Friday, November 25, 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Hello, There

I saw a dog today with a certain familiar look.

He must have been an adorable puppy and a strapping young stud.

Today, he is heavy, square-faced and jowly.

Still, he must be harboring some wonderful old stories.

Monday, November 21, 2011



Honour a Life - November 24, 2011

Join us for a beautiful ceremony on Thursday November 24th, 2011

From 1:30pm onward -including Kim's traditional roast beef dinner. We honour our alumni and others who have lost their lives to the disease of addiction. We will share their stories and light candles to their memory.

If you cannot join us, please light a candle wherever you are.

Reel Recovery Film Festival - A Huge Success!

The Orchard Recovery Center and Writers in Treatment presented the Canadian debut of the Reel Recovery Film Festival October 21-23 at Vancouver's District 319.

This exciting three-day festival showcased realistic, honest and inspiring films about addiction and recovery, screening both groundbreaking new films and classic features. Interactive discussions followed each screening. Movie admission proceeds helped non-profit Intersections Media for at risk-youth.

Our opening night gala featured an evening of gourmet cuisine, comedy and cinema. Mayor Gregor Robertson was in attendance for the screening of 2010 documentary, "I Am Comic", which revealed the serious side of hilarity, followed by a performance by our special guest, comic Pat Dixon.



Thank you to all who contributed and made this night a huge success!

Intervention Canada

Friday September 23rd The Orchard made its first television debut on Intervention Canada.

Check out and click episode 6 to see Conrad's journey through recovery at The Orchard.

Dr. Patrick Fay: 'Addiction is a disease, it can be treated...and treatment works'

Last month's edition of The Celtic Connection featured the Orchard's own addictionologist Dr. Patrick Fay. The article describes Dr. Fay's experience treating addiction in the private as well as the public sector. His experience has taught him that addiction does not discriminate career, wealth or achievement.

The article also captures how Dr. Fay came to work with the addicted population in Vancouver.

For the full article click here:

Evolution of Addiction Conference in Los Angeles, California

Orchard counselor Carrie De Jong has been given the opportunity to present some of her expertise at the upcoming Evolution of Addiction Conference in L.A. in December, 2011.
She will be discussing the many sources of trauma over the lifespan of an individual that impact emotional, behavioral, relational, and cognitive functioning. The goal of her seminar is to bring greater awareness to the experience of trauma and its impact on addiction for those who work in the field of addiction treatment.

David Berner

Thursday, October 27th The Orchard welcomed guest speaker David Berner. David Berner is a semi-retired therapist making his contribution to the addictions and recovery field -other than his current assignment as Executive Director of the Drug Prevention Network of Canada.
He began his work in the field 45 years ago ( as the founder and E.D. of the X-Kalay Foundation in 1967 in Vancouver and Salt Spring Island, now the Behavioural Health Foundation in Manitoba) and has run and participated in thousands of hours of individual and group therapy.

An Official Welcome to the Orchard's Clinical Dietician!

Ellie Mackay, M.Sc, RD
Ellie is a Clinical Dietitian registered with the College of Dietitians of British Columbia. She specializes in helping individuals develop a healthy relationship with food. She has over 20 years experience in a wide range of nutrition areas including diabetes management, heart disease, weight control and eating disorders. Ellie received her Masters degree in Human Nutrition from the University of British Columbia examining the role of dieting in the development of eating disorders. She works one-on-one and in group education settings to help clients attain their nutrition goals and guide them to lead a healthful, nourishing lifestyle.

The Orchard One Year Club

Congratulations to our latest one year club members! The following alumni have achieved one year clean and sober:

Caren R, Corrie S, Les F, Aman S, Jamie Q, Ron G, Ryan L, Derek C, Laura F, Colleen M, Susan P, Andrea H, Carlotta R, Pauline M, Sue O, Ryan G, Mete S, David D, Carolyn S

Drop by the administration building next alumni day to see your name posted on the one year club board.

