Becoming a Love Warrior
Featured Guest: Glennon Doyle
Today’s guest is Glennon Doyle, author of the Oprah's Book Club selection and #1 New York Times bestselling memoir Love Warrior and creator of the online community Momastery. She sat down with Foundations Chief Marketing Officer, Lee Pepper, at the Innovations in Behavioral Healthcare conference in Nashville, where she also gave the keynote presentation. In this open conversation, Glennon shares her views on the all-encompassing significance of sobriety in her life and how we can break through the social constructs of masculinity and femininity to become more fully human.
David Condos: Hey, guys. Welcome to another episode of Recovery Unscripted. I’m David Condos and this podcast is powered by Foundations Recovery Network. Today’s guest is Glennon Doyle, author of the number one New York Times’ bestselling memoir Love Warrior. For this episode, she sat down with Foundations’ Chief Marketing Officer Lee Pepper at the Innovations and Behavioral Healthcare Conference in Nashville. In this open conversation, Glennon shares her views on the all-encompassing significance of sobriety in her life and how we can break through the social constructs of masculinity and femininity to become more fully human. Now here’s Lee and Glennon.
Lee Pepper: Glennon, thank you so much for being our opening keynote speaker here today in Nashville. It’s such an honor to have you on the stage and just to hear, really, your powerful message to that audience. I was so happy to see a really good mix of women and men today.
Glennon Doyle: Yes. Women, men, but all warriors for people. These mental health professionals are my people. They’re the ones who are serving people who get forgotten. I just feel honored that you all trusted me with this group.
Lee: Well, thank you. Thank you. It was so enlightening and I wish– That’s one of the reasons that we do this video podcast for our audience nationwide that might not have the chance to travel to Nashville during the summer to hear your talk. Gives them just a little snippet. I’m looking forward to figuring out a way that we’d get you to another conference in the years to come.
Glennon: I’m sure it’ll happen again.
Lee: One of the things that you’ve mentioned in your talk, we’re talking about sharing your story. And we created a movement called Heroes in Recovery five years ago when Betty Ford passed away. We were reflecting on her life and her impact in our field. We were so surprised to learn that in 1976 when she shared her story of alcoholism, that she really came out on the public scene in ’74 when she was one of the first women to share her story of breast cancer recovery. Back then, the media didn’t even call it breast cancer, they called it female cancer.
We fast forward, we wanted to figure out how can we create some type of social move to fight the stigma. Because we felt like it was a stigma that was keeping people from raising their hand and get help. You had a line today that said that “We have to share from our scars.” I wrote that down and I just– That is such a powerful line. I wonder if you could maybe expound on that just a bit.
Glennon: Yes. Well, I think in this age where vulnerability, the words “vulnerability” and “truth-telling” are kind of buzz words and we are promised that if we’re just open and honest and we share our stories, that that would be healing. It is, in some ways, but it isn’t in other ways. What I see for people in early recovery is we know now in the Internet and social media, people are sharing their stories widely while they’re in the pain of them. Then what happens is they share their stories and people kind of shrink back and then they don’t get the reaction that they wanted. That’s hurtful. What I think is, I think about that quote that my friend Nadia Bolz-Weber says all the time, which is that “When we’re sharing widely our stories, we have to share from our scars, not our open wounds.” For me, that’s super important to know the difference.
In our early recovery, when we’re just figuring things out, we do share, we have to share, we’re only as sick as our secrets, we know that. But we have to choose with whom and where we share our stories very carefully. Those are small groups, right? Those are recovery groups, those are therapists, those are our dearest, our nearest and dearest. When I’m in current pain, those are the people that I share with. Probably a handful of people, right? Then, later when I’ve had time to be still with my pain, and I’m not in the freshness of it and it doesn’t sear me anymore, when I’ve learned to find the wisdom inside a bit, that’s when I know that I’m ready to share, right?
I just think we have to be careful because if we share too early, we end up getting– It feels more like a cry for help than an act of service, right? When we’re sharing widely, we have to be doing it for a purpose. We have to have an intention behind it. When we’re sharing widely, the intention has to be to serve, not to get a reaction that we need. That’s where I think sometimes people end up getting more hurt than even when they began.
Lee: We are so honored to have Abby Wambach, your wife, with us today also. She asked a great question that I thought was very brave. It was about, “What is sobriety?” I wonder if you would take just a couple of moments and share with the audience some of your comments to that question today.
Glennon: Yes. Sobriety to me is a magical– It’s a path that leads me deeper and deeper to the truth of things, to the truth of my heart, to what I would call God, what some people would just call love or truth. Sobriety to me is not just not drinking. Or not doing something, right? It’s a discipline. It’s a religion to me really. If a religion is just a set of ideas that gets us further to the truth of things.
For me in the very beginning, sobriety was just not drinking, not bingeing, and then it kept taking me further and further. The more I learned to just be still with the pain of being human, numbing my way out of it with booze, I found that if I just did that, if I just dealt with life on its own terms, which means to me that I feel everything. I feel the brutal parts of life. I feel the beautiful parts of life without feeling like I need to numb it away. Then it took me further down the road and I realized, “Okay, now if I can deal with life on its own terms, that’s the first part of sobriety for me.” Then the second part is after a while you start to– This idea of integrity comes into your life. Integrity for me means the literal term. It means integrating, right? Integrating my outer self with my inner self.
So many of us when we’re in addiction or mental health– Actually everybody, we have two very different lives. We have our outer lives that we show everybody and then we have our inner lives where the real ourselves lives. I have to, as a person walking down the road of sobriety, integrate those two lives. I have to be the same on the outside as I am on the inside.
