For the uninitiated, walking into a new Severna Park shop for recovering addicts is more than puzzling. It's downright curious.
Whoever heard of a God Box? Or a Recovery Rabbit?
But to those familiar with the 12-step programs for alcoholics and others, the ideas reflected in the store's wares are as familiar asthe day they had their last drink or snorted their last line.
"The truth will set you free . . . but first it will p-- you off," readsthe slogan on one T-shirt.
"Everything I ever let go of had claw marks on it," rues another, picturing a cat clinging, spread-eagled, to a brick wall.
When a recovering addict picks up a poster that shows a director's chair marked GOD, overlooking a globe, with the note, "RELAX. God is in charge," they see more than a nice platitude. For many, such concepts have been lifelines that helped them find theirway out of addiction, says proprietress Dawn Ringenbach.
The store, called Celebrate Recovery, is located in an innocuous white house on Center Drive in Severna Park, and it has more items than you can imagine geared for people in recovery.
There are books for incest victims, gambling addicts and children of alcoholic families.
Thereare posters, T-shirts, mugs, jewelry, magnets, plaques and calendars, many items made by Anne Arundel artists who are themselves in recovery from some addiction.
Official literature from a number of 12-step programs is available, including AA's "Big Book" and numerous cassette tapes.
Copies of Sober Times, a California-based newspaper for recovering drug and alcohol addicts, rest on a shelf next to greeting cards celebrating various "anniversary" dates of sobriety, and pins that jest, "I'm the person your (12-step group) sponsor warned youabout."
You can pick up bronze medallions, which 12-step groups often give to members on those anniversary days, for a friend.
You can mull over beautifully hand-crafted "God Boxes," made like banks but intended for slips of paper with problems listed on them. Once youslip the paper into the box, you've given it to God and you're supposed to forget about it.
One of the boxes, an engraved wooden one, can't be opened, so you literally cannot retrieve your problems for more worrying.
Quaint "Elf-Help" books offer "Good to yourself therapys" with succinct advice such as, "When you see someone else's hurtface, breathe. You are not responsible for making other people happy." Elfin pictures accompany the text of these pint-sized books.
But perhaps most intriguing, for both recovering addicts as well as thegeneral population, is the room filled with funky T-shirts.
Thereare slogans only an initiate would get. But there also are shirts anyone could relate to, such as "Life's a bitch, then you change your attitude," and, "Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most."
The cat clawing the wall T-shirt would make a perfect gift for that special obsessive family member or friend, addict or not.
"It's not just for recovering addicts," agrees Ringenbach. "Most of us can use help living serene and happy lives."
Ringenbach got the ideafor Celebrate Recovery after visiting such a store in another county. Hers is the fifth such gift shop in Maryland, a concept imported from California.
"I was buying a gift for a friend's sober anniversary, and I had never seen anything like all the things they had. I hada ball."
Figuring there were many others like her who could use such a store locally, Ringenbach opened Celebrate Recovery earlier this month, with the advice of her businessman husband.
But Ringenbach has found that tailoring a store to recovering addicts means more than just deciding how many "Easy does it" belt buckles to order.
For example, she purposely made the subject headings in the book room extra small, so small you have to be standing right in front of them to read them. That way, nobody's going to feel as if they're marked for life by browsing under a huge sign that tells the world they're reading about INCEST, she says.
Ringenbach says she also has to keepan eye out for compulsive shoppers. "If somebody comes up with a huge pile of stuff, I'm going to ask, 'Do you really want this?' "
Inthe weeks since opening the store, she's confirmed her impression that the place is needed in Anne Arundel. "I think it will thrive," says Ringenbach. "You can't buy this stuff (elsewhere) unless you order it through a catalog and pay expensive freight charges. And there area lot of recovering addicts and alcoholics out there."
The store is at 513 Center Drive, (410) 647-9700.