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Threats & Staying Sober in North Vietnam

Threats & Staying Sober in North Vietnam 

From Fear to Love & Joy Part 3

In 1993, newly divorced and suffering from depression, I had just over a year of sobriety after trying for four years to quit drinking once more.  So, taking off to North Vietnam to work as a consultant at a remote jungle location was not a smart decision.

Although the company main offices were in Hanoi, I was based at a tourism development to the north, on the peninsula of a very large lake. To reach the place, the Vietnamese workforce, as well as our clients, had to take a small boat from the shore to the site. The management took a motor launch from the tiny island on which we had leased a villa from the Vietnamese Army. The company President turned out to be a large, intense man from North America. I discovered that Stuart (not his real name) had recently fired the previous consultant, as well as the marketing manager.

Within four weeks of my arrival Stuart had threatened to toss a Vietnamese fisherman into the lake, fired and then physically threatened to stick a knife in the site’s construction manager. The fisherman was seeking compensation for a net that had been damaged by one of our boats, and the construction manager had refused to sign a resignation letter. I was ordered to immediately put the manager on a flight back home to England to stop him gossiping in Hanoi.

My own fragile emotional and mental state made dealing with this kind of behaviour very difficult. I developed a passive-aggressive attitude towards Stuart and before long he fired me. But rather than leave the country, as he wanted, I took a hotel room in Hanoi; I wanted hang out, to write and to explore the places like the market town of Sa Pa in the province of Lao Cai in the northwest of the country close to the Chinese border.

Sa Pa, lies in the Hoàng Liên Son Mountains. It was established by the French as a hill station during their colonization of the country. Until a few months before I arrived it was still a militarized zone. The hill tribes, such as the Hmong, Tay and Dao, that make up much of the local population had seen few tourists. I knew I was in the vanguard of a tourist invasion that would change their lives dramatically. It had for the hill tribes in Northern Thailand that I had visited four years earlier; feeling somewhat embarrassed for what I thought was  the exploitation of their culture.

Sa Pas had indeed become a popular tourist destination and it is easily accessible. In 1993 it was less so.

To reach it, I rented an old military jeep along with two young Israeli men and an English woman. They turned out to be dope-heads, telling me it was easy to acquire here. Although I had experimented with it in the past, the weed does nothing for me. One time in Calgary I shared an opium pipe with two Iranians. They brought the pipe along with stacks of money to invest in real estate. Needless to say, the investment disappeared with the smoke of the pipe, at least that’s what my envious thoughts preferred to think.

But the trip to Sa Pa had made me realize how fragile was my emotional, mental and spiritual sobriety. Although I was not tempted by the drugs and the drinking, I nevertheless found myself envying the free-wheeling mood around me. Feeling tempted and indulging myself would be the next stage. Something had to change.

CONTINUED IN PART 4: Grenade Threat on HaLong Bay, Vietnam

Comeback Journeys in Recovery: Episode 7

Dr Bill Campbell’s knowledge of addiction is based on both personal and career experience. He was a Family Physician  when he quit alcohol 36 years ago. Now retired he became an  Addictions Medicine Specialist, and is a past president of the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine and of the Addiction Medicine Section of the Alberta Medical Association. He suffered an aortic aneurysm 12 years ago but was able to continue working with the aid of crutches.

Comeback Journeys in Recovery: Episode 6

Joyce Ganong has been writing all of her life, but this is her first book.

Her articles on health and wellness have appeared in numerous publications including Canadian Living and B.C. Runner, and she is recipient of a Rotary Integrity Award and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for her work in community service. She lives on Bowen Island, B.C., where she spends time with her husband, daughters, and grandchildren.


Rocking On: into our 60s 70s & beyond

Cast your mind back to December, 2016. As year’s end approached did you start to wonder where the year had gone? I did. Now that I’m in my early 70s time seems to be chasing its own tail.

Whenever I got impatient as a child for an upcoming event, my mother told me “Stop wishing your life away. It will be over soon enough.” It didn’t make sense then. It does now. 

 For thousands of years, the mystics of all great spiritual traditions have reminded us of the futility of clinging onto anything because everything changes. In the 1960s and 70s I only thought about fun and it seemed to me everyone else did.  Even though during that time I was visiting aging relatives in hospital who were dying, I pushed into the dark recesses of my mind the reality that I too would age and die.

But my body started telling me in my 50s when It took me longer to recover from a workout or injury; while in my 60s the aches and pains from old injuries started getting bothersome. In  my 70s, while I can still crank out a set of 40 pushups or 10 full-hang pull ups, 10 years ago I could do much more. Inevitably my endurance and strength will diminish, but I’d like to postpone my dependancy on others for as long as I can. 

