Reconsidering Re-Gifting

Learning that it's okay to want what you want

By Misti B., author of If You Leave Me Can I Come With You: Daily Meditations for Codependents and Al-Anons... With a Sense of Humor

Before I got into recovery, I had resigned myself to taking whatever came my way, especially when it involved gifts. For example, if someone gave me a present, I told myself I had to love it, even if I secretly didn’t even like it, let alone love it.

I suspect this has something to do with the fact that my family was infamous for re-gifting before it became an entire subculture co-opted by hipsters. My relatives gave back again and again long before it was cool—thanks so much, aunt of mine who re-gifted me with those off-white spandex Siamese cat leggings, and also to you Mom, for reviving the lipstick shaped hip flask for three Christmases’ in a row. My family didn’t go out of their way to act as if they weren’t re-gifting, so I simply learned to smile and say, “Thanks.” It’s not as if I was worried about looking selfish; it’s not like I had to pretend I loved the gifts I got; it was just how they did things in my family. Sort of, “take it or leave it.”

Not surprisingly, when it came to asking for and getting what I wanted as an adult, I struggled to find a balance between, “I want it all, NOW!” or, alternatively, “WOW! Just what I wanted for our anniversary: a bag of trail mix and a bar of Ivory soap!” It took a long time for me to be able to know the difference between what I needed, what I wanted and what was acceptable (hint: Burberry is always acceptable).

Recovery has taught me that it’s okay to want what I want. I don’t have to enjoy something just because it’s free, like those monochromatic carbohydrate breakfasts the commuter hotels serve, or because it came in a package of 200 and my cousin got it online for a discount. I don’t have to love or want something that isn’t right for me. Most importantly, I don’t have to love something because someone else tells me I should love it, or because I'm afraid I’ll hurt their feelings if I don’t love it as much as they think I should.

Understanding what I desire usually comes after spending quality time with my Higher Power. If what I want is something I can give myself, then I’ll do it for myself. If it’s something I want or need from another person and it’s appropriate, then I’ll ask for it.

While I may not always get what I want, it’s important that I know what it is, and acknowledge when it’s not what I want. In fact, these days, when I get a classic re-gift, I acknowledge that there’s something more important than being right—it’s being at peace in my recovery.

And I have to admit, those leggings are kind of funny.

In Spite of Myself: I may not get what I want, but at least I know that I can get what I need, for myself, and know how to ask for what I want when appropriate.

Misti B. headshotMisti B., is the author of If You Leave Me, Can I Come with You: Daily Meditations for Codependents and Al-Anons with a Sense of Humor. She writes humorous books about life in recovery, mainly because no one else is writing them—at least from a witty point of view. Misti’s had a successful career in the entertainment industry, having written and directed for stage and live events. She wrote and directed a film called, Exposed, which you’ve probably not seen, but she highly recommends because it “has an excellent cast!” All of these experiences—from which she is still recovering—combined with her highly dysfunctional upbringing, provide fodder for her gritty, but inspiring stories. She likes to quote Mel Brooks, whom she thinks said, “The only difference between comedy and tragedy is time...”
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