Cast your anxiety overboard


On the heels of an annual fishing trip with my brothers and some friends, I was once again reminded of the impossibly restorative power of nature. Within our group of eight, there is nary a diehard angler. We pack our tackle boxes with over-priced lures, fish the lake incorrectly based on water temperature, time of year, location, etc., and as a result, come away with a handful, instead of a boatful, of fish.

No one gives a shit. Because the experience of being at a lake, where cell phone service is nil, where loon calls or beaver tails slapping on the water are your soundtrack, is so good for ridding your mind of anxious thoughts and helping to recharge the old mental battery. All you can do is be. All you can do is be in awe — of a bald eagle soaring over head; of the shifting clouds and the mirror-image they produce upon a glass-calm lake; of the rustle of tree branches; of the chatter and songs of unidentified birds and rodents. Air smells like air, so you breathe it in deep. Your heart slows down and so too does your mind. There is nothing like nature to get you feeling natural again.

I’m not the only one who feels this way about fishing. This old blog post from Adam Oster is an even better exploration of how an outdoor pursuit has helped his mental health.

Find your natural high and let it replace a chemical urge, an overactive thought, with the undeniable power of just being present in a moment.


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Take back summer, then take back life


It’s that time of year already and we’re not even into July; I’m talking, of course, about patios, deck drinks and BBQing with a beer in hand. I can’t honestly say I’ve ever been refreshed by a cold beer after mowing the lawn. If anything, in my late 30s, it’s made me thirsty, then sleepy, then surly. And yet, when I’ve got the Weber fired up and the burgers on the burner, it’s a cold beer, not water, that I’ve most often chose as my watery wingman.

Why not water? My goodness, there is no greater marketing in the world than the cool, refreshing reality that is a tall glass of water. I sound absurd, right? But it’s true. I’ve become so conditioned to do things a certain way that I often lose sight of common sense.

Recently though, I switched the script. I still like my beer or wine here or there, but for the most part if I’m thirsty, I drink water! Holy shit, what a profound revelation! And for this lifer junkfood lover, my go to snacks are now mostly veg or something filling like plain yogurt. It’s so simple, yet so easy to overlook. And it’s a struggle every day to associate common sense health and “doing the right thing” not as some temporary path to something (weight loss, beach bod) but as a better way to live.

Mental complacency, over-stimulation, fatigue, environment, routine. These quiet forces gang up on us some times in life and lead us in the wrong direction. And if we’re lucky, all it takes is a switch in pattern, a change in thinking, a new routine or trend, to help get some us back on track.

And for those some, who are tired of doing the wrong thing, but who habitually do because it’s summer; it’s the weekend; it’s whatever, here’s an interesting trend happening with young folks in cities around the world: ditching alcohol, without ditching fun.

I think this is great. It reminds me of my U10 sons, who overcome shyness by slowly working up the gusto to talk to other kids; who run and move around until their legs tucker out; who laugh with each other and at one another. Who do all of these things without requiring any “nudge” from liquid courage or any other mode of inhibition killing.

What I’m trying to say is, I think if more people individually and collectively, got back to enjoying life by simply enjoying life, we might be able to help some people from choosing the path of insobriety. Life is tough on a continuum, and no people have the same experience or positive means of coping with those experiences. But, man, of all the interventions we can ponder — therapy, drugs to help us get off drugs, detox, rehab — doesn’t it make sense to court good, clean fun as a worthwhile complement?

I hope these kids doing late night juice crawls, or enjoying the odd mocktail at a dance party start a sweeping trend. And that the only thing they regret the next morning is that they didn’t think of this idea sooner.

Life is too short to be lived in a perpetual haze. Fight for your sobriety and for the life you deserve.



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Six pack of “Bud”


Here’s an interesting story from the Atlantic that explores the marketing of marijuana as its recreational use gets the green light in more and more states. In the piece, the author cites early marketing efforts of tobacco and alcohol, and how the two evolved once science stepped in to learn more about these substances and what they actually do to people who consume them.

We know now that, pretty much without exception, smoking does not do a body good. We also know that too much beer, or any alcohol for that matter, will also cause problems over the short- or long-term, not to mention possibly fuel a dormant addictive tendency. But that wasn’t always the case. Early marketing, it seems, made these products seem completely okay.

How will this story play out for marijuana? Advocates will say it’s great. Usage will spike, but hopefully so too will research into the plant — its benefits and its dangers. There’s an opportunity here to be informed consumers and enjoy a product in moderation. As well, it would seem, to enjoy its myriad medicinal benefits.

But there has to be some understanding that, like beer or cigarettes before it, marijuana is not “simply natural” and, as such, for everyone.

Scores of research has explored the effects marijuana has on developing brains, for example. 

It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds, and whether or not government can keep pace with science, and ensure the big business of marijuana doesn’t sacrifice the health of its customers.




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Education and Enforcement


At the risk of sounding like a broken record with yet another post about opioids, this one has a ring of hope! Last week, doctors in the Canadian province of British Columbia became the first in the county to be bound by a set of laws regarding the prescription of opioids and other addictive drugs.

You can read more here. 

