My Glass Is Half Full

From Daily Word, May 7:

I Create My Own Joy

“Joyfulness is a choice. I know my thoughts can affect my feelings. If I feel resentful, angry or fearful, I take a moment to look at why I feel this way. This is my point of choice. I can consider various ways to see a situation or person. In so doing, I may be able to change my feelings from down and destructive to joyful and constructive.

I look for and find reasons to be joyful. As I choose happiness, others feel it too.”

My daughter is a drug addict, in and out of recovery for fourteen years. We are completely estranged right now. Many of us know the pain of that kind of loss, where our addicts are alive but not in our lives. Yet I also have two happy children and two wonderful grandchildren. I have more years behind me than ahead of me, and I want to make the most of my life now. I choose not to count my losses, but to celebrate my blessings. I choose joy.



Memoir Excerpt:

“Hi Mom. Guess where I am! My sponsor took me on a ride on a tram in the San Jacinto Mountains! It’s gorgeous up here. I can see for miles and miles.”

“Thanks for calling, Angie, and sharing this with me. I love you!”

I always ended our communications with those three words. Even if we were fighting, and the words got ugly, I made sure she knew that I loved her. I no longer took for granted that this was just another phone call. I never knew if this was going to be the last one. High up on the mountain with her sponsor, could they see what was coming? In the movie Out of Africa, Karen Blixen said, referring to her imminent illness, “The world was made round so that we couldn’t see what was coming down the road.” And that’s a good thing. How would our lives be altered if we all had a crystal ball?

That summer I wanted her to come visit and see our farm in the Southwest. In she flew from sunny Palm Springs to sunny New Mexico, and it was a joy to have her with us for a few days. Angie is, among other things, a very talented artist, and I asked her to paint a little sign naming our farmhouse Casita del Mar, so named because of my huge shell collection. It still hangs on the post in my front courtyard, though in the years since her visit it has sustained a lot of weather damage.

We had fun, tooling around Santa Fe, and visiting the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. I knew she would appreciate seeing this artist’s work. Angie had a gift for expression, both in the spoken word and in her renderings. As a child she wrote a lot of poetry. She also could capture on paper a face or expression with great accuracy. In art school I was good at drawing elevations and brick walls, but I couldn’t begin to draw someone’s face. Angie had a great gift.

We continued north up the slow mountain road to the Taos Pueblo, where we visited a potter we knew and bought some more of her pieces. The next day we took Angie up the tram on Sandia Crest, where you can see for miles in three directions. Looking out for hundreds of miles—and looking within. I knew I was doing a lot of that in my own recovery, but Angie never shared her recovery work with me. On our last day together we celebrated her birthday at dinner in Corrales. Of course, she had to get back to work. We hugged at the airport and said goodbye. Again, there were so many goodbyes—so much uncertainty. I will never allow complacency into my life again. I will never, ever, take a moment of happiness for granted.”


Grateful To Be Growing Within

From Sharing Experience, Strength and Hope, June 16:

“I remember feeling my anger and resentment lessen at my first meeting when I learned that addiction is a disease, like cancer or diabetes. I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it and I can’t cure it.

Today I am grateful that I am married to an addict because I have been given the opportunity to explore my spiritual nature and move out of my comfort zones. I have taken a good look at who I am, what I want and where I’m going. I am facing my past, my faults and my fears. I am becoming a better person, a happier person, and a more serene person. I am slowly but surely learning not to suppress my emotions and fears, but to release them and grow.”

‘No longer forward nor behind I look in hope or fear. But, grateful, take the good I find, the best of now and here.’  John Greenleaf Whittier

Just for today, I will pay attention to my blessings. I have so much to be grateful for, and I guard against complacency. It can all be snatched away in a heartbeat, so I take nothing for granted. This is a good way to live, savoring every good moment.

Guilt And Redemption

Memoir Excerpt:

“This journey of mine, this parenting journey, would involve going two steps forward sometimes and then three steps backward. It was not vertical progress I was making, but it was progress. And strangely, the more I kept the focus on myself and striving to be happy, the easier it was to let go of my child. I knew I had paid my dues, and I feared no one’s judgment, least of all God’s.

I’ve railed at God many, many times during these dozen years of joy and pain, this God they speak of at Twelve-Step meetings. How many times had I sinned in my life? Many, more than I want to remember. And so the child in me had been sure, earlier on, that I was being punished for all of them. It was my karmic payback. “What goes around comes around,” etc. Indeed, for all of my life, before my breakdown, I had no faith in any thing or any one other than myself. I grew up very lonely and isolated, and if there was a god, he wasn’t paying any attention to me. So I learned to be very independent and self-reliant.

But when I finally found myself on my knees, I felt broken and whole at the same time: broken because my MO for dealing with my problems hadn’t been working; and whole because I finally let myself believe in something outside of myself to strengthen me, to fill in the gaps that were missing in me, and to help me cope. I was starting to develop and cling to a faith that assured me that I was not being punished and that I would be OK in the end, no matter what happened to my daughter. And I realized that fighting Angie’s battles for her was not only a waste of time; it was also useless and of questionable value.

My energies, spent though they were, would be better directed toward reclaiming my own life, which had been sorely compromised in the fight to save my daughter. And in reclaiming my own life, I was bidding for my redemption, long overdue, but just within my reach. This was my journey now, I knew it; I sadly accepted it. I wanted us to be connected but we weren’t. I wanted her struggle to be our struggle, but it wasn’t. I wanted to save her life but I couldn’t. I could only save my own. And I’d keep working at it—or this relentless disease would claim two more victims instead of one.”

