CARLSBAD — Dorene Lewis had nowhere to go for information when she realized she needed help. Her two marriages had failed, and she spent most of her time at home hiding from life.
"I grew up in a family where my father was an alcoholic," the 57-year-old woman said. "My older sister took her own life as a result of being part of a dysfunctional family.
"Since then, I've been married to an alcoholic and to another man who was addicted to women. I myself now know that I may have a food obsession.
"It wasn't until I started a 12-step program (like that used by Alcoholics Anonymous) that I realized that I was addicted to men with addictions."
Now, three years after Lewis began receiving help, she wants to give others the type of information that helped her through her rough time. Lewis is not a counselor or psychologist, but in her own way helps people.
Offers Better Understanding
In October she opened up One Day at a Time, a small, cozy bookstore packed with educational books and pamphlets about addictions. Her small business, in the Old World Center in Carlsbad, is not only a way for her to offer others a better understanding of the compulsive personality, but also is an avenue for Lewis to become active again.
"I know this store is a (financial) risk and, believe me, I have everything in it," she said. "But I think there's a great demand and need for this. People are hungry for this information. When I realized that I needed help, I tried to check in to the Betty Ford Center but they wouldn't admit co-dependents (relative of a chemically dependent person). It was this literature that made me understand myself."
Lewis' store does not just carry books for alcoholics and their families. There are books for just about any obsession, whether it be an addiction to golf, work, compulsive eating, sex or gambling. Other books include guides to recognizing chemical dependency, teachers' manuals on how to discuss addiction, children's books on the topic, and survival guides. The store also rents videotapes that deal with addictions.
It is not uncommon for Lewis to strike up conversations with her customers and guide them to an appropriate book. She said she likes to talk with people who may be experiencing the same problems she did.
"It took me three years to become functional again," she said. "For a long time, I just lived off some old investments. I feel really good about working here."
The shop is inviting, decorated with old-fashioned furniture and a small, stone fireplace. Patrons are encouraged to browse and listen to audio tapes, which Lewis also sells. Small plaques printed with inspiring slogans cover the walls.
The store also carries bookends, which she said she sells "just for fun."
"I wanted my store to have a nice, warm atmosphere," Lewis said. "When I was low, I didn't think I was worthy of anything nice. I just want people to be comfortable and feel pleasant here."
According to Lewis, she will never get rich with the venture. But if she finds there is a decent market, she will open another shop in Orange County.
"I think they need a store like this in every area."