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Love Warrior (2017) by Glennon Doyle is a memoir that recounts how one woman battled through addiction, disordered eating, and betrayal by confronting and ultimately owning her vulnerabilities. More than that, it’s a meditation on what pain has to teach us, and how, by embracing our own failings, we can live as our most authentic selves.
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From Rock Bottom to Redemption
Glennon Doyle has been summoned by her parents. She’s in her twenties – a bright young college grad. She’s also still wearing the dress and heels she had on the night before, though it’s mid-afternoon by now. Glennon’s drinking has gotten out of hand. She can’t hold down a job. She’s in debt. She’s been slapped with a DUI.
She finds her parents sitting side by side on the living room sofa. They look serious. This is no ordinary visit, her parents explain. This is an intervention.
How had it come to this?
Glennon grew up in a loving, stable family. As a young girl, she was articulate, confident, and beautiful. Strangers would comment on her good looks. They’d admire her golden ringlets, her bright eyes. Glennon came to understand that being beautiful is important.
In her pre-teens, something shifted. She was no longer as slender as her sister or her cousins. At family get-togethers, as the other girls splashed about in the pool, Glennon would remain stubbornly clothed. She was still beautiful. But her confidence was evaporating.
By the age of 13, Glennon was in the habit of taking two cups into her bedroom each night, one filled with food, the other for vomit. She was bulimic. Binging and purging. The weight fell away. The bulimia stayed.
High school struck Glennon as a place full of unspoken rules – rules about how girls should look (thin) and act (bland). Her eating disorder helped her follow these rules. It helped her so much, in fact, that even a senior-year stint in a hospital, to treat her now-chronic bulimia, didn’t stop her getting crowned “Leading Leader” at year’s end.
If, in high school, the rules for girls had remained unspoken, in college they became explicit. Glennon pledged to a sorority where girls were reminded to flush the toilet after purging. She attended parties where women were admitted according to their physical attractiveness and reputed sexual availability. To loosen her inhibitions, Glennon drank. She slept around. She stayed thin. And she dressed and acted just as she was expected to. In other words, she perfected the art of fitting in.
But when college ended, she was unable to shake these habits. She moved back to her hometown and started a new relationship with Craig, a sweet and sensible boy she’d known since high school. Despite these positive developments, she continued to spiral into bulimia and alcoholism. When, early in her relationship with Craig, Glennon got an abortion, she spiraled further.
Now she’s here, facing her parents, who have decided to act. The intervention they’ve called her home for turns out to be a stern talk with a local priest. But it can’t stop the spiral, only pause it for a few weeks.
Six months later, Glennon gets pregnant again. She’s still drinking, still unstable. But the blue cross on the pregnancy test feels like a sign – a chance for something new rather than a problem to be dealt with.
In short order, Glennon gets sober. And married. Maybe things are looking up.