The guru who got Adele back on track: Glennon Doyle was a drug user, bulimic and alcoholic with an unfaithful husband. Now she’s a top self-help author adored by the stars – but no story is as compelling as her own
One is an icon whose searingly honest writing has earned her millions, who’s weathered a high-profile divorce, spoken candidly about post-partum blues and gone through a public physical reinvention. And so is the other.
Yet while we’ve all heard of the multi-award-winning pop star Adele, the name Glennon Doyle probably meant little to the British public. Until, that is, this weekend, when the singer herself introduced us to the bestselling American author with whom she shares uncanny parallels.
In a rare Instagram post, Adele waxed lyrical about Glennon’s recently published third memoir, Untamed: Stop Pleasing, Start Living. It was, she promised her followers, a book that ‘will shake your brain and make your soul scream’ — and one that had made her ‘ready for myself’, as she put it, after years of feeling ‘stressed and dishevelled’.
‘I never knew that I am solely responsible for my own joy, happiness and freedom!’ Glennon Doyle, she concluded, was an ‘absolute don’.
And she’s far from the only celebrity to endorse 44-year-old Glennon; talk-show host Oprah Winfrey and actresses Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Kristen Bell are also disciples.
Glennon Doyle, author, writer of the blog Momastery and founder of non-profit Together Rising
Adele pictured after accepting a BRIT award in 2016 at the O2 Arena
Not bad for a woman who started her career as a mummy blogger charting the chronicles of her humdrum suburban life.
But after overcoming bulimia, drug abuse and alcoholism — not to mention an unhappy marriage to an unfaithful husband — she has netted herself an estimated fortune of £3 million, an A-list circle of friends and a wife.
Not only that, but her sage advice, pithy soundbites and online lockdown videos have made the mother of three a social media sensation, amassing her 1.1 million Instagram followers. Her three memoirs — Carry on, Warrior; Love Warrior and Untamed — have all been bestsellers. And plans to turn her latest offering, which has sold more than one million copies since its publication this March, into a TV show are already in the pipeline.
So just how did Glennon Doyle get to this point — and what is it about her life that resonates with Adele?
Certainly, the self-help guru can’t profess to sharing the working-class upbringing, broken family and financial hardships that shaped Adele’s childhood in Tottenham, North London.
Brought up just outside Washington DC in the U.S., Glennon’s childhood was the epitome of privilege. Her father, Richard, was a head teacher and her mother a Spanish teacher, and the young Glennon spent holidays with her parents and younger sister, Amanda, on the family’s 29ft sailing boat.
But despite — or perhaps because of — her charmed upbringing, her life began to unravel.
Adele following her mega weight-loss diet, which was directed by Glennon Doyle
A sensitive child who had grown used to being complimented constantly on her beauty, at ten she started feeling uncomfortable in her skin, describing herself as ‘chubbier, frizzier and oilier’ than her classmates.
Only too aware, even at such a young age, that ‘a woman’s currency is to stay small and beautiful’, she developed bulimia as a defence mechanism.
‘Every day I was bingeing and purging, multiple, multiple times,’ says Doyle.
Despite her disordered eating, she continued to excel at school and in extra-curricular activities such as lacrosse and viola until, in her final year, she walked into a school counsellor’s office and said she would die if ‘somebody doesn’t take me away’.
A stint in a psychiatric hospital followed, but it wasn’t until after she’d graduated from university that Glennon — now a healthy but sparrow-like size zero (UK size 6) — managed to conquer her eating disorder.
Pearls of wisdom… or gobbledygook?
APPRECIATE THE ‘BRUTIFUL’
THIS is a term that was coined by Glennon for the mix of beautiful and brutal. Learn that good can come out of the unpleasant, and tough times can teach us valuable lessons.
Find your TOUCH TREE
Have one metaphorical place — ‘a touch tree’ — to return to when you feel emotionally lost, and make that touch tree yourself, rather than an institution or relationship or goal.
‘Every single time I have been lost, it is because I have made something other than myself my touch tree,’ says Glennon.
In other words, forget everything you’re taught, and examine societal beliefs you’ve been blindly swallowing.
Ask yourself what it means to be a successful human being.
STOP ASKING OTHERS’ OPINIONS
‘We’re constantly looking outside ourselves for answers, but that is exactly like asking people for directions to places they’ve never been,’ says Glennon.
CUT THE FALSE MODESTY
‘Every time you pretend to be less than you are, you steal permission from other women to exist fully,’ says Glennon. ‘Don’t mistake modesty for humility. Modesty is a giggly lie. An act. A mask. A fake game. We have no time for it.’
Thinking, Glennon writes, is ‘something folks did before Google’ and leads to self-discovery. ‘The moment after we don’t know what to do with ourselves is the moment we find ourselves. Right after itchy boredom is self-discovery. But we have to hang in there long enough without bailing.’
While Adele has never detailed her diet beyond admitting she used to take 20 teaspoons of sugar in her tea every day, or spoken publicly about her astonishing recent 7 st weight loss, you can see how she might empathise with the way in which Glennon’s emotions affected her eating habits.
The author, meanwhile, used alcohol as well as food to numb her feelings — suffering her first blackout aged 13 and becoming an alcoholic while studying for her English degree in the late Nineties.
She started drinking in the shower every morning and took drugs — chiefly cocaine — to help her consume more, later saying: ‘I didn’t have a single night where I didn’t black out.’
Abby Wambach and Glennon Doyle pictured at the AT&T & Hello Sunshine celebrations in 2018
Alcohol helped shield her from her ‘easily’ hurt feelings, but also led to a drink-driving charge and suicidal thoughts. Yet still, she maintained an outwardly successful façade, becoming a primary school teacher after graduating.
