marilea.rabasa@gmail.com

Lighten Up! Do We Still Know How To Laugh?

  From Courage to Change, March 13: “I’m apt to think of Step Seven—‘Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings’–as a step I take tearfully and on my knees. I’ve had that experience, but I want to entertain the possibility that Step Seven might be taken with joy—and even humor. Sometimes the sign that I have actually gotten humble enough to ask my Higher Power to remove a shortcoming is that I can laugh about it. Suddenly a past action or decision of mine seems ludicrous and I can stop taking myself so seriously… So the next time I want to tear my hair out because I haven’t gotten rid of some nagging shortcoming, I’ll try to lighten up and see how silly my intensity can be… Desperation and pain can certainly lead me to humility, but in Al-Anon I’m cultivating a new and eager willingness to follow my Higher Power’s guidance. Because I am willing, I’m freer to learn from all of life’s lessons, not just the ones that hurt.” How did I ever get here? When I began my recovery journey I was in so much pain I couldn’t see through the river of salty tears I was drowning in. I was consumed with sadness, alternately watching Angie slowly self-destruct and determining to save her from herself. We all know that unhappy place, and we pray to be released from our sorrow. I’m one of the lucky ones; I stuck around long enough to learn how to laugh again. “whether the alcoholic is still drinking or not…” I’m not angry at God anymore and I accept His...

Taking Care Of Ourselves

Wisdom From The Rooms: “In Al-Anon we learn how to exchange a wishbone for a backbone.” Setting and enforcing boundaries with our loved ones is difficult, and can seem harsh at times. But many of us see all too clearly the effects of drug use on our loved ones: the loss of their moral compass which can lead to lying, stealing, verbal abuse and worse, all as a result of flooding their brains with dangerous chemicals. It can become a matter of our survival to stay strong and take care of ourselves, even when that means making excruciating choices. At the end of the day, we owe it to everyone else in our lives to survive and try to live well. Then, God willing, if the addict needs us to walk through recovery with him/her, we’ll be strong enough to do...

Chasing The Butterfly

From Each Day A New Beginning, July 19: ‘At fifteen, life had taught me undeniably that surrender, in its place, was as honorable as resistance, especially if one had no choice.’—Maya Angelou “We had to surrender to a power greater than ourselves to get where we are today. And each day, we have to turn to that power for strength and guidance. For us, resistance means struggle—struggle with others as well as an internal struggle. Serenity isn’t compatible with struggle. We cannot control forces outside of ourselves. We cannot control the actions of our family or our co-workers. We can control our responses to them. And when we choose to surrender our attempts to control, we will find peace and serenity. That which we abhor, that which we fear, that which we wish to conquer seems suddenly to be gone when we decide to resist no more—to tackle it no more. The realities of life come to us in mysterious ways. We fight so hard, only to learn that what we need will never be ours until the struggle is forsaken. Surrender brings enlightenment.” Thank you, Amazon customer, for this wonderful review of my book, A Mother’s Story: Angie Doesn’t Live here Anymore, by Maggie C. Romero (pseudonym): “One of the most honest and insightful accounts to date of a mother’s struggle to win the battle over her daughter’s addiction. Told in unsparing detail, it takes us step by step through the dark tunnel of despair with all the triumphs and mistakes on the road to recovery. It is an inward journey that reveals three important concepts: understanding the...

The Poison Of Resentment

I think we often forget how much carrying resentments burdens us. As they say,”It’s like swallowing poison and waiting for the OTHER person to die.” It’s only natural to feel angry sometimes, to develop a resentment. But if we have no control over it, it’s best to let it go. There are many healthy ways to do this: go for a run, write in a journal, confront the person in question and try to talk it out peacefully, turn the resentment over to God; the list goes on. Before I got into recovery I lost sleep a lot, overate a lot, shopped a lot, and buried my feelings a lot. But these are not healthy ways to respond to resentments. And they didn’t go away anyway. Another jingle I hear in the rooms is this: “expectations are premeditated resentments.” So once I’ve developed a resentment, I take a step back and look at the expectation that probably got me there. And I try to confine my expectations to myself—to people, places and things that I have some control over. Staying in control is important to us, so I try to keep my expectations within reasonable bounds. Staying focused on me is a step in the right direction, and ensures that I’ll have a happier...

Weathering The Storms

From Each Day is A New Beginning, May 16: ‘It is only the women whose eyes have been washed clear with tears who get the broad vision that makes them little sisters to all the world’—Dorothy Dix “The storms in our lives benefit us like the storms that hit our towns and homes and wash clean the air we breathe. Our storms bring to the surface the issues that plague us…Recovery is a whole series of storms, storms that help to sprout new growth and storms that flush clean our own clogged drains. The peace that comes after a storm is worth singing about.” Growing up surrounded by addiction and falling prey to the disease myself, I was in the veritable forest, unable to see the trees. My deep and overriding love for my daughter forced me to open my eyes and see what was right in front of me. I took a large leap toward healing myself so that I could be well enough to enjoy all my blessings. As I conclude in the final chapter of my memoir, “What could be a better testament to Angie, to all her gifts and possibilities, than to go forward with my life savoring every moment?” Many friends in Al-Anon have expressed gratitude to their addict/alcoholic for getting them into the rooms of recovery— these same friends who, like me, deeply mourn the lost years with our loved one—but who, also like me, refuse to offer another victim up to the altar of addiction. We have made it through the storm, and have found that we have something to sing...

