Full Of It – My Days As A Hoarder

Does anyone see my spice rack in there?  I need rosemary for my pot roast tonight.
Does anyone see my spice rack in there? I need rosemary for my pot roast tonight.

I don’t watch much TV.  In fact, I rarely watch it – I find my time gravitating towards on-line activities, so an hour of Angry Birds Star Wars and viewing bad 80’s music videos on YouTube constitutes R&R for me these days.  But I had a chance to watch Hoarders last night.  Hoarders, of course, is a reality television show that examines the problem and tidy solution (sorry, bad…I know) to those who hoard.  I hadn’t seen it in a while, and as I watched it, I sensed a change in myself that I hadn’t noticed before.  I picked up on some things that I hadn’t been aware of until I stared at the screen and watched these people stuffing their homes to the gills for no apparent reason.

You see, I used to watch  Hoarders a lot years ago, in my drinking days.  I used to watch it mostly to feel righteous and spread my vitriol and judgement onto total strangers who were clearly ill. But then again, I used to watch Intervention while I was drinking to feel vastly superior to those low-bottom alcoholics and drug addicts. Of course it never occurred to me that the TV screen was in fact a mirror and my scorn a crystal ball into my own future.  Oh the heady days of denial.

The biggest question everyone has while watching Hoarders, of course, is how can they live like that?  How did they ever let it get that bad?  You see these lonely, sad, depressed people who have to climb over mountains of filth and calcified cats just to get to the next room, impervious to the smell of rotting food, moldy clothing and decade old stains.  They don’t seem to notice the looks that their neighbors and other strangers give them.  They seem to be past the stage of giving a damn any more.  Just look at them: weird looking misfits! Laugh at their living conditions and how they justify everything!  Mentally figure out how much money they wasted on that crap!

I used to laugh.  I used to make assumptions.  I used to pass judgement.   And now I don’t.

I realized one important thing watching that show:  I was a hoarder too.

Oh these things?  Just taking my resentments for some fresh air.
Oh these things? Just taking my resentments out for some fresh air.

I didn’t hoard material things (well, if you don’t include empties, that is), but I hoarded resentments.  Guilt.  Shame.  Fears.  Anger.  Remorse.  I hoarded all the things people said about me, whether they meant it or not.  I hoarded anything that crippled my self esteem.  I hoarded off-hand harsh ideas I had of others.  I hoarded pain and suffering, and wore them like a hairshirt.  I hoarded unfounded poor ideals of myself.  I hoarded spirit sucking thoughts.  I hoarded ways to beat myself up for no reason other than being me.  I hoarded hate.  I hoarded the “ones”…and by that I mean this: when I would be in a room of let’s say 30 people, I could have 29 people tell me I was a nice guy, a good guy.  But there would be that “one” person who wasn’t so hot for me.  Maybe it was a personality thing, maybe they had a legit reason not to dig me.  That “one” was the one I obsessed about.  That “one” was the one I brought home with me and took them all over with me.  I collected all those “ones” and let them play together.  I hoarded them.

So when I see the real life hoarders on TV sleeping in their own waste, resting in a tiny little spot, surrounded by the crushing weight of their addiction material, when I observe them buried and confined in the world of their own making, when I witness them crippled by depression and angst, and watch as their friends and family distance themselves from them, when I see the deadness in their eyes as they pray for death…I see ME.  I see how I used to be.  I used to sleep in my own filth, literally and figuratively.  I used to isolate to the point of being invisible.  I used to see those lifeless eyes in the rare times I would allow myself to see my pathetic reflection in the mirror.

As an alcoholic, I was  a hoarder.  But I didn’t ply my pain in old planters, broken birdhouses or stacks of unwashed plates.  I occupied and cramped my mind, body and spirit with harms fancied or real; I played hurts over and over, feeling the exact pain over and over again.  I let irrational thoughts and delusional thinking become the mortar and steel of the self-made cage in my mind.  I hoarded fantasy and let it play out as a tragedy.  I was full of it.  And tired of it.

