I consider myself to be a good husband to my devoted wife and a good role model to my three children. I am a good citizen and obey the law (with the exception of a couple of minor speeding tickets over the years, in particular, one awarded to me on Father’s day while driving my family to a get together in Toronto!). I gave up the nasty (and costly) habit of smoking cigarettes about 30 years ago and aside from enjoying a beer or glass or two of wine at suppertime, which I understand is good for you, I don’t think that I have any really bad habits. It’s my nature to keep busy and for most of the year, I have several hobbies that I pursue either alone, or with family and friends. Everything is HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY right? Well, not so fast! Let me continue.
I do have to admit that I am concerned about my level of involvement in one particular “hobby” - I like to fish. Well, you’re probably thinking that this seems relatively harmless. I mean, I’m a reasonably well-adjusted guy, so if I like to fish, what’s the problem? When I tell people that I like fishing, they think it’s great! They ask me about it - how long I’ve been doing it, where do I go, what do I catch, what equipment do I use (I tell them that I prefer fly fishing, but often lie about where I go). From the outside, it sounds like a great past-time, just one of those things that some guys like to do, that’s all. Hey, Jesus’s disciples were fishermen, so there’s also that connection to a higher power - right! As I write this, I’m actually wondering what the heck I’m worrying about, that my level of anxiety is unwarranted. After a quick headshake though, reality sinks in and I realize that I’m just kidding myself - I’m hiding the real truth! The description of fishing that I provide to most people falls far short of reality. Since part of my intention was for this essay to be therapeutic, let me be perfectly clear about the situation as I see it. When the best of the fishing season arrives, I don’t just fish occasionally, say like, once a week. No, the reality is, that I need a fix during at least some part of the day! It’s really crazy. I live and breathe fishing - I would fish 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until total exhaustion deprived me of activity whereupon I would need a couple of hours to rest! I ask you, is this normal? Does any rational person behave this way?
Now, to be honest, at its peak, my obsession is temporary, affecting me for only a few months, sort of like a seasonal disorder or something. But, during that time, I become increasingly concerned about how my obsession affects those close to me. My kids are now grown up, so they aren’t witness to the full extent of my affliction (when they were young and still at home, I only fished occasionally, so I wasn’t this incapacitated). In my current state, it’s my dear wife that bears the brunt of my obsession with fishing – our marriage is temporarily interrupted!
Admittedly, my wife has been very patient with me. Perhaps she feels that because I’ve been cooped up over the long winter, I just need to get out. My wife doesn’t fish, so I’m also doing something that she doesn’t really understand. Although she seems ok with me going and says she doesn’t really mind, I am suspicious that she is really trying to clue me in to the fact that she doesn’t like me spending those countless hours in piscatorial bliss, and this definitely causes me anxiety. You can tell that I’m concerned about this. I’ve watched Dr. Phil on TV and he says that it’s really helpful to communicate your problem to people close to you (it’s kind of psychological I guess - if you can help them relate to your problem, it helps them understand and makes you feel better). Easier said than done! I’ve spent considerable time explaining to my wife why I consider it a huge “challenge” to outwit a fish whose brain is the size of a small pea (in my view, a display of manliness), why I need to spend hours fishing, sometimes in the dark with a light and occasionally in terrible weather, why I might really need to buy just “one more item of fishing equipment” and why I spend hours tying trout flies that I can only see with my 10X magnifiers! In my frequent conversations with her, I occasionally see her eyes beginning to narrow and strain with that yearning desire to understand, to realize my true problem and this definitely encourages me - I am finally getting through to her. I have her understanding and support and at long last, my worries will be over. I can finally come to terms with myself! Then, suddenly a vague, distant look crosses her face - I’ve lost her! I know the meaning of this look well because it’s the same one I get when I see her watching reality television - you know the one, with those three sisters. So, I’m left with this lingering sadness knowing that she really doesn’t fully understand my fixation with fishing.
I know other guys who are also affected by the same problem. For example, a guy I occasionally meet on the river and not currently with a steady partner, but dating, relayed this sad story about his girlfriend at the time, asking if he wanted to go to the movies. When he told her that he couldn’t go because he was going fishing that evening, she replied in the astonished and rather unsympathetic voice, “but, why do you have to go? You were just out fishing last week!” HE WAS JUST OUT FISHING LAST WEEK – CAN YOU BELIEVE IT! This guy needs to fish every day! This is just one of a number of truly sad stories that I could relay to you. So aside from my several equally addicted fishing buddies, I have begun to accept the reality that I really have no one to talk to about this. Like them, I too suffer in silence.
I’m beginning to think that my current level of involvement in this fishing thing is a serious problem and that it may not be good for me. I try to rationalize my behaviour to lessen my concern (you know, if you try hard enough, you can rationalize just about anything!) - I keep telling myself that it’s a healthy sport, you get outside, get lots of good exercise, discover new places, meet people, take in the beautiful surroundings, breathe fresh air, but still it doesn’t seem to help reduce my level of concern. What is a guy to do? I know that what I’ve described sounds rather hopeless, that I’ve fallen into a rabbit-hole too deep to climb out. Don’t worry though, I’m a resilient sort. I’m taking positive steps toward self-improvement. I’ve joined a peer help-support group. During fishing season, we pack up our fly rods and head to the river for daily meetings to work out issues of concern. I told my wife that I’m scheduled for another therapy session today!