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.

The Whistler Independent Book Awards were established in 2016 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.

It is a huge honour for me to have my first novel recognized by these awards.

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!

Family Spilling Over

I am reprinting this piece in honour of Thelma Tees, my friend, mentor and second mother who passed away 15 years ago today.  “Family Spilling Over” was originally published in 2009 in the Anthology “Cup of Comfort for the Grieving Soul.”


I finally got the gravy boat.

For a year, I had avoided all thoughts of it because, once I got it, I’d have to accept the fact that Thelma was dead.

As long as it remained hanging on its nail in her cabin, there seemed a chance that I might go there one day to find her shuffling to the door in her slippers, a smile on her face, with a fresh story about how Katie put the run on a fox or dragged a dead muskrat up on the deck. There would be muffins in the oven, a kettle on the stove, and Thelma would bring out her best tea cups, the ones with the dainty gold filigree. She’d pour the first cup for herself and then say, as she always did, that she liked her tea weak. Katie would lie under the kitchen table twitching in doggie dreams and, when I sat in my usual chair, would put her head on my lap. I’d sip tea, relax into the rhythm of our chat, and the tension would flow out of my shoulders like mercury.

A year after Thelma’s death, my husband Bill and I were invited to a family get-together at her cabin to mark the anniversary of her passing. It was to be just like the old Sunday afternoons of summer, with Thelma’s grandchildren running, falling down, screaming, getting hugs and kisses, then running off again. There would be burgers and hot dogs on the fire, and we would balance on rickety chairs as we swatted mosquitoes and waved the smoke away from our faces.

But this time Thelma would not be there.

Thelma’s cabin was in the bush outside Yellowknife, Canada, a little over a mile from the place that Bill and I bought the year we married—the same year Thelma’s husband died, my mother died, Bill’s mother got sick, and Thelma became our new family.

I had been avoiding her cabin, hadn’t been there since the bright spring day a few weeks before she died when we’d gone over on our bikes and found her son gingerly helping his mother out of the truck. She was skeletal, drowning in her parka, but smiled as she lifted up her pant leg and made fun of the support hose she had to wear to help her circulation. We sat on the deck together for a few minutes, and an eagle swooped down from the sky, but Thelma was too weak to stay for long. Even then, the cabin had an unoccupied look, with weeds crawling up to the driveway and willows obscuring the view of the pond where we used to watch the ducks.

Now, I didn’t want to face the emptiness of her absence. Most of all, I didn’t want to face getting the gravy boat.

I’d first seen the gravy boat at one of Thelma’s family dinners, in the days when she was strong and lived in the cabin alone. It was the dinner where she forgot to take the stuffing out of the turkey and nobody noticed. How we laughed about it afterward. The gravy boat had two spouts: one at the top for fat and one at the bottom for lean. I was watching my weight then, and as soon as I saw the lean juice pouring out the bottom, I knew I wanted that gravy boat.

“Hmph!” Thelma said. “You won’t get it as long as I’m still alive!”

“Well, how long is that going to be?” I asked.

“You never mind!”

It became a standing joke between us. I kept trying to steal the gravy boat, but Thelma always caught me. She said she was going to live forever just so I would never get it. I would threaten to force her into an old-age home before her time so I could take it.

Thelma would look at me piously and say, “Let your conscience be your guide.” Then she’d add, “You know where you’re going when your time comes, eh?”

One day she said with a twinkle in her eye, “Show some respect for your elders. There will be a day when you come over here and find me lying dead on the floor. Then you’ll be sorry.”

“Well, that’ll be my chance,” I said. “If that happens, I’ll just step over your body, take that gravy boat off the wall, and march right out of here.”

We laughed. It was how we were with each other.

Then, it became serious. When Thelma got cancer the first time, when she was gaunt and crazy from her chemotherapy, she began to organize her affairs. She wrote my name in felt pen on the bottom of the gravy boat.

“When I go, come and take it,” she said. “I don’t know whether my kids will remember, but I want you to have it.”

I didn’t want the damn gravy boat anymore. I just wanted Thelma to go on living. I refused to look at it, refused to talk about it, and thought my refusal could somehow keep her alive.

She died anyway.

The barbecue to honour the anniversary of Thelma’s passing was family spilling over, as much like a barbecue in the old days as it could be without Thelma there. Thelma’s sister, Auntie Bertha, filled the role of matriarch. Thelma’s daughters, sons, and grandchildren, including two new great-grandchildren, were there, and the chatter was familiar. Auntie Bertha brought baked beans, and the kids squealed as everybody recited over and over, “Beans, beans, the musical fruit. / The more you eat, the more you toot.”

We laughed and laughed. Somewhere amidst the laughter, the screams, and the rhythms of affection, something in me let go and I began to accept Thelma’s death and enjoy being at the cabin again.

Toward evening, when Bill and I were just about to leave, Thelma’s daughter BJ called me into the house. I went inside, and she took the gravy boat from its nail on the wall and held it out to me. My name was still written on the bottom.

“Mom left it for you,” she said.

I reached out my hand. Now it was okay to have it.

Annelies Pool