Resistance Training

From In All Our Affairs, Making Crises Work For You, Surrender:

“Let go and Let God. It sounds so simple. But when our circumstances or the circumstances of those we love weigh heavily on our minds, we may have no idea how to do it. Some of us struggle with the very idea of a Higher Power. Others begin to question long and deeply held beliefs, especially in stressful times…

Many of us review the same scenario again and again, looking for that elusive answer that will solve everything, obsessively wracking our brains for something that we could do differently or should have done differently in the past…As long as there is a chance of figuring out a solution, we reason, we should keep trying…We may secretly feel that this problem is too important to trust to God, as if we had the power to prevent God’s will from unfolding by the mere exercise of our resistance. We fear that if we surrender, anything could happen—

Actually, anything could happen whether we let go or not. It is an illusion that as long as we cling to the situation we have some control…Surrender means accepting our powerlessness to change many of the realities in our lives…It means trusting instead in a Power greater than ourselves. Faith has been likened to being in a dark tunnel and seeing no glimmer of light but still crawling forward as if we did. Though our circumstances may seem dark indeed, when we turn to a Higher Power rather than to our own stubborn wills, we have already begun to move toward the light.”

My resistance training at the gym has shown me that pain comes from putting resistance on the force exerted, and that has served me in strengthening my body. But my spiritual life demands just the opposite. I will let go of my strong will to save Angie and trust that God has a bigger plan. I have faith that things are unfolding as they are meant to—and in God’s time.

My Daughter/Myself

Memoir Excerpt:

“Parents of addicts need to remember that addiction is not a choice: who in their right mind would choose to stick a needle in their arm day after day and live in the gutter? It’s an illness, and has been recognized as such by the American Medical Association. Victims of addiction of all forms deserve compassion, and hopefully they will avail themselves of the recovery opportunities out there.

Angie told me once that she hated NA meetings because pimps, dealers, and strung-out junkies just itching for their next high often attended them. But in her case I don’t think that’s true. I think she didn’t go to meetings because she needed to deal with her addiction her way, and not be told by anyone else what to do: CSR—compulsively self-reliant—just like her mother.

Or maybe she just wasn’t ready to embrace recovery at all, a painful possibility I had not yet considered. I was still determined, at that point, to believe that she was going to beat her addiction and that I, of course, would be the glorious savior she would spend the rest of her life thanking, handing me my redemption on a silver platter.

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. My mother unconsciously did the same thing with her children: she was a demanding perfectionist, beating back the pain of self-doubt and unworthiness by raising “successful” children. I’m very glad to have found recovery from my dysfunctional upbringing. It has helped to “relieve me of the bondage of self.” And most importantly, most importantly of all, my recovery has freed my children.”

Staying In The Solution



The Problem: Someone we love is sick with addiction.

The Solution: Acceptance of my powerlessness over someone else’s addiction; Faith in God’s plan; Gratitude (for ice cream and sunsets…and rainbows).

Every day when I wake up I do my best to live in the solution; my life works better when I do.

Second Chances

A close friend ended a heartfelt note recently with these words: “Marilea, I really regret keeping that secret from you all these years. I just couldn’t tell you, and I’m sorry. Can you ever forgive me?” My response to her: “There’s nothing to forgive! I don’t waste my time with might have been’s, what should have been done differently, or said more—because that doesn’t serve me now. We don’t get to go back and do things over. But we do get a second chance to live well. We can pass on what we’ve learned to all our loved ones. And those who come after us will benefit from our hard-won lessons. That’s enough for me. And when you think about it, that’s a great deal! Much love to you,”

Dwelling on the past keeps us stuck and unable to move ahead in our lives unencumbered. In Courage To Change, there’s a wonderful saying: “Look back without staring.” We can certainly know and understand where we’ve come from. But it doesn’t have to limit our possibilities now. We just need to find the courage to change what’s necessary and move forward.

“Nana, Do You Believe In God?”

Memoir Excerpt:

“Xavier and I had spent a lot of money on rehabs. But it didn’t matter. I’d already hurt my health, ended my career. But none of that mattered to her. The only thing that mattered, the only thing, was her willingness to do what was necessary to get well.

If she had had cancer, and the doctor said she needed chemo to get well, she would have needed to go for her chemo treatments. If she’d had diabetes, and needed insulin to stay alive, she would have needed to take insulin. She held all the cards, all the passports, to a healthy life, the life her parents had dreamed for her when she came into the world. But could she do it alone? I didn’t believe so. Some addicts recover without having faith in something outside of themselves; they rely on willpower, among other things. Faith in God or any “higher power” is, for many addicts, a difficult idea to embrace. And Angie, ever since she was little, had been a confirmed atheist.

In 1987 when Angie was eight, she was visiting my mother in Massachusetts. She adored her Nana, and confided in her things that I didn’t know about. During one of these chats, Angie said,

“Nana, do you believe in God?”

“Well, of course, Angie, don’t you?” my mother responded.


My mother, before she died, used to love telling me that story. She was tremendously amused by Angie’s stubbornness and independence. But now, at this point in her life, Angie needed faith more than anything, because whatever she was using up to this point was having no lasting impact on her recovery. In the Program, they define insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again, and hoping for different results.” Well, flooding your brain with dangerous drugs clearly does make you crazy, temporarily or otherwise. Angie needed to change course if she was going to get well. She needed to do things differently. But what I realize now is that what she chose to do and how she chose to do it was/is out of my hands.”

The Wind In My Sails



“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.” Louisa May Alcott


I often hear that we must deal from strength, and I believe it to be true. So many times when I’ve made decisions based on fear, my judgment has been faulty and they haven’t been good ones. Now I’m learning to tame my fears, even turn them over to God. I’m freer to make clear-headed decisions and remain flexible—but sure. It’s going to be a beautiful day.