Please click on the link below to read alumni thoughts on being at the Orchard at Christmas:

© 2011 The Orchard Recovery and Drug Treatment Center     1-866-233-2299

"DEMOCRACY" in action

Sunday, November 20, 2011


The public statements of men and women and parties who win elections are always the same - "The people have spoken!"

That's understandable.

They are giddy with triumph. Our team scored all the touchdowns and I am a winner. Yeah!

But what can we say about the media who are supposed to have some perception outside the ring of battle?

This morning's Sun and Province writers seem as intoxicated as the Vision supporters in Vancouver.

"Clearly," the tell us, as if we haven't just heard this from the re-elected Mayor, "the people have spoken!"

Good grief. Is there a brain left there at the foot of Granville Street?


The "people spoke" and they elected Richard Nixon, George W. Bush, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brian Mulroney, and Silvio Berlusconi, among others.

Today, the pundits and political "reporters" are telling us that the people of Vancouver are solidly and completely behind the fabulous vision and programs of the incumbent party.

The people of Vancouver by and large don't vote.

And 90% of those people who do vote think His Honor is cute and wouldn't know a public strategy if they fell in a bog full of them.

What this election result tells us is not what the press is telling us.

It tells us that the elected party was tremendously organized and well-heeled and that they did all the phone calling, polling and door knocking that was necessary and that money could buy to get re-elected.

Good for them.

Now lower your head, square your shoulders and thrust yourself sharp into the wind and try not to notice the irrelevant silliness that will emanate from 12th and Cambie for another three years.

Post script: Charlie Smith of the Georgia Straight has shared with me his very similar reaction to the municipal elections. To my knowledge, his is the only piece not covered in bunting.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


"The only agency in Vancouver dedicated to helping women leave prostitution will be forced to close its doors this spring as a result of the “Wal-Martization” of the B.C. government’s employment programs, says the executive director of PEERS Vancouver."

There's your first paragraph from a Globe and Mail story by Robert Matas published on Tuesday morning.

The hideous gist is this.

The provincial government has created a template for how social service projects and agencies should operate.

This, of course, is madness, an impossibility. Maybe it looks good on a flow chart to some office-bound geeks, but it has no connection whatsoever to the real world.

PEERS gets women and men out of prostitution.

They've been doing this work successfully for ten years now.

Everyone else is trying to make "sex work" safe and acceptable. Everyone else wants to give sex trade workers legal brothels, brochures, and in the case, of former Mayor of Vancouver Sam Sullivan, drugs and pills to keep them happy. That flash of genius would have made Sam the city's biggest pimp. Lucky for him and us and the prositutes nothing came of his inspiration.

PEERS, for all its good work and low cost, is now toast.

But listen to the Minister of Callousness:

Stephanie Cadieux, B.C. Minister of Social Development, said she was not concerned about PEERS decision to close. If PEERS does not want to participate, another group will provide the services, she said.

“The focus of the [employment] program is to help people, and provide the support and services they need, including specialized needs, to get back into the workforce, and to do that as quickly as possible,” Ms. Cadieux said.

“For women who want to change what they are doing and get assistance from the government in doing that, that service will be provided,” she said, adding that the ministry will monitor the changes to ensure those who need the services will receive them.

This is the Minister of Social development???

She has no idea. Not one lonely clue.

Social service programs like PEERS do not spring full blown from the sand. They crawl out of the grass-roots where they are spawned and they grow and fall back, grow and fall back and then grow inch by labored inch through blood, sweat and tears. They take work and talk and community and heartbreak and joy.

This insistence from governments that social programs all fit the same tunic is idiocy and out of touch with reality. The further insistence that social service programs all have balanced budgets is an ironic farce. There is no government jurisdiction on earth that has a balanced budget. Every hamlet and mega-city in the USA and Canada is running massive annual deficits, forget Greece, Italy and Ottawa. So the Little Hen Day Care and Women's' Shelter should be running perfect books on a beggar's budget? Get serious.

