty dollars,” I stammer.

“Twenty bucks, take it or leave it,” he says.

Bastard. In desperation I take it.

My hand shakes as I jerk the twenty-dollar bill from his hand. I walk forty-three paces down the block, into a bar, and order a Rickard’s Red. My favourite beer. I down it, and in quick succession order four more. Gone in a matter of forty minutes.

I drop my head onto the bar and the light fades.