marilea.rabasa@gmail.com

Restore Me To Sanity

R “Second Step Prayer: Heavenly Father, I know in my heart that only you can restore me to sanity. I humbly ask that you remove all twisted thoughts and addictive behavior from me this day. Heal my spirit and restore in me a clear mind.” How often have we tried to play God, to control everything and everyone around us, especially if they’re on a self-destructive path? This, to be sure, is what provides us with a sound rationale for doing so. “He’s killing himself! We have to do something; we have to stop (SAVE) him!” I said those words, and played out that scenario, for a number of years. But it got me nowhere. My daughter has been in and out of recovery for seventeen years. And when she was in recovery, I was sure it was because of my efforts to save her from herself. Then, when she slipped out of recovery, I found a way to make myself responsible for that too. I was so joined at the hip with Angie, enmeshed in her illness, that I wasn’t paying enough attention to mine. I found myself exhausted and broken from all my efforts to save her. So I cut the cord and recognized that the path she was on was hers alone. I needed to forge my own path, continuing on my recovery journey. Nothing has ever been harder for me than this separation, watching her flounder in the grips of heroin addiction. Nothing. So I turn my pain over to God, and that gives me...

Walls Or Bridges?

“Thanks to my recovery program, I have learned to build bridges instead of walls.” ~”The Forum,”  Al-Anon Family Group, Conference Approved Literature What does that mean? From what I’ve learned in recovery, it’s about learning to set healthy, workable boundaries. And what does that word mean? A lot of questions! I grew up in an alcoholic family without many boundaries. There was a lot of guilt, and a fair amount of permissiveness related to that. My parents were sometimes neglectful and/or passive. I was allowed to run wild and became rebellious. Even my moral code was challenged. I was not a happy camper, and it showed. As an adult raising my three children, is it any wonder that much of my parenting was the same? We pass on what we were given. When Angie started abusing drugs at age 21, I was blindsided, but I shouldn’t have been. I was in such denial about myself and my own shortcomings that I was incredulous at the change in her. I couldn’t believe it! But, in time, with a lot of my own recovery, I learned to not only believe it but to understand it. And most importantly, not to blame myself for it. Because of MY misplaced guilt around Angie’s addiction, early on I set almost no boundaries with her. Why would I have to? She was 21; I had instilled a moral code in her since she was a child. What I didn’t realize, and gradually learned with horror, was how the personality of the addict changes, how they abandon their moral code over and over again to serve...

My Glass Is Half Full

From Hope For Today, January 23: “One of the gifts I have received from recovery is learning how to maintain an attitude of gratitude. Before the program I didn’t really understand the true nature of gratitude. I thought it was the happiness I felt when life happened according to my needs and wants. I thought it was the high I felt when my desire for instant gratification was fulfilled. Today…I know better. Gratitude is an integral part of my serenity. In fact, it is usually the means of restoring my serenity whenever I notice I’m straying from it. Gratitude opens the doors of my heart to the healing touch of my Higher Power. It isn’t always easy to feel grateful when the strident voice of my disease demands unhealthy behavior. However, when I work my program harder, it is possible. ‘Just for today I will smile…I will be grateful for what I have instead of concentrating on what I don’t have.’” Accepting life on life’s terms is hard. My daughter has been a drug addict for seventeen years, and I grieve the loss of her in my life every day. The five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance—I know them all, and not always in that order. My path to recovery involved a lot of denial in the beginning and, as it said in the reading, “the voice of my disease demanded unhealthy behavior.” So I’m grateful now for the serenity and peace that I have in my life. Acceptance is the gift I give myself every day when I let go and give Angie to God....

Seeing Through the Tears

S From Each Day A New Beginning, January 9: “‘The Chinese say that water is the most powerful element, because it is perfectly nonresistant. It can wear away a rock and sweep all before it.’ ~Florence Scovel Shinn Nonresistance, ironically, may be a posture we struggle with. Nonresistance means surrendering the ego absolutely. For many of us, the ego, particularly disguised as false pride, spurred us on to struggle after struggle. ‘Can’t they see I’m right?’ we moaned, and our resistance only created more of itself. Conversely, flowing with life, ‘bubbling’ with the ripples, giving up our ego, releases from us an energy that heals the situation—that smoothes the negative vibrations in our path. Peace comes to us. We will find serenity each time we willingly humble ourselves. ‘Resistance is more familiar. Nonresistance means growth and peace. I’ll try for serenity today.’” It is very hard to accept life on life’s terms. When I faced a heartbreaking situation in my daughter, I fought tooth and nail to free her of the addiction that had taken hold of her. And I was stubborn; I persisted. For several years, I resisted. But I learned that my power in her struggle was limited. And I needed to surrender my ego and my will to the power of my God. And have faith—a deeply held faith that everything in my life is unfolding as it was meant to. I found my peace...

