After two decades of helping clients battle addiction, Mike Pond, a successful therapist, succumbs to one himself. He loses everything and ends up destitute in a rundown recovery home populated by a cast of characters straight out of Dickens.
The Couch of Willingness… is a real couch in that home; a couch where Mike must sleep until he surrenders and admits he’s powerless over alcohol. But just when Mike gains any measure of sobriety, in sashays his other powerful addiction, Dana, a can of Red Bull in hand, 26’er of vodka in her purse.
And so begins Mike's harrowing two-year journey to sobriety with stops in abandoned sheds, dumpsters, ditches, emergency wards, intensive care and prison. Mike's riveting account crackles with raw energy and black humour as he plunges readers into a world few will ever have the misfortune to experience.
Along the way, Mike the drunk finds himself shamed and stigmatized by the very system in which Mike the therapist thrived. The dissonance rankles for Mike and, by the end of the story, for the reader too.
‘Harrowing’ and ‘riveting’ are two words that keep coming up in reviews of this book.Michael's Summer Nonfiction Picks, The Top Shelf
‘Harrowing’ and ‘riveting’ are two words that keep coming up in reviews of this book. After addictions therapist Michael Pond himself becomes an alcoholic, losing everything to the bottle, he winds up sleeping on a couch in a recovery home. His battle to recover his life takes him from his family in Toronto to the Downtown Eastside — to dumpsters, ditches, hospitals and finally, to prison. The journey also reveals much about the helping profession he once thrived in.- Michael's Summer Nonfiction Picks, The Top Shelf
Maureen Palmer spent two award-winning decades producing radio and television at CBC, before producing for TLC and the Discover Channel. She now produces, writes and directs critically acclaimed documentaries with her Bountiful Films partner, Helen Slinger. Her directing credits include How To Divorce & Not Wreck the Kids, Sext Up Kids and, most recently, Angry Kids & Stressed Out Parents for CBC’s Doc Zone.
Mike Pond worked as a psychiatric nurse before receiving his Masters in Social Work. In 1995 he began a successful private psychotherapy practice in Penticton, BC. He lost his business and family to alcoholism. After becoming sober in August of 2009, Mike opened a new practice in Vancouver, with a specialty in addictions. “Now I really know what I’m talking about,” he says ruefully. He lives with his partner Maureen in North Vancouver.
The Couch of Willingness is a riveting and anxiety-inducing read. Mike Pond tells his story of recovery from alcoholism with a brutally honest, warts-and-all approach that makes you want cheer for him and simultaneously slap him upside the head. Pond is the ultimate comeback kid who certainly has a guardian angel.
– Michele Marko, Arts and Life Editor, Vancouver Sun
The tradeoff between recalcitrant humour and boundless tragedy makes this addiction memoir one of a kind.
– Marc Lewis, author of Memoirs of an Addicted Brain
May 2: The Vancouver Sun ran a feature on and excerpt from the book.
May 7: Another excerpt of the Couch on The Tyee.
May 9: The Couch of Willingness book trailer.
May 10: Mike was profiled on The Huffington Post.
June 4: Mike shared 5 things he learned on the way to rock bottom as a guest blogger on Shatterproof.
June 24: Interview on 49th Shelf – the blog all about great Canadian Lit:
August 20: National Post excerpt from the Couch.
September 27: Review in the Addiction Blog.
Mike and Maureen talk about AA, the need for access to evidence-based treatments for addiction, and an end to the culture of shame surrounding addictions. See the interview at: http://www.btvancouver.ca/videos/3538088889001/
The Couch of Willingness already has over 3,000 hits on the book's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/couchofwillingness. Maureen and Mike are doing media interviews with the Vancouver Sun and CBC radio. Check their Facebook page for the latest updates. Also check out the blog entries on Mike Pond's website — michaelpond.ca — about addiction and some of the myths about recovery systems.
In 2005, Mike Pond has it all: a thriving practice in the Okanagan, a million-dollar lakeside home, a beautiful wife and three handsome sons. But after two decades of helping others battle addictions, Mike finds he cannot help himself. He is an alcoholic and he’s out of control. Mike plummets from the middle class. By 2008, as a freak snowstorm pounds B.C., Mike is homeless, penniless and passed out, curled up behind a log on a beach with only a bottle of scotch swiped from a restaurant to keep him warm. A couple out walking their dog stumbles across his frozen form. Mike wakes up in the drunk tank and thinks, “This must be rock bottom.”
Not by a long shot. Released from jail with nowhere to go and no one to call, Mike boards a minibus labeled “The Fresh Start Recovery Society” where he lands on The Couch of Willingness, a real couch where newcomers are forced to detox. And so begins a harrowing two-year journey to sobriety with stops in abandoned sheds, back-alley dumpsters, ditches, down-and-out recovery homes, emergency wards, intensive care and finally, prison. Just when he gains any measure of sobriety, in sashays his other powerful addiction, Dana, a can of Red Bull in hand, 26’er of vodka in her purse. Pond confronts the destructive power of a relationship where the truly beloved is the bottle.
Pond’s riveting account crackles with raw energy and dark humour as he plunges readers into a world few will ever have the misfortune to experience. That Mike managed not only to survive but also to thrive and write about it makes his story unique. What makes this book extraordinary is that Mike the professional therapist offers rare insight and understanding of Mike the drunk.
The Couch of Willingness is an honest, bold exploration of the degradation of an intelligent man as he fights to save his life.
Mike Pond's story struck me as important: 1) it's a great read; 2) his courage, honesty and humour stand as an antidote to the shame that accrues to addiction; 3) his story puts you behind his eyeballs to experience the journey of a therapist specializing in addiction to a man in end-stage alcoholism, pan-handling on the downtown east side, selling his laptop for $20 to buy 4 beer. You will never see people in that situation in quite the same way - and that's a good thing.
If you love this book, please review it on any or all of the possible platforms: goodreads, Chapters/Indigo, Amazon, and check out the facebook page and Mike's blog at michaelpond.ca.