Recovery Notes #2

To drink is to die

I’ve heard it said that there are three eventual outcomes for a person who continues to drink alcoholically: institutionalization, jail or death. Even though I’d had a number of drunken brushes with death (a car accident, a house fire), the fact that I was courting death didn’t register on me until my last day of drinking.

When I awoke on August 22, 1983,  I was on the seventh day of a binge which I spent at my typewriter drinking and eating hash brownies while attempting to write the great Canadian novel that would stun the world and propel me to sanity and fame (I wrote one short paragraph).

A year earlier, I had picked a fight with my boss, suddenly quit my job as a newspaper reporter in Hay River (a small community south of Great Slave Lake) and stormed off to Yellowknife with a carload of worthless stuff, little money and no place stay (in recovery lingo this is called a “geographical cure). Alcoholics thrive on being victims so if you had asked me why I quit my job, I would have said I was disrespected, overworked and underpaid but said nothing about my unreliability and irresponsibility. The truth was that my job was interfering with my drinking.

I survived that first year in Yellowknife by leaning on others for money, drinks and places to stay, eventually managing to dig myself out of the financial hole through a series of freelance assignments which I was able to complete while in a semi-sober state. But emotionally I was a wreck. I was overcome by haunting loneliness and unnamed terrors that would not let me go, no matter how much I drank. The days when drinking was a magical cure for my feelings of inadequacy were far in the past and now alcohol only magnified my misery. Yet I still I persisted in my belief that it was the solution, not the problem. The more I drank, the worse I felt. The worse I felt, the more I drank. Suicide became a viable option.

That August morning, a friend came over to visit. Mike (not his real name) and I had gone on many binges together and I knew him well. But I hadn’t seen much of him since he quit drinking four months earlier. Now I was astonished at how much he had changed. Instead of whining about how badly the world had treated him, as he would have in the past, he admitted to his drunken wrongdoings. Listening to his honesty, I had an epiphany (I am rather given to epiphanies as you will see in future posts). I saw how drinking controlled my life. For the first time, I realized that it could only end in death, whether by drunken incident, suicide or bodily breakdown.

I burst into tears.

“Mike, tell me the truth,” I said, when I had regained control over myself. “Do you think that I’m an alcoholic?”

“I don’t know,” he said.

It was the perfect answer. If he’d said ‘yes,’ I would have gotten angry and consoled myself by getting drunk. If he’d said ‘no,’ I would have celebrated by getting drunk.

After Mike left, I drank all the booze that was left in the house. The next morning I decided I wanted to live more than I wanted to die. 

Unless I have an unexpected burst of time and energy (highly unlikely), I plan to take a break from this blog over the holiday season. I will post again early in 2018. Meanwhile, happy holidays, everybody! May you all find peace and happiness.

This blog has been inspired by reactions from readers of “Free Love,” my novel about recovery from alcoholism.  I have often been asked why I chose to write about that particular subject. While there are several answers to that question, the most honest one is that I’m a recovering person myself. That opened the door to more questions. So I have started this blog to share some of my thoughts about alcoholism and addiction, based on my experience and observation. 

If you’d like to read or gift Free Love, check out my HOLIDAY SALE! 

Recovery Notes #1

So how did I become an alcoholic, anyway?

The truth is that I don’t know. I have spent many years in recovery examining my life and have at various times come up with different explanations. I have blamed it on the fact that I was (and continue to be) over-sensitive, a child full of feelings that were not easily understood by the people around her. I have blamed it on unacknowledged childhood pain, stemming from difficulties in my relationships with my parents. I have blamed it on growing up in a socially isolated immigrant family, on being remorselessly bullied at school, on coming of age during the sixties when young people across North America rebelled against the establishment and getting high became a rite of passage. On genes passed down from an alcoholic grandfather whom I didn’t know. It could have been any of those things. Or all of them. Or none of them. After 35 years of self-examination in sobriety, I still don’t have the definitive answer.

All I know is that as a teenager I felt like a misfit, that I was ugly, stupid and lacking in a way that would preclude me from leading any kind of meaningful life. I was not exposed to drinking as a child, but when I had my first drink at the age of the 16 I took to it like a fish to water. My uncomfortable feelings vanished and I felt the way other people looked: attractive, intelligent and articulate. I could dance. I could flirt. I could carry on a conversation without awkward pauses. I spent the next 14 years trying to recapture that feeling and, as time went by, it took more and more alcohol to do so.