But I just couldn’t call one of those junk removal places to remove the clutter from my heart and mind.  There was an inner type of house cleaning that had to be done.  There was a way that I could, and still can, take care of things and get the support I needed.  For this ex-booze pig, it is my 12-step recovery work and my meetings.  It’s been clearing the wreckage of my past through the working of the program of AA.  It was connecting with the Creator and learning that all the things I felt about myself had nothing to do with the way that He envisioned me to be.  I was not meant to suffer in my own waste.  I was not meant to be buried alive under the weight of trying to be who I wasn’t.

It may look all find and dandy, but I still struggle with stubborn grass stains.
It may look all fine and dandy, but I still struggle with stubborn grass stains.

The true freedom is learning to be Authentic Me.  I don’t need to hoard any more.  I am free of these things.  I am lighter.  I can breeze through myself unencumbered by the thoughts of regret and suffering. I am relieved of the bondage of self.

My days are no longer full of it, but just full – days where I no longer feel trapped in the fortress of my own filth, where the sun shines through me and I am blessed and eager to move about freely.   I hoard no more.

19 Comments Add yours

  1. Amy says:

    Holy moly. I am high fiving and hugging you through the screen right now.

    I am just starting to see the “real” me emerge.

    “I was not meant to be buried alive under the weight of trying to be who I wasn’t.” *angels sing*


    p.s. really awesome post. 🙂

    1. Hey Amy! Thanks for the high fives and hugs – right back at ya 🙂

      I am so happy that we’re both getting our real selves emerging from the darkness and broken boxes of our pasts. It’s a wonderful feeling, isn’t it? The great thing is that it gets even better. I know that on your blog you constantly share that – that it gets better all the time, even when it feels rough. Great message.

      Thanks for the kind words – means a lot coming from you 🙂


  2. risingwoman says:

    Yes! I get this…. it’s astounding how much crap we accumulate inside when we spend years and years drinking. I am still clearing mine out.

    Great post, Paul!

    1. Thanks Michelle. You are right – amazing how much we truly do build up and accumulate during out time out there. We don’t realize until it’s time to start de-cluttering, eh? It will continue to take me time to clear out the wreckage too, but I have had a good start. But life continues, and it’s easy for me to hoard more stuff – just because I cleared out room, doesn’t mean I have to fill it with more garbage. So I have to be vigilant.

      Here’s to us cleaning out our baggage!

      Have a wonderful day 🙂


  3. byebyebeer says:

    I can’t watch Hoarders. I find I never like the hoarders very much. For the most part, they seem greedy and angry and ungrateful. I could use some of your compassion, or better yet I’ll just keep on not watching it. Like you, I used to watch Intervention when I still drank, I suspect to watch personal disasters unfold and look for some signs that I was like them…or not like them. That show is also too painful to watch right now.

    Like your tie-in with hoarding resentments. So much to think on. Thanks for the post.

    1. My wife has a hard time watching that and related show – My Strange Addiction, Intervention, etc. I watch Hoarders with a fascination still, I have to admit. But I guess it was the other night that I finally started to identify a bit…not sure why it happened that night, and not any other…who knows. The hoarders certainly can seem greedy, angry, ungrateful, etc. I guess I saw how I used to act when I was drinking, and I really wasn’t much different – just made it less obvious, I suppose!

      But I am with you on Intervention – it can be painful to watch. I still watch it now and then, but I guess I look at them in a different light…and instead of looking at it the way we used to (“I’m not like that”…or “woah, I am so like that”) I guess I see more of the old me in them…and that I think is what makes it hard to watch…that I was like that. In fact, that is the very reason it’s hard to watch (I am realizing this as I type…no editing).

      Thanks for your honest comments…I really do appreciate them, and you plainly have me questioning some things now…motives, etc.

      You’ve given me something to chew on today, and for that I thank you 🙂


  4. zachandclem says:

    Wonderful, totally making my fiancé read this. I love watching hoarders too, but that might stem from a profound love for people. Watching people is amazing, everyone is amazing. To see them grow, or to find out what turned them into that, just satisfies a genuine curiosity about their lives. I do love your analogy there, though. I, too, can think back and CRINGE at mistakes I made when I was a freakin’ child, sometimes I CRY because of something harsh someone said to me 15 years ago. I, too, used to obsess over that one person that disliked me, instead of being grateful and all the while disregarding the friends I did have. I tried to change, into something I felt I should be in order to be liked by EVERYONE. Today, luckily, I’m a lot more emancipated from those thoughts; I can accept that being disliked doesn’t have to say anything about me, necessarily. Thanks for the post, Paul! Keep up the good work xx

