marilea.rabasa@gmail.com

Silver Linings

  From Courage to Change, January 11: ‘For me, alcoholism has proven to be a bittersweet legacy—bitter because of the pain I suffered, and sweet, because if it weren’t for that pain, I wouldn’t have searched for and found a better way of living.’ “Al-Anon Faces Alcoholism”   Some say they’re grateful to the addict for bringing us into the rooms. It’s one of my life’s greatest ironies. How can I be grateful for my recovery when it was the loss of my daughter Angie that motivated me to embrace it? There’s no easy answer to that question. So, I take refuge in my faith. I believe that God has a plan for us all, and his plan for me and Angie is being fulfilled. “And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today…unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy.” (The Big Book, p. 417)  I try every day to hold onto the serenity I’ve found. I want that for all of us struggling through the despair of addiction. Praying we can find some peace in the midst of this cruel disease, through any means possible....

Thawing Out Emotionally

From Opening Our Hearts, Transforming Our Losses, p. 174:  “Alcoholism has been called a robber and a thief because it steals so much from those of us affected by it. I have faced many losses as a result of growing up with this family disease. First and foremost, alcoholism robbed me of my capacity to feel my emotions. So, when my parents divorced, I tried not to feel anything. When my father left, I blocked my grief. Each time another loss surfaced over the years, I succeeded in burying it. Years later, I entered the rooms of Al-Anon and very slowly began to thaw out from this emotionally frozen condition. As time passed, divorce, geographic separation, and death brought losses to my life. With each loss, the Al-Anon tools and fellowship were there to support me, but only to the extent that I allowed.”   That disclaimer at the end is important to acknowledge because the tools in the program are available to me even though I don’t always use them. But like any other habit that I incorporate into my life for my own betterment—like healthy eating and exercise—I need to keep at it with regular practice. And eventually, like breathing and feeling grateful for the abundance in my life, it becomes second nature. “I keep coming back; I work it cuz I’m worth it!”...

More Letting Go

From Each Day A New Beginning, October 29: “Perfectionism may be our bane, as it is for so many of us in the program. We’ve learned to push, push harder, and even harder yet, not only ourselves but those around us. We must be better, we think, and we tighten our hold on life. The program can teach us to loosen our grip, if we’ll let it. The magic is that when we loosen our grip on this day, this activity, this person, we get carried gently along and find that which we struggled to control happening smoothly and naturally. Life is a series of ironies.” I like the word “gently.” I enjoy my ability to take deep breaths and relax more. What I do or don’t do in life isn’t that important in the scheme of things. I do well to remember that, to remember my place. To honor my responsibilities, but not to take on what is not mine to do. I don’t need to be perfect in any way, and I will laugh at my frailties. With this attitude, I feel welcomed into the human race—not isolated from it. Letting go is a constant process, and necessary for continued growth. I swept through my closet recently and purged it of clothes I no longer wear. As I get older, I find I need to let go of more and more things. People, character defects, outdated attitudes—they are all subject to my scrutiny. And I am continually trying to let go of things that no longer serve my well-being. It’s hard to release my hold on some...

Trusting In Ourselves

From Hope for Today, November 12: “Serenity? What is that? For years, I was like a weather vane that spun around according to the air currents that other people generated… I attributed these mood swings to nervousness, lack of assurance, and whoever else occupied the room at the time. Serenity always seemed beyond my control… Where does this serenity come from? It comes from trusting that everything in my life is exactly as it should be… It comes when I choose to care for myself rather than to fix someone else… THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: I am powerless over many things, but my serenity is not one of them.” In the rooms I am learning to keep the focus on myself rather than obsess about fixing other people. We have learned to “release our addicts with love and cease trying to change them.” I am the only person I have power over, and when I pay attention to my own growth and betterment, everyone else in my life benefits. This is selfishness at its best. Someone once told me that the greatest gift we can give our children is our own happiness. So I will continue to strive for it every day—and it will nourish them and all the people in my...

Our Growth Through Recovery

 From Opening Our Hearts, Transforming Our Losses, p. 170: “Reflecting on our progress: ‘Looking back, I can still experience the pain I once felt. But it’s the looking back that tells me how I have grown.’ …We recall where we were at the onset of our grief and acknowledge where we are today. Step Twelve is not only about our own changes. One member came to realize that Step Twelve is about more than creating a better life for himself; it is also about encouraging and helping others. When we share our struggles and the changes we’ve made, we inspire others and offer hope that healing from our grief is possible. ‘Thanks to Al-Anon, I have done more than just survive. I have emerged as a stronger, more loving, and more compassionate human being.’”   I liken the onset of my grief to being in a dark tunnel. Absolutely immersed in darkness and stumbling around, for lack of light. I stumbled around for a long time, crippled by my own demons and an inflated sense of responsibility. Thank God for my recovery program which I finally had the good sense to follow. Years later, humbled by my inability to save my daughter, after countless meetings, readings and sharing, I decided that I was worth saving. Unless we live in a bubble, there are surely other people in our lives whom we love and who love us. I miss Angie terribly, and I pray for her every day. But it’s the other people in my life who are benefitting the most from my ongoing recovery. I’m grateful that I stayed...