There Is No Glory In Martyrdom

“Early in Angie’s illness, I flailed around in denial, sometimes strong, as when I handed her logical consequences for being abusive. I felt like a moth turned into a butterfly then. But I later added, ‘Oh how this butterfly would flutter and die in the years that followed, as I backtracked over and over again, trading in my courage for equal does of martyrdom.’” ~except from A Mother’s Story: Angie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore by Maggie C. Romero It’s been quite a roller coaster ride these past fifteen years. At first I wouldn’t believe it was really happening. “This sort of thing happens to other people’s children,” I wrote in my memoir. What arrogance! I simply couldn’t accept it. But when she was living with me and stealing anything that wasn’t nailed down, it was hard to ignore. So for a while I got tough, even told her to live elsewhere more than once. But addicts are, if nothing else, resourceful. I often write that deep pockets are dangerous, enabling us to be generous and feel good about it. I was able to put Angie through rehab four times, but one time would have been enough to teach her the tools of recovery. For recovery to be successful, whether it’s once or ten times, the addict has to be ready.  I was just buying time, trying to keep her off the streets long enough to get sick and tired of being sick and tired. In the program there’s a wry saying: “Sit there. Don’t do anything.” And so I was the one who was getting sick and tired. I...

Let Go…And Strive To Be Happy Yourself

“Third Step Prayer: God, I offer myself to thee to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy power, Thy love and Thy way of life. May I do Thy will always!” My willfulness has always been my Waterloo. But I never saw it as a bad thing. I saw it as strength, determination, and power—the opposite of weakness. But I’ve had to modify my will and determination to save Angie. After years of using my strong will and stubbornness to fight a battle that wasn’t mine to fight,  I’ve learned to let go. From well-meaning friends over the years, I’ve heard these comments: “But how can you drop the ball like that? How can you give up on your own child? She’ll think you don’t love her anymore! How can you be so cruel?” Those people need to walk a mile or two in my shoes. The cruelty belongs to the Monster (if it had an appearance), the brain disease, that is claiming millions of our children. After years of educating myself about the nature of addiction, I have settled on my own path to recover from the effects of this illness. I have  no more power to cure Angie of her addiction than I would have if she had schizophrenia. Drug addiction and co-existing mental illness is very common, and there are many treatments out there. My daughter suffered from depression for...

The Good Daughter

“Angie was a good daughter. But please, beware of the complacency in those words.  Clearly, she hid her pain very well. Clearly, much was lurking beneath the surface that I did not see. And if I ache with the vacant promise of all the “woulda, coulda, shouldas,” it’s because I know that even if I had known what was coming down the road, I couldn’t have stopped it.” ~Maggie C. Romero, A Mother’s Story: Angie Doesn’t Live Here...

Expectations

In recovery, we learn to profoundly adjust our expectations, hard as it is. We raised one child, and now we have another. We are all too aware of the change that drugs have produced in our children. A parent wrote in Sharing Experience, Strength and Hope (the SESH book) a very revealing statement, something I could have written myself. It is a key to understanding my story, my mother and father’s stories, and my daughter’s painful struggle: “I expected my children to be perfect, to always do the right thing. I tried to control them by giving them direction and making them do things in a way that I felt was correct! When they didn’t, I could not handle it. I could not accept their drug use and I felt that their behavior was a reflection on me. I was embarrassed for myself and scared to death for them. I became so distrusting of my children that I showed them no respect. I would meddle and invade their privacy looking for any excuse to challenge and confront them. When I came to Nar-Anon, I learned that my interference and my attempts at controlling them were actually standing in the way of their recovery. I learned to let go of the control I never had in the first place.”   Those words echo my own from a recent blog: “I would finally, thank God, let go of the oppressive burden I was placing on my daughter by demanding she get well so that I could be OK.” This is a difficult statement for many of us to make. Angie’s active...

The Healing Power Of Writing

My friend from Virginia writes me that he took my book to his son who is serving a six-month sentence in jail. Justin was so moved by the book that he has decided to write his own story.  I am happy to have been a source of inspiration for him, because just the act of writing my story was healing for me. Likewise, it could prove to be the catharsis Justin needs to finally face his demons and walk away from drugs. David Sheff’s (Beautiful Boy, Clean) son, Nick, wrote his own gripping tale, Tweak, and it was very successful. We all have a story to tell. And even though we’re not all famous authors, our stories  have value to those of us walking down the painful road of addiction. I hope Justin and many other addicts out there write down what’s in their heart. More of us need to get these stories into bookstores. The shame and stigma of addiction will fade in time if we all come out of the shadows and tell our...