The Caramel Center of Transformation
Please meet my colleague Anne Marie Cribbin. Anne Marie (she/her) is a recovery coach residing in Washington D.C. and works with folks on the path to sobriety. Anne Marie is motivated by authenticity, rediscovering and claiming who we are as God’s creation. And that living in the light of that truth has a ripple effect of healing ourselves, our families, communities, and the world. You can follow Anne Marie on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/cribbs/ or reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
“In high school my friends and I would walk over to the Hecht Co., (a local department store) after the bell rang and take up space in the electronics section in the most obnoxious way. Our uniform blouses untucked and back packs slung on one shoulder. McDonalds French fries and chocolate shakes in hand and oh my gosh we were loud. We would park ourselves in front of the big screen TV’s and catch the last few minutes of General Hospital and then watch Oprah. We lived for Oprah’s before and after makeovers of audience members. Some soul nominated by a bestie, or partner, or parent. Their story told on national television and communal tears wept and then they were whisked away only to come back 45 minutes later completely transformed. Unrecognizable to their loved ones. Mouths gaping at the magic of bangs and form fitting knits. They were shiny and new and everything had changed due to proud sponsors L’oreal and Talbots. We would lock in our conditioning for instant gratification by dipping our fries into our shakes and toasting to the After.
When I quit drinking, I was angry. I was pissed that sobriety wasn’t instant. That it wasn’t enough to decide I wanted to quit drinking. That there was no studio audience to cheer over my choice to not order wine at lunch. I was angry that change was slow and hard and tiring and lonely. I was the Veruca Salt of sobriety – I wanted it now. I wanted to walk behind a curtain and come back out and be changed. I wanted my After.
The daily work of recovery has shifted my mind set about before and afters. Touching on my sobriety daily allows me to hang out in the space of the middle. The space of unfolding and evolution. The space of slow ripening and savored sweetness. A reminder that I am always in the process of becoming. My story is continuously being written. My truest and most authentic self being revealed in every obstacle I overcome and lesson learned. I like to call this space The Caramel Center of Transformation. This is the good part. And oh my goodness it is also the very hardest part. It’s the sticky part. The gooey, messy, treacly, part. The gummed, molasses part. The part where you have to move slow to keep yourself upright but also to savor every sugared moment. This is the mess of the middle. And friend, you are strong enough to make your way through. Let’s set our sights on the pleasure of becoming.
In celebration of the middle, I offer you this poem –
Caramel and Marrow
We danced around the periphery with fairy wings
Throwing glitter that caught the light
Hips swaying in the shimmer
The tall grass moving with us
Pinkies locked and promises made to step into the center
This was our time
Full moon freedom on a Saturday afternoon
“We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it.”
Sweet chants of childhood cheering us on
Eyes closed. Count to 3. Then leap.
Into the caramel and marrow
The center of the magic
With its swirls and swells and tyrant twisters
And sandbars and shady weeping willows too
We took flight in the mess of the middle
Our dime store wings made of wire and tulle and plastic rhinestones
Fastened to our shoulders with shoestrings
They were strong enough to carry us through
I love you.”