Recovery is a process of discernment. We are always asking, “What do I want?” Yes, even the process of getting sober or clean is about some kind of wanting: we want the pain to stop, the troubles to end, the illness to go away and the better feelings to come.
Then later in recovery we want more: we want the happiness we see in others, we want a Higher Power and a relationship. And then we also want things: jobs, apartments, different cars, bikes, and we want books and kayaks and yes we want clothes.
My wardrobe has been a kind of barometer across years of my recovery. In the early days I did not recognize myself in my own closet. It was a multiple-personality wardrobe. Sartorial schizophrenia. My first sponsor recommended a personal shopper (yes, that’s my kind of sponsor!) It helped. But ongoing recovery and lots of therapy helped me even more. As I got better on the inside I got more clear on my outsides too. So clothing is a kind of Rorschach.
So I had a good laugh and a chance to take another look at my own wanting this week while working on a new project at work. I work at a human services agency and we recently opened a used clothing store called Savvy Chic. It’s a store that sells used women’s clothing and it’s styled like a nice boutique rather than a typical thrift store. So of course, I went through my closets and picked lots of clothes that I no longer liked to donate to the new project. Many other women donated clothes and accessories too so we have a wonderful inventory of high end used clothing.
But this week I have been helping out in the store--living out one of my retail fantasies, playing shopkeeper and fashion retailer. But the strangest thing kept happening. Every day I would go through the store and see a great dress or sweater or coat and think, “I’d love to have that.” or “That must be one of the better donations—I’ve got to try that on.” And then --at the rack or in the dressing room—I’d realize, “This is one of my donations!” It was always an item of clothing that I put in the donation box. But now, here in the store, it looked chic and desirable.
What had changed? Was it the perception that the item was “new”? Was it the way it was displayed? Was it the power of a good hanger? (My friend Diva taught me that so much of retail is about the hangers). Or was it that I was attracted to what I did not have--that my first impression was that it was someone else’s so therefore it was more appealing than when it was mine?
I was stopped in my tracks --and in my purchasing—more than once. So now I am looking at what is currently in my closet in a new way. If this (dress, coat, shirt) was somewhere other than here, or on someone other than me, would I like it? want it? wear it more happily? What does that tell me about my own wanting?
Maybe it means I should invest in nicer hangers for my closet. Or maybe it’s a sign to pause and breath and take a moment to ask about what I really want.