Where Serenity Is Found

Is there a basic drive for serenity? There must be, because so many people look for it in drugs, including food, which if not technically a drug, sure knows how to act like one. Fortunately, serenity can be found in a lot of other places.

Several theoreticians in the behavioral field have compiled lists of basic drives, some of which could easily be interpreted as identical to a drive for serenity. If there are only three drives, one of them is for achievement, and what is achievement really, but the serenity that comes from knowing that one has done one’s best, and succeeded?

What is serenity but the absence of stress? Serenity is the opposite of stress, which is the feeling that people who overdrink, overdrug, overeat, or do anything else past the threshold of addiction, are trying to escape. If there are only four basic drives — fight, flight, feeding, and sex — the satisfaction of any one of them brings the peace of mind that comes from knowing that the enemy has been routed or defeated; the enemy has been escaped from; the stomach has been fed; the body has been satisfied. Serenity all the way around.

This blog has devoted so much attention to the efforts and successes of Reeling in Serenity because it is an excellent example of the efficacy of displacement activity. When a person has been brought low by addiction, in many cases displacement is about finding a thing to occupy the person’s mind, energies, time, and spirit in more healthful and satisfactory ways.

Fly fishing is a particular example, and the people who are into it testify that it matches up with recovery in a number of ways. (The magic here is that in other recovering addicts’ stories, something else, like music, cooking, engine repair, or a newly discovered devotion to family, can step in to satisfy whatever drive the drug was erroneously taken to serve.

How exactly does this help?

As it turns out, fly fishing is therapeutic in multiple ways that a recovering addict can benefit from. For instance, 12-step programs all say “Take it one day at a time.” That is all well and good, but what, exactly, is a person supposed to do on those days — other than abstain from their substance of choice?

For a fly fisher, there is plenty to do. Teach the newbies how to cast a line or tie flies or pick out the most useful clothing and gear. Work with an organization to keep the water clean. Help to bring in donations so free lessons and group retreats can continue to be offered. In their special field of interest, a person with a passion can change a sizable chunk of the world.

One anonymous woman in recovery wrote that because fly fishing required mental focus, it became a healthy escape. Rather than worry about things she could not control, she worked on developing fishing strategies, and realized how compatible that was with her 12-step program.

Various members of Reeling in Serenity and similar organizations testify to the peace of feeling like a part of nature, of feeling grounded. They speak of healing, community, the breaking of isolation barriers, escape from the mundane routine, safety, a reset of mind and soul, a recharging of energy, and a new sense of perspective.

They speak of better sleep, decreased anxiety, and improved physical well-being; of connection, and building other people up instead of tearing them down; of feeling the river wash away, bit by bit, the residual shame and guilt left over from their times of active addiction. According to the people who know, it works equally well for the newly sober and for those who have been on the path for many years.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Image by Roxnstix/CC BY-ND 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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