Whatever the reason that I started drinking in the first place, in time alcohol became its own thing, an illness in itself. I never drank socially. From the beginning, I always drank to get drunk. At first it was only an occasional event.  In time, I started to drink every weekend. Then all weekend. Then on week days as well. Then in the mornings. Drinking took over my life so slowly that I didn’t notice it. Instead of drinking to feel good or to have fun, I began to drink in order to drink. Along with drinking, I abused every street drug I could find, particularly pot. The life I led as an alcoholic and addict piled pain onto pain. It reopened wounds I already had and cut deeper. I behaved in ways that were against my own moral code and put myself into situations where I was both abusive and abused. Mornings, I woke up sick and cringing with shame, sometimes unable to remember what I had done the night before. I descended into a black pit of loneliness and despair and didn’t know how to get out. The only solution I could see was to drink myself to death.

So why did I sober up? That’s another question that I can’t answer. The best answer I have is that I wanted to live more than I wanted to die. More about that in my next post.

This blog has been inspired by reactions from readers of “Free Love,” my novel about recovery from alcoholism.  I have often been asked why I chose to write about that particular subject. While there are several answers to that question, the most honest one is that I’m a recovering person myself. That opened the door to more questions. So I have started this blog to share some of my thoughts about alcoholism and addiction, based on my experience and observation. 

If you’d like to read or gift Free Love, check out my HOLIDAY SALE! 



Free Love is on sale for the holidays!

Marino readingFree Love, my award-winning novel about alcoholism in Canada’s North is on sale for the holiday season. The reduced price is $20.00 per book and I’ll pay the GST and shipping (Canada only). This is a significant discount from the regular price of $32.20 ($24.95 for the book, $1.25 GST and $6.00 shipping),  a saving of $12.00!

A recipient of an Honourable Mention in the 2016 Whistler Independent Books AwardsFree Love has been widely acclaimed in the Northwest Territories as a realistic and warm portrayal of a young woman’s struggle to quit drinking. It’s a great read for anybody in recovery, for those who love alcoholics or anybody who appreciates a great story. Once you start reading Free Love, you won’t be able to put it down.

For more information and to download a free excerpt please go to: FREE LOVE.

This offer is only available until Christmas or until I run out of books, whichever comes first. All purchases must be made directly from me in one of the following ways:

  • You can pay by Paypal or credit card through the “Add to Cart” link below.

I will sign all books before I send them and will dedicate them upon request.

Happy Holidays, everybody!

Dedicated to:



Free Love gets Honourable Mention


WIBA-honourablemention-hrI am thrilled that “Free Love” has received an Honourable Mention in the Whistler Independent Book Awards.

But I have to admit it took me a while to be happy about this. At first, rather than being grateful for what I got, I saw only what I didn’t get. Oh, I dutifully made a promotional fuss by announcing the award on Facebook and basking in the congratulatory comments. But I wasn’t really that impressed. I only focused on the fact that “Free Love” hadn’t made the long list. It wasn’t until the gold stickers came in mail and I started to put them on the books that I realized that for a first novel to get an Honourable Mention in a Canada-wide contest is … well … quite an honour. Now I’m delighted.

The Whistler Independent Book Awards were established this year by the Whistler Writing Society and Vivalogue Publishing. These are the first juried Canadian awards to recognize exceptional quality in independent publishing. The establishment of these awards recognizes the explosion in independent publishing over the last decade as more and more professional writers publish their own books.

NorthWords 2016

2016-Northwords-Postcard-1-e1463278526749 copyThe 11th Annual NorthWords Writers Festival: Breaking the Mold – Identity in Stories will take place in Yellowknife in only three weeks: June 2-5, 2016. I am absolutely thrilled, this year, to be one of the title authors this year, along with Lawrence Hill, Craig Davidson, Shane Turgeon, Teva Harrison, Carol Daniels, Miranda Hill and Shelagh Rogers.

I will be participating in the following events:

Thursday June 2, 2016

Festival Opening and Family BBQ (Baker Centre: 5-6:30 pm)

FLASH: Your 3 Minutes of Fame Open Mike (Top Knight: 8 – 11 pm)

Friday, June 3, 2016

One on One Mentoring: You can book 30 minutes of my time if you want to talk about your writing and/or publishing. There are four time slots available: 10 am; 10:45 am; 3 am; 3:45 am. (Please register at the Yellowknife Book Cellar. Fee: $30)

11th NorthWords Gala Readings (Explorer Hotel, Katimavik Rooms: 8 pm)

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Signings with a Sizzle (Yellowknife Book Cellar: 12 noon-1 pm)

BLUSH: An Evening of Erotica and Sensuality Open Mike (Explorer Hotel, Katimavik Rooms: 8 – 11 pm) 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Panel Discussion: What unites us –The heroine Explorer Hotel, Katimavik Rooms: 10 – 11:30 am)

