A few words of encouragement

November 10, 1992|By Tim Warren | Tim Warren,Staff Writer

WHEATON — This is the place if you're looking for an Affirmation Bear -- you know, the stuffed bear that, when a button is pushed, will announce: "You're One of a Kind."

Or a congratulations card for someone observing an anniversary of being sober.

Or a bumper sticker that features a drawing of a large screw, over which is written: "Screw Guilt."

At Miracles Recovery Books and Gifts, a bookstore in suburban Washington intended primarily for those in recovery or who know someone in recovery, there are shelves of books and rows of pamphlets about dealing with alcoholism and other addictions. Indeed, for all those interested in taking it One Day at a Time, there's a lot more.

"If I see something that's off the wall, I'll take a chance on it," says Nancy Levine, owner of Miracles. "I'm always surprised by what's out there in the recovery movement."

In browsing through Miracles, it's evident that the parameters of the recovery movement have expanded remarkably, beyond alcoholism and drug abuse into such areas as co-dependency )) and the now-popular "inner child."

"When you say 'recovery,' people think of alcoholism and drug abuse, but it encompasses a whole lot more," says Ms. Levine, 28. "It's more about the acceptance of dealing with life's issues."

It's also clear the recovery movement is not immune to the American predeliction for turning any endeavor into an excursion into pop culture -- thus, bumper stickers, coffee cups and T-shirts.

At Miracles, one can buy a wall plaque of Reinhold Niebuhr's "Serenity Prayer," which has been appropriated by Alcoholics Anonymous and others in the recovery movement (the familiar opening verse: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference"). This majestic meditation is also available on wallet cards, memo pads, address books, ceramic magnets and T-shirts.

That's also true of other familiar phrases in the recovery movement, such as "Easy Does It" and "One Day at a Time," as well as such lesser-known ones as "Clean and Serene" and "Hugs Not Drugs."

Over in the T-shirt area, for instance, someone in recovery can announce his situation pointedly with "Drug-Free Body" or more subtly with "Happy, Joyous and Free." The shirt reading "Wilson-Smith University" takes the oblique approach -- the names refer to the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Many customers gravitate to the greeting cards. "There is a large need for cards for recovering people, since so many cards have references to alcohol," she says. In the Thank-You section, one card reads: "Thank you for understanding my pain and being my friend."

There are even Resentment Cards. One depicts two people back to back, holding pistols as if in a duel. "Before it's too late," the textreads, "perhaps we should discuss resentments."

Ms. Levine and a friend opened Miracles in May 1990. "I had always wanted to go into business for myself, and there seemed to be a need for a bookstore of this type," says Ms. Levine.

She says it has been a rewarding, but at times dicey, proposition. "I know of at least two other 'recovery' bookstores in Maryland that have opened and closed since we began," she says. "I still do some part-time work [bookkeeping and teaching country dance] on the side."

To keep on top of an ever-changing market, she relies on tips from customers, distributors and authors. A current favorite at Miracles is the "Dream Catcher," a small net that one places over the bed at night in order to capture bad dreams. Ms. Levine heard about dream catchers from her mother, who saw them in a Neiman-Marcus catalog.

She expects to expand the store's offerings with more general congratulatory cards and more gift items. But some areas are off-limits: no ashtrays or lighters, she says. The reason: "My father died of lung cancer and I'm an ex-smoker."

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