Ms. Cadieux needs to get out more...or just get out.

Meanwhile, will some titan of industry please step up to the plate and fund PEERS.

I've worked over the years with hundreds of women who were renting out their body parts by the half-hour. Not one of them wanted this life. Not one wanted to stay in it. Most left.

If PEERS is doing that for our communities, they deserve a medal, not an order to conform or quit to satisfy some poo-bah's dream of getting all her pencils lined up in a row on her glass-covered mahogany desk.

And you thought the Occupy Movement was about tents...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Thanks to the several readers who have asked where the blog has gone. What happened is that I moved. I sold my house and bought a beautiful apartment and moved from A to B at the end of October. That took a major concentration of physical and mental energy, so the blog writing ended up with the packing boxes. Aside from loving my new home (as much as I loved the old one as well), I am now freed from ever having the slightest interest in the Vancouver obsession called Real Estate. I will never again care about who is selling what and for how much above asking.

Friday is my sixty-ninth birthday. My son is taking me out for brunch and my dear friend, Yan Min, is taking me out for dinner. Life is pretty good.

I have never been so happy and so miserable.

Every single day for some months now, I experience moments of great clarity and bounce and self-satisfaction and good cheer. I feel myself striding, youthful and energetic, tall, fit and overflowing with narcissism and ego, certain that I look great. Who could resist me? Why would they?

On the same day, the sheer relentless idiocy, stupidity, greed, profligacy and rudeness of the human pool engulfs me. I feel I am drowning in a sludge pond of ignorance and unkindness.

Crossing the street is a terror. Trying to read in a cafe one might as well be sentenced to life in a Boeing hangar. Everyone on the street is texting or talking or both. The bumptious noise is piteous and unceasing. I don’t need to hear your most private thoughts. I don’t want to.

Sartre said, “L’enfer, c’est les autres.” But it’s not just them; it’s also me.

I have been cruel and self-regarding, often in the cheapest ways. Today, I am more impatient and intolerant than ever and that is saying something. I am generous one moment and leap to self-righteous indignation the next.

With my son, I was demanding and unforgiving, angry and overbearing, with the result that today he is thoughtful and kind and loyal.

To my daughter, I was the doting serving placating Jewish father. Today, thanks to all my attentions, she is largely absent from my life.

I have left some friends behind, closing doors on them. Others have done the same with me. Yet, I make new friends almost every day. They will stay in the corral as long as they stay.

My interest in the schemes of politics is waning. I believe very little of what comes from the mouths of the elected or the want-to-be-elected. The fictive lives of “celebrities” shriek past me at the supermarket line leaving no imprint whatsoever. Who are these people? Look, they are having babies or not, conjoinings or not, charities or projects or not.

I still like information. Tell me about history or birds or oceans or where the mothers and children of Africa are hiding tonight. Show me the latest, greatest, biggest, fastest air transport. Clarify for me what prompted Haydn to write that symphony, Joyce to choose Trieste of all cities in which to roost or George Blanda to play football for Al Davis for all those years. My encyclopaedic knowledge of The Movies drops right off the cliff around the turn of this last century. There are some great movies being made here and there, but I see fewer and fewer of them, and rarely in large dark rooms with hundreds of other people. “Moneyball” was amusing, the main kick being the opportunity to watch Brad Pitt, who is that rare gem – both a genuine movie star and a fine actor. “J. Edgar” was fascinating, if badly told. So talky, a peculiar choice for director Clint Eastwood, who, as an actor, was almost mute. Nevertheless, the tale is saved by terrific actors, not the least of whom is Leonardo DiCaprio, dazzling in the title role.

Little children are still a delight, as are dogs - somebody else’s children or dogs. And for a few moments at best. I cannot be a pooper scooper at this age, if ever I could.

My energy has changed.

