marilea.rabasa@gmail.com

Lessons From Nature

“Take rest; a field that is rested gives a beautiful crop.” ~Ovid I was blindsided by my daughter’s drug addiction. Maybe I shouldn’t have been, but I was. So I went into high gear from the beginning in an effort to save her. I did what many parents do. We all do what we can because we love our children and we want them to be okay. But I exhausted myself and I crashed hard. I had to make some serious changes in my life in order to survive the strain of being an addict’s mom. With much gratitude I embrace my recovery program now. In the rooms I have learned so many things: to let go of my guilt; to accept that addiction in a loved one isn’t my fault; to detach with love; to cease obsessing about my addict and focus more on myself, changing my attitudes, and making my life better; taking care of myself; resting my mind and my body. There’s a lot of peace from accepting what I can’t change, as much as that hurts. I’ve stopped wearing myself out trying to convince Angie to reenter recovery from her addiction. Only she can make that decision; I accept that now without resistance and recognize my powerlessness. Life is unfolding as it was meant to. I believe things happen for a reason, and I hold onto that faith....

HOPE: Happy. Our. Program. Exists.

“The first gift a newcomer receives from contact with Al-Anon is hope. Seeing how others rise above their problems, listening to situations worse than their own, absorbing the atmosphere of love and goodwill, send them home with a new lease on life.” (One Day At a Time in Al-Anon, pg.94) “Happy Our Program Exists.” Well, that’s an understatement! Without the tools I’ve picked up in the rooms of recovery, I would be very depressed. It wasn’t easy to undergo a complete overhaul of my attitude, but I needed one. I came into the Program miserable, anxious and terrified. I felt overly responsible, as though what I did could cure my daughter’s illness. But over time I’ve learned to let go of a situation I lacked the ability to change. There’s a lot of freedom in...

Emotional Calisthenics

  From Hope for Today, August 20: “The more I feel my smallness and powerlessness, the more I grow in spirituality.”   There’s a lot of wisdom in that short sentence. And it has everything to do with turning our will over to a Higher Power. It’s about letting go of our ego more and becoming right-sized. This is hard work, because catering to our ego is part of what makes us human. We are all at times slaves to our will and desires, but living with an addicted child in the family all these years, I’ve learned how my will can distort reality. Turning myself into a pretzel was destroying me. I’ve learned to accept what I cannot change, and allow the peace and serenity of the Spirit to fill me up. I don’t have the power to change my daughter, though I wish with all my being that I did. So I’m still learning to let go, even after all these years. It’s so very hard; Angie is my child. Life goes on, and there are other voices out there. I’m listening to...

DETACH: Don’t.Even.Think.About.Changing.Him/Her.

“How can I best help the alcoholic? By not interfering when he gets into difficulties. I must detach myself from his shortcomings, neither making up for them nor criticizing them. Let me learn to play my own role, and leave his to him. If he fails in it, the failure is not mine, no matter what others may think or say about it.” One Day At a Time in Al-Anon, pg.29) For mothers of addicts, detachment is one of the hardest tools to use. We are inevitably joined through years of raising, nurturing and loving our children as best we could. And when things go so horribly wrong as they do with drug addiction, it’s only natural to question ourselves and how we raised them. Self-blame is common, as we take on too much responsibility for our child’s illness. I myself overcompensated where I shouldn’t have. I felt guilty and that guilt crippled my judgment. I became an enabler, and that prevented Angie from learning from the consequences of her (drug-induced) behavior. Thankfully, I’ve had years of recovery work to learn how to detach from the pain of watching my daughter self-destruct. I did send her to several rehabs and hoped that a sound upbringing and family love would turn her life around. But ultimately the choice to recover (or not) is hers alone. I wish I had the power to change her. I wish things were different. But I have two other children who were raised the same way, and they are blessings in my life. I’ve stopped blaming myself, and I’ve learned to accept a situation I...

Where Do Rainbows End?