    1. I really enjoyed what you said at the end there, about accepting that being disliked doesn’t have any bearing on who you are and what you are. I wish I learned that lesson earlier in life! Thanks for your comments – very groovy 🙂


  5. sherryd32148 says:

    What a great analogy! So true. I still watch hoarders but I can’t do Intervention anymore. That used to be my “go to” show on Monday nights. Pick up a couple of bottles of wine and park it to watch the train wreck. Wait. What?

    Now it’s just too painful. Where before I watched with open eyes to try and prove I didn’t have a problem, now I have to close my eyes and turn away because the carnage is too painful to bear.

    Great, great post. Thank you.


    1. Ha ha…I don’t know of many alcoholics who didn’t watch Intervention while drinking. Funny how we sometimes have a hard time watching now…too many reminders of how it used to be. There are times where that happens to me, and I just hope it’s a drug addict and not an alcoholic…lol.

      Thanks Sherry – always a pleasure having you here 🙂


  6. Number 9 says:

    this is such a great post! I have watched hoarders and i find that i can never turn the channel until i find out if they come through to the other side. it’s like i always have to have a happy ending. it’s hope, i suppose. that wish for a happy ending? I too watch it and relate. Not so much to the hoarding part—although I was AMAZED at all the crap we had accumulated when we downsized and had to get rid of 2/3 of the stuff we owned in order to fit into our new tiny house—anyways, I related to their mental state, you know? That state of not seeing the depth and breadth of the problem I was facing. That annoyance of loved ones trying to “help” me—you know? I get that. And it’s much more beautiful on this other side. I love how your posts have a them and you carry that through and relate it to recovery. It really helps capture the essence of what it is all about. life.

    1. I agree about relating to the mental state, Regina. That is how I started to relate to them after all this time. While all addictions are different in the physical sense, and how it relates to the body and the manifestations, I think that at the core, there are many similarities…the mental, emotional and spiritual conditions that cause us to pick up our drug of (no) choice.

      Thanks for the kind words too…made my afternoon.


  7. Well this hit a nerve! My goodness when I think of the emotional baggage I carried around in my head and in my life. I’d never thought of it in terms of hoarding before I read this and it made perfect sense. I hoarded all those things you mentioned and probably a few more.
    Thank goodness that sobriety allows us to clear out mentally as well as physically.
    How wonderful that you are free to be you. Just as it should be!

    1. Hi Carolyn – you are so right about sobriety allowing us to clear out mentally. Like most other alcoholics, I had a thinking problem, not a drinking problem. Hence to straighten out spiritually and mentally allows me to straighten out in all other ways. I still am clearing things out…old ideas and old habits, and some just don’t want to leave! But it’s a journey, a process.

      Thank you so much for coming by here, Carolyn. Always wonderful to see you here 🙂


  8. Bravo! Trudging down the road trying to loosen my load, as well. Even after nine years I’m still finding old shit that was cluttering up my attic. Then it’s time for another dump run. Ah well. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, eh? I guess where I take heart is that it does get better. Yes, the road does narrow, but it’s better maintained. No huge pot-holes to rip your hub caps off on. And, of course, it’s better lit.
    Thanks again for doing this, Paul. Love your style, man.

  9. Marius – you add cachet and pizzazz to this place just by stopping by. Yup – it does get better. And it’s sometimes difficult before it gets better…a shift of some kind occurs before we get put right back where we need to be. Trudging away.

    Thanks for being here – means a lot, kind sir.


  10. SAM says:

    I never thought of my alcoholism as something akin to hoarding but there ya have it. I have seen that show as well and thought, “Dear God, I am so glad that isn’t me.” But as you clearly outlined it is and was me too.

    In fact, within my 100 days of sobriety I am still packing around the dirty bandaids of misperceptions, smelly aluminum cans of insecurity, old and rotting negative self talk, garbage bags of grudges and finally, the old milk jugs of soured and bitter resentment.

    Great insight here and always a good read. Thank you again for the fresh perspective.


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