Addicted to Love by Clare Catford
Most of the church people I meet will, if pushed, claim to be “just” ordinary Christians, but I sometimes wonder what that means. What I can say from experience is that church people have as many issues, problems, hang-ups and challenges as the rest of the human race and in that sense we are all certainly “ordinary”. Addicted to Love, by Clare Catford, a well-known broadcaster and journalist demonstrates that even Christians who may, on the surface appear balanced and “normal” can carry deep scars and problems which they may successfully hide or avoid but may certainly suffer for years.
She begins the book with the words “My name’s Clare and I’m a recovering addict”. This may sound glib but this is a serious but very readable book.
Perhaps you are just an “ordinary Christian” without any addictions or issues. Even so I would encourage you to read this book because
a) it may reveal some truths about addiction that you didn’t know and never thought to ask
b) you may find unexpected help here, if not for yourself then for someone near you
c) this may prepare you for a future encounter with someone who needs support rather than condemnation
d) you may see yourself, the church and God in a new way.
Clare’s problems of low self-esteem began in childhood but became more serious in adolescence when she became bulimic, obsessing over her weight and alternately binging and bringing up the food she had just eaten. As a teenager she also became a Christian and throughout thirty years of struggle she has continued to call out to God, to pray and to attend church.
In her early twenties Clare married and she leant heavily on her husband for support while she continued to suffer extreme bulimia. Throughout the book Clare recognises her own part in failed relationships with an honesty that is quite remarkable but which is extremely refreshing. Although Clare’s husband continued to support her, eventually she felt that she needed to move on and so they divorced.
After her divorce Clare had a succession of variously disastrous and turbulent relationships with different men whom she fell for, some of whom were already married. She describes this as a search for love and eventually she realised that this had become not just infatuation but a destructive addiction as she vainly searched for a knight in white armour to whisk her away from her problems. She also realised that while the men she attracted did their best for her, they also had their own issues and even addictions. She also describes her almost double life as continued to be involved in the church, making the “right noises” while inside she was hurting and empty.
This is not a book in which everything ends with total healing but it is a book that gives hope and which describes simply and clearly what addiction is about. It is a very honest discussion of the challenges she has faced with various forms of addiction as well as periods of deep depression, which she did not recognise as such for many years.
Eventually Clare realised that she needed help and she describes both her spiritual and her emotional journey. As with many people she has had a very mixed experience of the church from the judgmental to the supportive but along this journey she has begun to discover a different kind of love that accepts unconditionally. She describes how she finds God working through the open, generous and unconditional love of other people including some who profess no faith. She has a number of lay and clerical friends and advisers who support her and has found a spiritual home within the Moot community which is part of the Church of England and based in the City of London.
I found this to be an easily readable book of 134 pages. The chapters are all relatively short (less than 10 pages) and the book could easily be read in short chunks over a couple of weeks, although I was so moved that I read it at a sitting. While my experiences are quite different, I found that this book resonated in so many ways and provoked me to reflect again on the way I interact and impact other people and where God is at work through others.
The final chapter of this book is entitled “Work in Progress” and, if we are honest, which as ordinary Christians I’m sure we are, this is all any of us can say about ourselves. The wonderful thing is that God loves us totally despite who we are and not because of what we are.
Catford, Clare Addicted to Love – from Rehab to Heaven? (London, Darton Longman and Todd,2008)