Breathing Lessons

From Each Day A New Beginning, September 16: “When working the steps we are never in doubt about the manner for proceeding in any situation. The steps provide the parameters that secure our growth. They help us to see where we’ve been and push us toward the goals which crowd our dreams.” Many times in recovery meetings people refer to us all as shipwrecked human beings. I like that metaphor because it reminds me that we are all together on that ship, all part of the same human race, triumphing sometimes, often struggling, but together. We are never alone. But there is much division around the topic of addiction. Much of the problem arises from semantics: is addiction an illness that strikes, like cancer, without permission? Or is it a moral failing? That simple question lends itself to hours of discussion; whole books have been written about it; bloggers have exhausted themselves going back and forth in the argument. I used to enthusiastically participate, certain that I was making valid points here and there. It’s the “here and there” that finally derailed me as I was hyperventilating on this fast-moving train of rhetoric. In the final analysis, does it really matter what it is? Getting caught up in all the arguments just kept me from putting my focus where it belonged. I needed to get back to self-care. And stepping back. And taking a breath. How we navigate our lives together on that ship is as varied as the shells in the ocean. Twelve-Step work has a lot in common with many other forms of spiritual recovery, some of...

You Just Gotta Laugh!

From “The Grapevine” 11/18:                                                 “Sorry I Asked An old timer with 40 years of sobriety had a dream. In it, his first sponsor, who passed years before, appeared. The old-timer, seizing the opportunity, asked him one question: ‘Is there AA in Heaven?’ ‘Well Jim,’ his first sponsor replied, ‘there’s good news and bad news. The good news is yes, AA meetings are held in heaven. The bad news is, you’re chairing this Saturday.’”  ~Marty Z., Palm Bay,...

Baby Steps Lead To Bigger Ones

“First Step Prayer: Dear Lord, I admit that I am powerless over my addict. I admit that my life is unmanageable When I try to control him/her. Help me this day to understand the true meaning of powerlessness. Remove from me all denial of my loved one’s addiction.” The first step is probably the most important one in assuring our recovery from the effects of another’s addiction.  And it’s because I refused to take it that it took me so long to start to recover. I simply wouldn’t accept my powerlessness over my daughter’s disease. I felt as though I would be dropping the ball,  appearing as though I didn’t care about her. I felt that I had to do everything in my power to save her, not realizing that I had no such power. So, deep pockets helped me to put Angie through four rehabs. They also had me paying her rent, paying off her loans, and paying back the creditors. All my “help” simply gave her more money for drugs. In short, deep pockets can be dangerous if they allow us to enable our children. She might have learned something from the consequences of her actions if I hadn’t kept getting in the way. So yes, my life had become unmanageable. I love Angie very much. And I kept making things easy for her. But we can enable our children to death. Now I’ve let go of all my attempts to control her and her disease. And I feel as though the weight of the world has been lifted from my...

Empowerment

What I like about my recovery program is learning that I’m not a victim—that I have choices. My daughter, Angie, is an addict, yes, but I haven’t been victimized or punished for my sins. Angie is sick; addiction is a brain disease, and she has the power to fight it. She can choose. Not easily, to be sure, but the power is in her hands. By detaching myself sufficiently from the agony of her struggle, I can recognize that I am free to choose too. I can help her, if she wants recovery, but beyond that it’s not my battle. As heartbreaking as that is for any mother—to admit her powerlessness—it’s what I have had to do in order to reclaim my life. I love my daughter, and I pray with all my heart that she chooses recovery someday. But in the meantime, I have many blessings to enjoy and pay attention to. Even if Angie were my only child, there are still...

Remembering Angie

Today is my daughter’s 40th birthday. She made this tapestry for me after her first rehab. She was always interested in Oriental art and designs. I think the simplicity fascinated her. For a long time I couldn’t look at it. In my early recovery, I was still wedded to the “If onlys.” But over time, I’ve learned to let go of “might have beens” and accept what is. I hang the tapestry proudly on my wall now. It’s one of many of my happy memories of her. I had twenty-one years with her as my daughter before addiction hijacked and transformed her. I’m grateful for the good years I had with my daughter. I love...

Living In Abundance

“Life holds so much—so much to be happy about always. Most people ask for happiness on conditions. Happiness can only be felt if you don’t set conditions.” ~Arthur Rubenstein And another of my favorite quotes: ~Jennie Jerome Churchill: “Life may not be everything we want it to be. But to make the best of things as they are is the only way to be happy.” All of us in these rooms have experienced addiction in one form or another: in ourselves or in a loved one. It’s a cruel illness because unlike many serious illnesses that are incurable, drug addiction is often conquered by the sufferer. Many addicts recognize that they have the power to change if they are committed to recovery. Different people have different ways of dealing with it: some use 12-Step recovery, some use prayer, or yoga, or running, or writing things down. No one way is better than another. Whatever works for you. The point is that dealing with addiction is painful and messy. My life was derailed because of it. But I found a way to recover—from my own addictions as well as my addiction to saving my daughter, Angie—and I got my life back. I’m filled with gratitude everyday for that. And I wish us all the same peace and joy for that freedom. I learned to be happy. I learned “to make the best of things as they are.” And that’s quite a...