‘It was years of, “Yes, she’s blacking out, but look, she’s teaching”. So it took much longer to get help,’ she says.
While Adele certainly hasn’t suffered alcoholism, she admits to having been a ‘massive drinker’, and Glennon’s recollections of holding down a successful career while sinking alcohol may resonate. The singer has said she was ‘completely off my face’ while writing most of her second album, 21, admitting: ‘What the f*** did I say and who the f*** did I say it to?’
It was on a boozy night in 2001 that Glennon met her ex-husband Craig Melton, a part-time model and semi-professional football player, during a pub crawl.
After four alcohol-sodden months Glennon got pregnant. She had an abortion, carried on drinking, but got pregnant again within a year.
This time, she sobered up and she and Craig married, motivated more by a desire to conform than a genuine longing to commit.
‘We got married because we thought it was the right thing to do, not because we thought we were the right people for each other,’ she later said.
Their son, Chase, now 17, was born, and in 2009, she launched a blog, Momastery, to document her fear that she wasn’t ‘doing parenting right’.
Adele posted a pictured of herself enjoying a fan on Instagram after her dramatic weight-loss
Her candid, humorous admissions quickly gained popularity. In 2012, she wrote a post called Don’t Carpe Diem, a frustrated response to being told she should be relishing every second of new motherhood. ‘Clearly, Carpe Diem doesn’t work for me,’ she wrote. ‘I can’t even carpe 15 minutes in a row, so a whole diem is out of the question.’ It went viral.
In the same year, Adele, 32, gave birth to son Angelo, whose father is her estranged husband, Simon Konecki. The singer later revealed she had suffered from post-partum depression — and her comments on the matter certainly chime with Glennon’s feelings.
‘I love my son more than anything, but on a daily basis, if I have a minute or two, I wish I could do whatever the f*** I wanted, whenever I want. Every single day I feel like that,’ Adele said in 2016.
Glennon’s viral post, meanwhile, triggered a ten-way bidding war for a book she had yet to write and a new career as a ‘truth-teller’.
Publisher Scribner won the rights and the result — 2013’s Carry On, Warrior: The Power Of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, which recounted her transformation from teenage bulimic and twentysomething alcoholic to conventional, sober Christian mum — sold 330,000 copies.
But while Glennon’s career was taking off, her marriage was disintegrating. She says that she found sex with Melton — with whom she also has daughters Tish, 14, and Amma, 11 — a chore, describing it as ‘off and icky’ adding: ‘Our sex life had never been great, but we weren’t intimate enough to even talk about it.’
Then, the week before she was due to start promoting Carry On, Warrior, Melton admitted he had been unfaithful with a series of one-night stands throughout their marriage.
Adele pictured dancing around her living room showing off her new slimmer figure
As painful as the revelation was, working through their problems provided compelling copy for Glennon’s second memoir, 2016’s Love Warrior, which detailed not only Melton’s infidelities but the couple’s lengthy — and apparently successful — attempts to save their failing marriage. Oprah Winfrey announced Love Warrior as her new book club selection, and its publication looked destined to send Glennon’s star soaring even further.
There was just one problem, however — only weeks before the book was due to be published Glennon, who until that point had never questioned her sexuality, fell in love with Abby Wambach, 40, a recently retired and newly separated Olympic footballer who is a household name in the U.S.
‘Everyone was calling it this “marriage redemption book”, and, very inconveniently, I fell madly in love with Abby right before the launch,’ Glennon later said.
Certainly, it didn’t amuse Glennon’s publishers, and even her new friend Winfrey warned of a ‘bloodbath’ if and when the news came out.
‘The feeling was, if the story comes out, no one’s going to buy this book,’ Glennon has since explained.
Yet when Abby, also a bestselling author and motivational speaker, walked into Glennon’s pre-publication event at a Chicago hotel, she couldn’t escape the thought that here was ‘the person I am supposed to be with for ever’, adding: ‘I couldn’t go back to pretending.’
The feeling of love at first sight — and for a woman, no less — she says, ‘blew every belief system I had, and everything I thought about myself.’
Craig Melton, however, had perhaps had a hunch all along.
Describing what went through his mind when his estranged wife called him, saying she had something to discuss, he recalls thinking ‘either she has cancer, or she’s gay’.
Although admitting that he felt ‘sadness, confusion, and anger’ at the revelation, Melton —perhaps mindful of his own marital failings — was remarkably understanding.
The couple share custody of their three offspring, live near each other in Florida and see each other with the children every Sunday. ‘I’ve seen a lot of people in similar situations where the two exes put their egos first and the kids suffer,’ said Melton.
Fortunately, Glennon’s announcement only fascinated her fans further, and when she announced her ‘new love’ on Facebook in November 2016, two months after her book was published, followers were overwhelmingly accepting.
After marrying Abby in May 2017, Glennon relished her newfound marital bliss.
‘I love having sex with my wife,’ she writes in Untamed. ‘I love how well we understand each other’s bodies, and I love the liquid velvet of her skin.’
Her celebrity status, meanwhile, continued to soar, just like that of her long-time friend Elizabeth Gilbert — author of hit memoir Eat, Pray Love, who herself fell in love with a woman in middle age.
Of course, Glennon’s new life also provided ample material for her third memoir — which is markedly more feminist in tone than its predecessors and a cry for women to shrug off the confinement of patriarchy.
Food for thought, undoubtedly, for Adele, single after filing for divorce from Konecki last September.
While critics claim Glennon has replaced an addiction for food and alcohol with a need for validation and attention, there seems little likelihood that she will stop writing about her private life any time soon.
‘I am someone who spent a lot of time in a prison. For me, bulimia, alcoholism, drugs were like being jailed,’ she said.
‘And the only way I know how to stay free is to be really freaking honest.’
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