  Memoir Excerpt: “A parent never gets over losing a child, Carlos. I’ve learned how to be happy and make the most of my life. My recovery Program is strong. But I’ll never stop missing Angie and all her possibilities. Never. When addiction claims our loved ones, we often feel resentful. It feels to us like we had been tagged, even though we had run as hard as we could. It’s taken me a few years to get to a place where I don’t feel angry or gypped anymore. My lot is no better or worse than any other mother’s whose child was struck down by illness. Whether or not she outlives me—as is the law of nature—remains to be seen. In the meantime, I must remember to watch the mountain turn into a big red watermelon, and enjoy the colors of New Mexico.”...

Remembering Angie

  Today is my daughter’s 39th 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 appreciate 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...

HOW: Honest. Open. Willing.

“Honesty, open-mindedness and willingness are the three primary principles in laying down a solid foundation for recovery. Honest with oneself. Being open to a Power greater than ourselves and willing to take certain steps.”   For a long time I avoided looking in the mirror. I used to walk down a busy street and turn my head away from any mirrors or reflections of myself. Why did I do that? I’m not so hard on the eyes! But it’s not about my physical appearance. I think it goes much deeper than that. There was much about myself that I didn’t like, but rather than face it squarely I hid it in denial. I didn’t really know myself at all, and I wondered sometimes why I had the problems I had. Especially why other people reacted to me the way they did. I realized I needed to make some changes in myself, and one of the first steps for me was taking an honest inventory of my defects of character, especially my resentments. They were weighing me down and acting as roadblocks in a number of my primary relationships. I guess things had to break down pretty badly in my life for me to open my mind to change. And willingness followed easily because I wanted to be happy. Without healthy relationships with my loved ones, I wasn’t. I will always be grateful to have found my recovery fellowship. It’s there that I learned the tools to live well and strive to be happy. One day at a time, I work hard to be honest with myself and others, remain...

Standing In My Own Light

STEPS: Solutions. To. Every. Problem. “If we have Al-anon, there is no need to stand in our own light and try to solve our problems in darkness. The ways and means that Al-anon offers have lighted the way for so many thousands of despairing people that no one can question their power. “When I am faced with a problem that seems impossible to solve, when I feel trapped in a situation and can see no way out, let me ask myself whether I am standing in my own light. I must find the vantage point where I can most clearly see my difficulty as it is; then answers will come.” (One Day At a Time in Al-Anon, pg.297) The 12-Steps are my guidelines for living. There is so much I’ve learned: about powerlessness, about faith, about  honesty and the importance of making amends, about owning up to my mistakes on a daily basis and trying to make things right, and finally, I tell others how I’ve learned to be happy and appreciate my life, despite my losses. I might have picked up these tools for living elsewhere. I happen to have found them in recovery fellowships. I got my life and my sense of humor back. No small accomplishment. And I’m grateful.  ...

QTIP: Quit Taking It Personally

“When the guilt of the alcoholic explodes, I must realize that it is always aimed at those nearest, and often dearest. I want to remind myself that such outbursts only reveal the drinker’s own unhappiness. I will not make the situation worse by taking seriously what the alcoholic says at such times.” (One Day At a Time in Al-Anon, pg.55) I can think of two run-ins I had with loved ones recently because they were in a bad mood and I was handy. Instead of internalizing it as though it were my fault—and overreacting badly—I might have brushed it off and tried to brighten their mood a little. Next time I’ll try...

More Breathing Lessons

“These are the only genuine ideas, the ideas of the shipwrecked. All the rest is rhetoric, posturing, farce.” Jose Ortega y Gasset taken from Richard Rohr’s book Breathing Under Water 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. How we navigate our lives together on that ship is as varied as the shells in the ocean. But 12-Step work has a lot in common with many other forms of spiritual recovery, some of them organized religions. I go out of my way to avoid the “R” word, but don’t we all seek peace and serenity in our troubled world? The tools we use strive toward the same goal. We need not be divided. We all pray for the same miracles, the health and wellness of ourselves and our loved ones. When I remember that, I feel as though we are all part of the same...