Because I fought so hard for my sobriety, for my sanity, my recovery, I expect a lot from myself there. To the point where when I realized I needed to get my health and my sobriety, which are completely dependent on living in the truth for me, meant that I needed to move forward with the divorce from my husband. I had to do that publicly just weeks before my book on marriage redemption came out. That was a huge challenge for my integrity, right?
I remember my people, my agents saying, “Okay, you can do this, but that will be career suicide.” I remember thinking, “Okay, well, as a person in recovery, I have to always choose career suicide over soul suicide.” That is staying on this path of integrity is so important to me. That’s the second part of sobriety.
Then the third path comes where you realize, “Oh my god, I can protect my sobriety. I can protect my peace by creating boundaries and being radical in my self-care.” You become strong enough to only allow into your life that which brings you peace. And whether that’s people or situations or energy, that’s been beautiful. God, I’m 41 and I’m finally learning to let go of what does not work for me and to keep close what does.
Lee: When I opened up the introduction of you this morning, I referenced Betty for them. I made the comment that I believe your book or books are an important connection for this generation with those first and second wave feminist, and I look at my boys and I want my boys when they’re in high school, before they go to college, to read Love Warrior. I wonder have you reflected on how you are that bridge? Not only in alcoholism, community, mental health, but also with these important feminist ideas.
Glennon: Well, first of all, I consider myself a fierce feminist. Everybody in my family– You’re not even allowed to be in my family if you’re not a fierce feminist. But really, what’s interesting about that in terms of love warriors, I love that you said that, but really, what love warrior is, is about allowing ourselves to be fully human.
I think the culture tells girls that, “You’re only allowed to be these parts of human. You’re only allowed to be pretty and you’re allowed to be happy and you’re allowed to be grateful. You’re not allowed to be angry. You’re not allowed to grow. You’re not allowed to desire.” Then it tells little boys that, “You’re only allowed to be this, you’re allowed to be strong. You’re not allowed to be vulnerable. You’re not allowed to–.?
These ideas of femininity and masculinity make it really impossible for real women and real men to be fully human. Because these ideas of femininity and masculinity are crap. They’re all socially constructed. All of us are just fully human. Women can be angry and fierce and strong. Men can be tender and vulnerable. If we don’t allow those little boys and those little girls, and men and women to be fully human in spaces, then we’re going to find other ways to act it out. We’re going to hide from each other and that’s kind of where all of our pain comes from. I want little girls to know that they’re allowed to be fully human and I want little boys to know that there are allowed to be fully human too.
Lee: In reflecting about that comment in your book Love Warrior, in one of the scenes where I think it was your college boyfriend who was made fun of for leaving a voicemail that had the word love in it. I think that’s the kind of message I want to get across to my sons because I still see that every day going on in our culture, and it’s like how do we attack that in a healthy way to give our young men that competence.
Glennon: Okay. First of all, I’m freaking out Lee because I have never thought about that, like that part of that book being a specific shaming of vulnerability. That’s so true. God bless boys’ hearts like they are not allowed to be soft in any way. They are every bit as human in feeling as we are. It was just Father’s Day and I talked to several girlfriends of mine who all said how hard it was for them to call their fathers on Father’s Day because they don’t talk to their dads. They talk, but in very shallow ways. They talk about the weather and they talk about– These are the only things that boys are allowed to talk about.
Then they become grown men who aren’t connected to their children in meaningful ways and that’s because the culture has taught them that they’re not allowed to talk about these vulnerable things. They’re shamed out of it in every way. I think that we’ve got to start young with our little boys so that when they’re grown up, they can relate to everybody.
That’s what we do. We create spaces for our little boys and we allow them to be soft, we don’t tell them that brave boys don’t cry. We don’t say, “Be a man.” What does that mean? We teach them what being a man is and being a man is being fully human and being tough and vulnerable. We redefine what it means to be a man or what it means to be a woman or each other.
Lee: Well, just to wrap up, you said on stage that your editor is pestering you right now with– He needs how many words you’ve written so far. We just want to encourage you, we can’t wait for your next blog post, your next book, your next appearance on Oprah already in the network. We just really are blessed to have you here. Thank you so much.
Glennon: Thank you for trusting me with these beautiful people. I’m so grateful for your work.
Lee: Great. Thank you for the work you’re doing.
Glennon: Thank you.
David: Thanks again to Glennon for sharing that with us. Now we get to close the show by featuring another powerful story from the Heroes in Recovery community as part of our ongoing series called Hero of the Week. This week story comes from Kira O. who shared it on heroesinrecovery.com, a grassroots movement where over 1,400 people have contributed their stories.
During her high school years, Kira struggled with an eating disorder that she later realized served multiple roles in her life, from self-medicating to providing control and identity. By the age of 15, she was experiencing severe symptoms. Her parents intervened and Kira found herself in residential treatment where is she puts it, she chose to give life a chance and surrender control. Now years later, she’s passing on the lessons she learned throughout her recovery journey to help others navigate the admissions and discharge stages of the addiction treatment process.
As Kira says in her story, “My struggle doesn’t define, but it does refine me.” Recovery begins when we learn to accept ourselves and accept the imperfect journey and gift of life. Thank you, Kira, for sharing that and helping to break this stigma around addiction in mental health issues. If you’d like to read Kira’s full story or share your own, visit heroesinrecovery.com.
This has been the Recovery Unscripted podcast. Today we’ve heard from Glennon Doyle, activist, philanthropist and best-selling author. For more about her work, visit momastery.com. Thank you for listening. Please take a few seconds to leave us a rating on your podcast app and subscribe so you won’t miss any of our new episodes. See you next time.