BELLINGHAM — Cherie Christensen’s love for ladybugs has inpired her to stay clean and sober.
Not real ladybugs (though she admits “they are, after all, the only lovable bug”) — but all things ladybug. She has ladybug pillows, ladybug puppets, ladybug dolls, ladybug cups — she even has a ladybug fly swatter.
If it’s made with a ladybug theme, chances are Christensen, a 46-year-old grandmother of four and the mother of two grown boys, has at least one good example in her collection of about 400 items.
Question: How did ladybugs help inspire your sobriety?
Answer: I’m proud of my sobriety, three years now, with the help of Whatcom County and the West Coast Counseling and Treatment Center of Bellingham. My first attempt at sobriety at a treatment center in Port Angeles didn’t work, but while I was there a friend brought me socks with ladybugs.
Q: And one ladybug thing led to another?
A: The girls at the treatment center went nuts over the ladybugs and they started giving me ladybug knick-knacks.
Q: You have such an amazing collection. Who would guess there are so many items decorated in ladybug themes. Did you ever have the collecting bug earlier?
A: No, actually, I had never been a collector of anything, and I never had any hobbies like that. What I used to love doing was running. I remember being the first girl cross country runner at Blaine High School. I was a freshman and it really boosted my self-esteem. I used to run for a running club in Bellingham, too.
Q: Your ladybug hobby seems to have helped you find a focus.
A: It has. I remarried in 1997, but he died five years later. Then I was the victim of a violent crime in 2003. I’m recovering from both anorexia and alcohol, plus a touch of agoraphobia, too. One reason I like to tell my story is to try to inspire others to recover. I have a really good support system and I’m very grateful for it.
Q: But surely you must have had a little bit of the collecting bug
A: Oh, when I would run into somebody who collected something, I thought it was cool. But I really didn’t have time to think about collecting when I was younger. One reason I love them know is that my grandchildren love them, too.
Q: So many of these ladybug items you have are just so cute.
A: They really are. They have so many happy faces, don’t they? And they come in so many varieties. Now my friends are always looking for ladybugs for me. It’s really hard to explain how they’ve just multiplied. I’ve found them outside my door, left by friends.
Q: I’ll bet I know what your dream car would be.
A: You got it. A red Volkswagen with dots! And, of course, I’d have ladybug mats and seat covers.
Q: So you’re always on the lookout for all new things ladybug.
A: I love finding ladybugs at thrift stores and garage sales. Of course, people call me the “Ladybug Lady.”
Q: You seem to be doing pretty well with your sobriety.
A: I like to say I have a long way to go, but I’ve come a long way, too. Any way I can inspire someone else, I will. Everyone deserves a chance at sobriety.