For full program, visit: NorthWords

The things to do before writing

A short time ago, I made a resolution to write a weekly blog post every Friday. Even though I have broken this resolution several times already, this morning I decided to try again. But in between writing sentences, I suddenly felt compelled to do the following:

  • Check Facebook at least five times: once to read yet another tribute to Prince; once to read an article about why a lifelong atheist started to believe in God; three times to just scroll through the Facebook flotsam for anything of interest. (I swear Facebook was invented by the antichrist of Getting Things Done.)
  • Check Amazon and Goodreads to see if there are any new reviews of my novel “Free Love.”
  • Let in the dog. (Not my fault. She was scratching at the door and I couldn’t leave her to freeze in the cold.)
  • Clean behind the stove. (Also not my fault. For some incomprehensible reason, my retired husband, Bill, got the idea, for the first time since we moved into this house four years ago, to pull the stove out from the wall. He found spilled coffee grounds, greasy clumps of dog hair, miscellaneous stains, abandoned almonds, grapes that had petrified into raisons, and more. I couldn’t let him clean it by himself, could I?)

And now it’s lunchtime and I’m only partway through the blog. Then there’s grocery shopping, and walking the dog and … oh well, this all seems to be part of some strange ritual I have to go through every time I break the virginity of the empty page.*

*Wow! Isn’t that last phrase amazing? I’ve completely fallen in love it. When that happens it usually means it’s really bad and my editor would make me get rid of it immediately. However, I do not have a blog editor: hee, hee, hee.

The landscape of “Free Love”: Hamilton

Even though the protagonist in my book Free Love, Marissa, is a fictional character, I have given her some elements of my own biography (it was easier that way). In particular, when she was a young girl, she and her family immigrated to Canada from Holland, as I did. And  Marissa grew up in Hamilton, Ontario in the same era as I did: the 1960s.

Unlike Marissa’s, my family moved around a lot in Hamilton when I was growing up. There was one neighbourhood where I lived for a few years, starting from when I about 7 or 8. It was an inner-city neighbourhood full of working class families. Hamilton was known for steel production and just about everybody’s dad (except mine) worked for the steel company. It is this neighbourhood that comes to mind when I remember my childhood, and this is neighbourhood where I have placed the young Marissa.

I haven’t walked the streets, where young Marissa and I ran around, for more about thirty years. So when I was writing the scenes set in that neighbourhood, I relied on memory and imagination. But Mike Clark, an old friend in Hamilton and a photographer, was inspired to photograph it after reading Free Love. Much has changed from when I remember. It is more rundown and many of the big maple trees are gone. But the streets have that same gritty feel. Here are some of Mike’s photographs of Marissa’s and my old neighbourhood as it looks today.

IMG_0149Ford Street: “I turned the corner onto Ford Street, raced past the field and Mr. Smithers’house (making sure to keep my fingers crossed to ward off evil spirits) until I came to a stop in front of Nina’s grey stucco house across from the railroad tracks.”

IMG_0157The tunnel: “…when I got to the tunnel and peered into its gloom, it looked empty. Holding my breath against the stench of piss, I dragged my cart through the debris of broken glass and flattened cigarette packs.


IMG_0154The field: “Both the field and Nina and George’s stucco house that had stood on the corner were gone. In their place was a sterile apartment building.”


IMG_0151Yonge Street: “He jumped on a flatbed when it was still going fast, before it slowed down to take the turn into the Yonge Street underpass.”





Free Love a tale of addiction in YK – Yellowknifer

From an interview about Free Love with Dana Bowen, published in Yellowknife, January 29, 2016:

“I wanted to write about the Yellowknife community and the huge amount of drinking in the North. A lot of people see the worst of it with people downtown,” said Pool. “Everybody sees all that stuff but the recovery community is under the radar I think and that’s the really interesting part of Yellowknife.”

See the full story about Free Love Yellowknifer story.




Free Love Book Launch


January 31, 2016: 2 pm

Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre Auditorium, Yellowknife NT

I am so excited! After 10 years of writing and revising ad infinitum, my first novel Free Love is  out. Now it’s time to celebrate. If you’re in Yellowknife, please join me at my Book Launch. I will talk a bit about the book, do a few readings and answer your questions about the book, writing and any other literary topics you may have in mind.  The Yellowknife Book Cellar will be on hand to sell copies of Free Love and I will be happy to dedicate and sign them for you. If you’ve already got your copy, bring it to the launch for me to sign. SEE YOU THERE!