marilea.rabasa@gmail.com

Addiction Is A Disease

  From Sharing Experience, Strength and Hope, September 5: “I have learned that addiction is a disease. It may never go away, but with the help of my Higher Power, I can learn to accept it and then try to live with it. I once heard that addicts need special help when they were ready for recovery. Immediately, I agreed because this is what I wanted to hear, so I enabled, paid her debts, and manipulated her through her crises, thinking that this would keep her clean. What I did not realize is that I was doing this with expectations. When it did not work, I became angry. Going to Nar-Anon meetings, I learned about the effects of manipulating and enabling. Thanks to the program, I am able to make decisions and set boundaries in my own way, and in my own time. I believe that by dealing with the suffering and challenges in my life, with dignity and courage, ultimately good will come from it, even though it may not always be apparent to me.” “All will be revealed,” they say in one of the programs. I don’t know what will come to me in the future, but I do know that living “with dignity and courage,” something I was never able to do before I came to the rooms, has helped me to grow and expand in my understanding of the world and the people in it. I will appreciate all that I have in my life and enjoy it, one day at a time. I will do my best to live well. I “won’t leave before...

The Yellow Brick Road

A Member Shares on Recovery: “The Yellow Brick Road” “We are both on a path, the addict and I. When I think of this path, I often remember the yellow brick road in The Wizard of Oz. Has anyone ever noticed when Dorothy starts down the yellow brick road there is also a red brick road? As a child, I always wondered what would have happened to Dorothy if she had taken the red brick road instead of the yellow brick road. Well, I look at our paths, the addict’s and mine, as being on those two roads—me on the yellow and her on the red. We are not supposed to cross over to each other’s paths. That would not help either of our programs… Sometimes I catch up with others on my path, or they catch up with me: other parents, other spouses, other loved ones affected by the disease of addiction. I know I am never alone. The same thing happens on the addict’s path. She may meet other addicts, some in recovery, some not. Sometimes addicts may stop and sit for awhile; they may ponder whether this is the right path for them. We can only hope they will move on, but we cannot pull them forward because we are not on the same path and it is not our job. That job belongs to their Higher Power and the timing of it is completely out of our control. Sometimes both of our paths are fraught with obstacles the same as Dorothy’s with the Wicked Witch, the flying monkeys, and the poison poppies. How we deal...

We’re Not Responsible

“My father made attempts here and there to give up gin and tobacco.  When he had his gall bladder removed the nurses made him cough into a bag, and he was so disgusted with what came up that he stopped smoking for a while. But he never completely set aside his self-destructive behavior. It was like an old friend who reminded him of what he’d often felt as a child from an uncaring, abusive father: “You’re not good enough, not important enough.” As a young man working in the family business, he met and fell in love with my mother, who spent a good part of their marriage echoing his father’s disappointment in him. Where do the seeds of addiction take root? It’s the old chicken and the egg confusion. Was my father predestined to become an alcoholic? Or was he made one by the emotional abuse he endured? And if the latter is true, then how and when was I an emotional abuser of my own daughter? But Twelve-Step recovery gently steers us away from questions like that; we can’t go back and do things over.  And I’m only human. I sometimes ask myself what I did wrong or what I missed seeing. Then I remember that addiction is a disease: “I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it.” And like a gentle breeze blowing away the clutter of remorse, I let go of those thoughts and embrace my life again, free of responsibility. In any case, whatever she chose to do now, I needed to leave her alone to do it. I...

Love And Enabling

A while back I read Libby Cataldi’s book, Stay Close. In my book, I say that I try to stay in communication with Angie, but reading Libby convinced me to “stay closer.” Now, after years of recovery work, I feel strong enough to try to keep up communication without feeling drawn into the orbit of her manipulation and insanity. Whatever happens, I want her to know that I’ve always loved my daughter inside the addict—and I always will. In the Afterword in Libby’s book, Dr. Patrick MacAfee has these words to say: “I believe that ‘stagli vicino’—staying close but out of the way of the insanity—is best. If you are dealing with addiction, offer the addict roads to recovery, not more money or bailouts. Excuses keep people sick…The fear of watching a loved one failing is frightening, but don’t let it cloud your realization that the natural extension of love and caring may only enable the addict’s condition.” That’s a very fine line. We want to help our loved ones, of course. But often giving cash to an addict is like oxygen to a fire. It just feeds the addiction. There are so many other ways to offer help, and when they are ready hopefully we’ll be stronger to give...

Alice In Wonderland

“’Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’ The Cheshire Cat: ‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.’ Alice: ‘I don’t much care where.’ The Cheshire Cat: ‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.’ Alice: …’So long as I get somewhere.’ The Cheshire Cat: ‘Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.’ It’s worth noting here that of the four rehabs Angie has been to this one, the one she herself wanted produced the best results in her. Why? Because she wanted it—as plain and simple as that sounds. She wanted it because for the first time in her disease she felt her life was in danger—not from drugs—but from the life and the people that accompany them. A few years down the road, no longer a stranger to the danger that went with this way of life, three more rehabs would be placed in front of her, like roadblocks: ‘Choose, Angie, do this or die.‘ And to her credit, I suppose, she chose to go where we wanted to send her. ‘Where we wanted to send her.’ That’s why they didn’t work. She wasn’t ready to make that commitment again. She was just Alice tripping from one place to another, when all of a sudden this bulldozer broke through the ceiling and screeched, ‘Angie, come with me. I want to save you!’ And ‘curiouser and curiouser’ she cracked, ‘Oh, what the hell, I need a vacation from all this anyway.’” ~excerpt from my award-winning addiction memoir, A Mother’s Story: Angie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, by Maggie...