The standards the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. adopted are based on those released south of the border in March by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This is by no means a silver bullet solution to opioid addiction. However, one less means to an end (doctors either incorrectly, or illegally, providing opioids to patients) to become addicted will hopefully help in some small way to contain this serious issue.


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Not Again

Gord Downie for promotional use / CD packaging

While they are nary a blip on the stateside radar, you’d have to crawl out from a proverbial rock to be counted among the few Canadians not versed in, familiar with, obsessed with, enamored with, or otherwise profoundly affected by the music of The Tragically Hip. For the better part of three decades the group, led by one-of-a-kind frontman Gord Downie, has quietly amassed album after album of campfire singalongs, fist pumping “pre-game” tunes, and all points in between. They are Canada, this group of five, and the world learned yesterday that their point man, Gord, is the latest rock hero to get terminally touched by cancer.

The irony is thick. A guy renowned for his lyrical brilliance, his wit, his intelligence, and his gift for telling stories about his country and its people, has an inoperable brain tumour. Are you f-ing kidding me?

Gord is Canada’s Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan rolled into one. There is no pretense to who he is; he just is. And he is the only version of him that the world is ever going to see.

There is magic in his verses, and in the musical accompaniment his lifelong band mates and friends use to connect the dots that might otherwise bounce around in his ceaseless stream of consciousness. You don’t have to be from Canada to love Gord or the Tragically Hip. You don’t have to be a rocker. It doesn’t matter what colour your collar is. There is a universal sincerity, charm and energy to their music and, even more so, to their performances.

Fortunately, Gord has the medical blessing, and the spiritual wherewithal to join his bandmates on a tour of Canada. It might be the last hurrah. And if it is, it will be a beauty. If you can go see them, please do. The healing power of good music cannot be underestimated.

So what does this all have to do with sobriety? Nothing directly. But it is a reminder that life makes no promises, and that a life well lived is one in which you chase your passion, you kick excuses to the curb, you left your spirit soar, you be you, you conquer your fears, and you give selflessly of yourself, to others. That’s Gord. Watch him perform, arms flailing, thoughts wandering, eyes closed, in the moment and somehow above it at the same time. This is a guy who knows who he is, and who lives his life accordingly. He’s going to face his final curtain sooner than he probably hoped. But if he’s even half aware of the tremendous amount of happiness, inspiration and hope he’s brought to others, then he won’t fear that final bow.

For the uninitiated, the song below “Wheat Kings” is about David Milgaard, a Canadian who spent most of his life in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. Milgaard was released after 23 years, during which time this song took on a folklore all its own. Truth wrapped in lyrics and slide guitar; it doesn’t get any better than this. Thanks Gord. Keep on rockin’.


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Treat All Addicts Equally


Flipping through the Drug Policy Alliance 2016 Annual Report, a phrase from the intro jumped out at me, which I’ve excerpted here:

“DPA’s mission is to end the drug war, which means treating drug use and addiction as health issues, not criminal issues. It means supporting harm reduction interventions to reduce the death, disease, crime, and suffering associated with both drug use and drug prohibition.”

Everyday Americans grapple with overeating, piling copious amounts of lethal sugars and carbohydrates into their bodies, unable to control an addiction, an impulse to satisfy their craving. They are punished, quite often, with obesity, Type 2 diabetes, shortened lifespans, reduced quality of living, shame, and sundry other physical or psychological manifestations of their disease. We don’t throw them in jail.

We invest millions and millions of dollars to try and help them. To try and understand the mechanisms behind their behaviours. To steer them towards a healthier, more moderate lifestyle. They are addicts, are they not? And their addictions are treated as health issues, not criminal issues.

Makes total sense to me.

For more interesting insights, I suggest checking out DPA’s complete annual report.


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What’s Going to Work?



Every day, I come across new research or opinion that reveals how hopelessly little we know about drugs and how to control them and/or their effects on people suffering from addiction. This is not to say we don’t stop learning, and trying to find better ways to help those in need. It’s just an observation. Maybe a dire one but, let’s be frank, in an environment where many lawmakers around the world still cling to data ideology around the notion that drugs are a foe that can be beat, what can we all do to help nip the death and shame and negativity that go along with addiction?

What’s going to work?

I’m a father with two sons who, for better or worse, will inherit some of my good and bad genetic blessings. I’ve spoken about my own awareness of addictive impulses and tendencies, and how I’ve managed to keep them at bay, mostly through full-on abstinence, but what happens if one of my kids, once they are older, toes over the line?

Behind every addict, there is surely a son or daughter who had hopes, dreams, friends, plans, all those things we all universally aspire to, only to see them fall to the wayside and get replaced by a potent chemical of some kind. It’s shitty. It’s shitty for the people around the addict, but most of all it’s shitty for the addict themselves.

Drugs are not going anywhere, any time soon. So we are all much better to arm ourselves and equip ourselves to deal with this reality. Sometimes, the best way to do this is to listen to the frank testimony of people who know what it’s like to be at the mercy of an addiction. I found this site recently, and wanted to share it with you. I was drawn to its mission: “Eliminating the stigma that shames addiction sufferers into silence” as the language immediately disarms the reader. Addicts are suffering. More people need to appreciate this and change how they perceive addiction. It’s not up to a government to tell you this is the right thing; it just makes good bloody sense as one human to another.




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