Of course, I cannot play tennis for two hours or more, not without hurting myself, which I have managed to do nicely twice in the last two years. Both my doctor and I are hoping these lessons might register and take hold.

I cherish many ancient pleasures, music topping the list. Gershwin to this day makes me weak at the knees, joyful, teary. The Rhapsody is still a rhapsody. But so are Rogers & Hart, Ella, Tony, the Bach fugues, Mahler symphonies, the Beatles, Pete Seeger and The Weavers, Carousel (The waltz and the soliloquy), and a library of concerti, arias, folk tunes, and most of the American Songbook.

Swimming, cycling and eating are high on the same list. Not too many days after my last heart “episode,” I was frogging along the bottom of the Vancouver Aquatic Centre pool on a quiet summer morning. There may have been all of eight people in the whole building, only half in the gigantic Olympic pool. The light was streaming through the roof windows and bending into the deepest reaches of the water. For a brief ecstatic moment, I felt I was in an earthly watery heaven. I marvelled at the astonishing efficiencies and modernisms of our local medical wizards and then simply reverted to that old familiar tadpole sense of squirming joyously through this other medium so scantily understood. When will we be fish again?

I don’t bicycle as much as I once did, and now only on designated paths that will not, do not intersect with the lunatics of car traffic. And I don’t career down craggy paths on nearby mountains. I cycle, and pause always at the turn-around point for a well-drawn cappuccino. Nevertheless, I cannot get on my fabulous bike (Hey, Dave. Your bike is like BMW!) without thinking I am again 6 years old. The way the sun catches the pavement in intermittent flashes!

I eat less and often can`t believe how delicious every bite is. One raspberry can make me crazy with happiness. This is one of my ``comfort foods,`` because my grandfather grew these tiny treasures in our back yard on St. John`s Avenue in Winnipeg when I was a boy. Every second year, he set fire to the entire scrub to add carbon to the soil – then watch out the next summer.

I had a Caesar salad at a restaurant the other night and except for the glass of cold water I am drinking right now, I thought it was just about the best thing I ever experienced. Jack Benny used to play cards with his celebrated friends at the Hillcrest Golf and Country Club in Los Angeles and when he would have a cool drink, he would exclaim, `This water is wonderful!``

I have been a dedicated Astaire man my whole life, believing as did Balanchine, that Astaire was the greatest dancer of the 20th Century. The man could do anything and he could do it twice. I never much cared for the Other Guy, but you have to admit that Kelly`s Singing in the Rain number is one of the single sweetest things ever put on film.

Of course, I am not rich, and, given the state of things, I not really poor either. My basic needs and comforts are pretty much accounted for. I can`t claim to want much.

Other than kindness and affection and another hundred years or so of good health. Failing that, a reasonably quick exit, sans hospital and tubes and Nurse Ratched.

I was saying my energy has changed.

I do one or two things of a day and I`ve had the biscuit. I just don`t want to do anything else. A couple of phone calls, tape a half hour TV show, maybe a therapy session, something resembling work and then I just really don`t want to do anything besides drink an espresso, read a book, talk to friends, check out the news on my android, see if there`s a fun new app.

Friends are going, crossing over, leaving the mortal coil, dying.

My three favourite people in Venice, Evania, Meg and Susan, are now on the other side, Susan last week. I read the Gmail on my android sitting in a room at the Harrison Hotel between meals, cribbage and the hot springs pools. I, the most emotional person you know, haven`t even cried yet. Am I in shock? Have I become inured or accepting of the inevitable?

While I continue to carp pointlessly about every minor annoyance, the two heart shocks in the last six years have brought about a kind of calm, a going with the moment. It is what it is.

I hate modern life and, like my mother before me, I love every tiny bump and grind along the way.

I do everything slower and I won`t understand why anybody is rushing anywhere, except that little girl or boy over there who skips along the street to some internal tune.

Sunday, November 13, 2011