Finding The Courage To Change

“Sixth Step Prayer: Dear God, I am ready for Your help in removing from me the defects of character which I now realize are an obstacle to my recovery. Help me to continue being honest with myself and guide me toward spiritual and mental health.” This is the step that separates the men from the boys. Four and Five ask us to look at our defects and share them with someone else. But we still need to find the willingness to remove our defects of character. You’d be surprised how many of us cling to our faults, including me. They often serve a purpose, sometimes twisted or mysterious. The pain from our defects is at least familiar to us, and removing them can be unsettling. Step Six is about readiness, willingness. My partner and I have a farm. We till the soil, add fertilizers, coffee grounds. We ready the earth for growing in the spring. That’s what Steps 4-6 do. They ready us for a kind of personal revolution, a change in ourselves. Change is very hard work. We are what we are for a reason. And letting go of our faults, which serve some function, can be hard. But I ask myself as I prepare to take this step if I need these defects anymore. Do I need them to be happy? No! Do I want to be happier? Yes! Then it’s time to shed some of my self-protective armor. It might be that glass (or six) of wine at the end of the day. It might be our stubbornness, our need to be right all the time....

Lightening My Load

From Hope for Today, April 22: “One beautiful spring day I was walking in the forest. A slight breeze blew through the trees. The birds sang and fluttered. I bent down, picked up a rock, which I named loneliness, and put it in my knapsack. I walked along a little further, enjoying the wildflowers as I passed. I paused again and picked up another rock, which I called hatred for my alcoholic stepfather. As I traveled further I picked up some more rocks—suspicion of others, isolation, fear, and uncertainty. Soon the beauty of the forest ceased to capture my attention. My knapsack was so heavy I couldn’t think of anything else. The rocks weighed me down so much I felt as though I had almost lost myself beneath their weight. Eventually I walked through the doors of Al-Anon and found the tools I needed to start emptying my gunnysack…Surrender in Step One helped me admit how heavy my sack had become. Hope in Step Two taught me there was Someone who could help me empty the sack—a Power greater than myself. Step Four helped me determine which rocks were mine and which ones belonged to others…Living one day at a time and sharing with my sponsor helped me shrink my gunnysack back into a knapsack and find new things to put in it, such as kindness, compassion, love, and humor. Instead of weighing me down, these lift me up into the light and life of recovery.” I can’t improve on those thoughts at all! The metaphor is perfect for me. This miraculous program has guided me through the fog...

Loosen Your Grip—Take Two

From Courage to Change, March 28: “What happens when I physically hold on tightly to something? I turn my head away. I squeeze my eyes shut. My knuckles ache as my fists clench. Fingernails bite into my palms. I exhaust myself. I hurt! On the other hand, when I trust God to give me what I need, I let go. I face forward. My hands are freer for healthy, loving, and enjoyable activities. I find unexpected reserves of energy. My eyes open to see fresh opportunities, many of which have been there all along. Before I complain about my suffering, I might do well to examine myself. I may be surprised by the amount of pain I can release by simply letting go.” As with most other things in my life, I have a choice. I choose to use the tools at my disposal that have helped me to be a happier, more serene person: gratitude, acceptance, faith. Life is good; it’s all a matter of...

The Debate Continues

From Courage to Change, March 24: “When I accept that alcoholism is a disease, I am forced to face the fact that I am powerless over it. Only then can I gain the freedom to focus on my own spiritual growth. ‘A family member has no more right to state, ‘If you loved me then you would not drink,’ than the right to say, ‘If you loved me you would not have tuberculosis…’ Illness is a condition, not an act.” The NIH (National Institute on Drug Abuse) has stated: “Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain; they change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long and can lead to many harmful, often self-destructive behaviors.” The debate continues: is it a disease or a choice? A person who has the disease, before they know it, might try a dangerous drug or alcohol and become hooked. Another person who doesn’t have addictive disease might experiment in the same way; but he can walk away. Disease just is; you either have it or you don’t. Choice is what the addict decides to do about it: get help or not. I have two daughters: Angie has been a drug addict for fifteen years; today she chooses to continue in her disease. I have another daughter who has also tried drugs a few times; but she walked away. She chose to live healthfully. Which one of my girls is an addict? Accepting that addiction...

Going Back To Childhood

From Courage To Change, March 22: “In order to survive in the contradictory and explosive world of alcoholism, many of us learned to ignore our feelings. We lost touch with ourselves without even knowing it. For example, although I pointed an accusing finger at the alcoholics in my life for deserting me in times of need, I wasn’t a very good friend to myself. In my fear and confusion, I walked away from the little child in me who lived simply, who cried when the cat died and then let it go, who could appreciate a sunset and not want to own it, and who lived one day at a time. Recovery does not mean that I have to become a different person. It means I need to start being myself again. The lessons I’m learning in Al-Anon are lessons I already know. I just need to remember. Today’s Reminder: There is an innocence within me that already knows how to trust my Higher Power, to cherish life while holding it lightly, to live fully and simply in the present moment. I will allow that part of myself to come forward and nourish me as I continue on this journey. ‘It takes a long time to become young.’ Pablo Picasso” It’s taken a long time in recovery for me to let go of my fears and need to control—and trust again. Loosening my grip on everything, letting go of outcomes, trusting that God has a plan and is a lot smarter than I am—these are a few elements of my recovery that have made my life so much simpler....