I met someone this morning who told me she didn’t want to live until she was 90 because she will be weak and fragile and dependent on the whim of others. It’s this vulnerability that I suspect most of us fear.

 If this is you, get active. If you are already active are you doing enough to ensure that you can at least get out and enjoy life into your 80s? Do you think you’ll be able to go out for long walks, play tennis or golf with friends? Play with grandkids?

Of course, there are no guarantees. All we can do is improve the odds. Physical activity, along with good nutrition and a spiritual faith, will keep you rocking into old age (whatever that means these days or in the future).  

Hope to see you rocking on the dance floor. 

Comeback Journeys in Recovery: Episode 5

Mary-Jo Fetterly is the inspiration and founder behind Trinity Yoga Inc.: a national Yoga Teacher Training, Personal Development and Advanced Studies School. She is well known in the yoga community as a devoted teacher, mother and practitioner.  The devastation and challenges of a recent severe spinal cord injury haven’t held her back, as she continues to inspire and coach individuals to live life to the fullest. It was only months after her injury that Mary-Jo, with the love and support of her incredible team, was back teaching and bringing the gifts of yoga through the powerful vehicle of Trinity Yoga to hundreds.

No matter what the situation Mary-Jo believes we all have a “disability” to deal with, whether it is physical, mental, emotional, spiritual or cultural and it is within the capacity of each individual to transform, heal and rise above obstacles, given the right tools.

Comeback Journeys in Recovery: Episode 4

Sherry Strong is a Food Philosopher, Chef, Nutritionist, the Curator & Co-Founder of the World Wellness Project, former; Victorian Chair of Nutrition Australia, Melbourne President of Slow Food, TEDxTokyo 2009 speaker and was a highly commended faculty member of the Institute of Holistic Nutrition, Vancouver Campus. 

Sherry’s written & illustrated a book called ‘A Return To Food – the life-changing anti-diet’ which is she presents the philosophies like Nature’s Principle, The Lethal Recipe and The Consumption Concept, that form the foundation for her 8-week Online Program which teaches people to develop a healthy relationship with food, their body and the environment for a ‘body & life that works’.

She is also the founder of the Return to Food Academy & Mentorship Program for Holistic Entrepreneurs which is presently transitioning 5-month online program culminating in a retreat with Sherry Strong on Bowen Island.

Comeback Journeys in Recovery: Episode 3

A conversation on PTSD with Shaye Molendyke, Lt. Col. USAF who talks about the success of the Yogafit for Warriors program for treating PTSD in the military, front line responders and those suffering from addiction.

Shaye has  taught yoga for 16 years and has an MA in Counselling specializing in Cognitive Behavioral and Group counseling. Her experience includes working at the Landstuhl Regional Military Hospital , Germany on the Psychiatric In-patient ward.

Comeback Journeys in Recovery: Episode 2

A conversation with Dr. Shahar Rabi on trauma, addiction recovery and the need for some form of spirituality for healing and reduction of fear.

Registered Clinical Counsellor and Co-Founder and Director of Education for the New Earth Institute in Vancouver, Dr. Shahar Rabi is currently the Program Director at the Orchard Recovery Centre on Bowen Island, with years of experience in treating trauma, addiction, depression, and anxiety. He also teaches Counselling Psychology at the Vancouver campuses of City University of Seattle and Adler University. His academic research has been mainly focused on mindfulness and body-centred interventions as means for well-being, connection, and growth.

Introducing...Comeback Journeys in Recovery: Episode 1

Comeback Journeys in Recovery are conversations with individuals who have either have recovered or are recovering from traumas such as an addiction, life-threatening illness, major accident, or abuse.  

My intention with this series is to provide additional seeds of knowledge and hope for those on their own journey of recovery.   I hope you enjoy it!

A conversation with Marni Spencer-Devlin on recovering from molestation, rape, physical abuse, heroin addiction, prostitution, prison and then cancer.

Unwanted, molested, raped, beaten, forced into heroin addiction, prostituted and thrown into prison. Miraculously Marni survived and emerged to build a multimillion dollar corporation with seventy employees. Then a deadly diagnosis changed everything again. Marni lost everything but instead of giving up, she tried to find the gift and discovered her true power. Today she works as an executive coach and marketing communications expert to help others recognize the unique gifts only they can bring.


Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is not only a problem for military veterans or first responders, many of those addicted to substance abuse or any form of addiction also unknowingly suffer from it. Until we get help to discover the repressed trauma and do the necessary healing, we either keep relapsing or remain unhappy even in recovery.