Happy Thanksgiving

Dear Friends, It’s that time of year again—that challenging time of year—when holidays and all they symbolize beckon us into that place of remembrance. This is the time of year when I really step up my program.  A spirit of gratitude has been the one tool that has always worked to elevate me from my despair around my daughter. So I hope that we can bring that spirit into our lives during this season of thanksgiving and count our blessings. We’ve all lost loved ones one way or another to the cruel disease of addiction. But the sun still comes up every day and sets every night. Life goes on—and we with it. Let’s keep hope alive and live our lives as best we can. Blessings to you...

Feeling Grateful Is A Blessing

From “When I Got Busy, I got Better,” p. 33:  “Gratitude in Action” “I see Lois W. as an image of the many Al-Anon members from whom I have received the peace of this program—regular folks from all walks of life, people with no special credentials, degrees, certificates, titles, or privileges. Each of them has done or said something from which I’ve gained a measure of serenity, courage, or wisdom. Each of them has striven to pass on a sense of a spiritual awakening with the same open-handed generosity extended to them. Each of them has helped me by acting on the thought that service is gratitude in action.”   When I’m engaged in service, I’m not focused on myself or my problems. I give whatever I can, and I always receive more in return. Since I was very young, volunteering and other forms of service have been healthy ways to deal with personal troubles. I gain perspective when I remember that many other people are having more difficult lives for any number of reasons. When I stay focused on what’s good in my life, gratitude flows freely from my heart....

Our Power Over Words

From Each Day A New Beginning, October 23: …words are more powerful than perhaps anyone suspects, and once deeply engraved in a child’s mind, they are not easily eradicated.” ~May Sarton How burdened we become, as little girls, with the labels applied by parents, teachers, even school chums. We believe about ourselves what others teach us to believe. The messages aren’t always overt. But even the very subtle ones are etched in our minds, and they remind us of our “shortcomings” long into adulthood… Our partnership with God will help us will help us understand that we are spiritual beings with a wonderful purpose in this life. And we are as lovely, as capable, as successful as we perceive ourselves to be…It takes practice to believe in ourselves. But we can break the past’s hold on us.” The step work in my recovery program has been critical in helping me find the “courage to change.” Whatever we become as adults, and however we got there, need not define us now. “Happiness is an inside job,” and I’ve needed to dig deep to get at the source of what wasn’t working in my life. But I needed to help. My Higher Power and the fellowship I’ve enjoyed in the rooms for almost sixteen years have helped me discover the miracle that was always just around the corner. I’m so grateful to be alive and have this second chance to live my life in a better way. I wish the same for all my friends here. God...

A Family Disease

“Where might my daughter be now if fate, or genes, had been kinder to her? Now, several years into her illness, I am coming to terms with the terrible legacy that began generations ago in my own family and which I have unwittingly passed on to my daughter.  All these years I’ve diligently searched for answers, clarity, and solace in the face of terrible pain. Like a gift from the universe, it has come to me slowly, and it is with me now. But it’s been a hard won victory. I liken the effect addiction has on families to a bomb exploding in the living room with everyone nearby.  The shrapnel hits us all in different places; none of us is left untouched, though some may be wounded more than others. Some even ignore the explosion or block it out as the insidious effects of addiction take root in these bewildered individuals. What happens when a bomb drops anywhere? Doesn’t everybody run for cover? That’s what happened in my family. Angie’s brother and sister got out of the way as much as possible—a healthy response, I suppose—shrapnel wounds can be pretty dreadful. It broke my heart to see them pull away from their sister. But now Angie was so isolated in her family. And so began the long journey, Angie’s father’s and mine, of carrying her, much of the time, on our backs.” ~excerpt from my award-winning memoir, A Mother’s Story: Angie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, by Maggie C. Romero, available on Amazon   I got an email from my old friend in Virginia whose son is a heroin...

Making A Difference

From “When I Got Busy I got Better,” p. 21 “After feeling so powerless while living unsuccessfully with alcoholism, I see now that I can make a difference. I’ve learned to let go of the things I cannot change and to work on changing the things I can. I’m ‘letting it begin with me.’ I ask myself: am I ready to make a difference?”   We can resolve to make a difference just about anywhere: volunteering in about a trillion different organizations in need of help; doing the dishes when your husband is too tired to; feeding your neighbor’s dog. Any activity that gets me out of myself is often time well spent. We don’t always realize that the little things we do are making a difference in the lives of others. Someone said, “Service is the rent we pay for a space on this earth.” I like the spirit behind that quote because it reminds me to be less self-centered and remember the needs of others in need of help. When I do something for them, MY self-esteem soars. And in giving, we all know, we...