marilea.rabasa@gmail.com

Taking Ownership Of My Own Recovery

Memoir Excerpt: “Many people are not strong enough to battle the terrible force of addiction on their own. Application of the Twelve Steps had proven successful over and over again since they were put together by a couple of alcoholics and their friends back in the late 1930’s. Addicts need help; some say they need spiritual help. Our society is full of naysayers—skeptics who eschew these programs that are found in every major city across the country, and in big cities, in many of the churches, meeting three or four times a day. There’s a reason for the popularity of Twelve-Step programs: they work for many people. So I promised myself I would try harder now. Angie was worth it. Angie was worth it? There is no one place on this journey to pinpoint where I discovered that I was worth it. I knew what a flawed human being I was. I was aware of my mistakes along the way—big ones and little ones. But as I was starting to embrace the principles found in these Twelve Steps I was reacquainting myself over and over again with my own humanity and feeling my self-worth solidify with roots into the earth. None of this growth in me would have occurred if Angie’s illness hadn’t pushed me onto this path. And I would always—still—reckon with the survivor guilt that has challenged my right to be happy while my daughter still struggles with addiction. There are many who view Twelve-Step groups as cultish and unattractive. There’s such a powerful stigma in our society against addiction in all its forms that, I suppose,...

“Changed Attitudes Can Aid Recovery”

From SESH, June 27: T-H-I-N-K “Today I express my fears and know that my Higher Power will control the outcome. I am where I need to be. When I feel anxiety, I can focus on the slogan T-H-I-N-K, which reminds me how to react differently. T – Thoughtful H – Honest I – Intelligent N – Necessary K – Kind” Our shortest slogan, T-H-I-N-K, can be very helpful. However, as with most tools, I need to use it with care and reason. As I’ve heard it said around these rooms, ‘my best thinking is what got me here.’ For me, thinking too much or in a negative way is almost as dangerous as thinking not at all. Obsessive thinking can be my symptom of this family disease as much as obsessive drug use is the addict’s. I will try to free myself of pointless rumination and stay focused on the freedom of my recovery....

Angie’s Gift To Me

Memoir Excerpt: “When Angie came out of that first rehab, she made me the most beautiful gift. ‘Mom, I’m not quite finished with it. I just have a few more flowers to cut. You’ll need to find a 17-by-22-inch frame to mount it on. Sorry it’s such an odd size. Guess I wasn’t thinking. I copied it from one of my Chinese art books. I hope you like it!’ Right now it’s hanging in my room for me to see. Over the years I’ve taken it on and off the wall, hidden it in a closet, too painful for me to look at. Maybe it’s a sign of my recovery. Now I can leave it on the wall, look at it, and appreciate all the work she put into it. This was her way, I believe, of telling me she loved me and she was sorry, not for getting sick, but for what that sickness drove her to do to me. She never, ever, was able to express her feelings easily with words. So she showed me, in countless ways, as she did once in December 1993. “Where the hell is that $300 I put away for safekeeping? If you kids want any Christmas presents, you’d better help me find it now,” I shouted, panicking at the thought of losing my hard-earned cash. I was so scattered sometimes. I was perfectly capable of misplacing it. “Found it, Mom! Don’t you remember when you hid it in this book? Well, here it is. Aren’t you glad I’m as honest as I am?” “Yes, Angie, my darlin girl, I am. And...

The Healing Memoir

It was a pleasure to listen to John Evans on Friday’s NAMW Teleseminar. My recovery memoir exemplified a number of the kinds of writing he talked about in the interview with Linda Joy Myers: writing for healing and transformation; affirmative writing; legacy writing; and transactional writing. A Mother’s Story: Angie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore began as an attempt to heal from the pain of my daughter’s drug addiction. But as I dug deeper into those dark places he referred to, I uncovered many more truths about myself that I was ready to expose and come to terms with. This isn’t automatic for many memoir writers; indeed, this is often that terrifying place where the writing process stops and they back away, hoping to revisit another time.  Readiness comes at a different time and place for all of us, but I’m glad I was prepared to do the work that led to self-discovery and change. The cathartic process of typing ten hours a day for two years until my hands ached with arthritis proved to be a worthwhile effort. The grief around my daughter and my family of origin ceased to be a crippling force in my life, and I’ve truly been able to move on. Anger and depression left me, forgiveness (of self and others) came easily, and most importantly, acceptance of things as they are—without resistance— became my mantra. Shedding the negativity that had imprisoned me for so many years leads me to another kind of writing that John Evans talked about: affirmative writing. In a way, my whole memoir, from beginning to end, stands under the light-filled umbrella...

Self-Love

Unlocking the key to this is the key to 12-Step recovery, because with it we become empowered to intelligently deal with the addiction of a loved one. In a letter to another parent I said, “ I love my daughter with all my heart and soul. But it’s been learning how to love and value myself that has elevated me from the reality I live with—“elevate,” as in rise above, detach from, avoid becoming enmeshed in and manipulated by the addict. Oh, it’s a sad, sorry catechism we mothers of addicts must learn in order to survive the addiction of a child. But if we can create even a little bit of distance and objectivity from the problem that is consuming us, we might be gifted with some freedom: to look around us and appreciate (and allow ourselves to be distracted by)) other blessings in our lives, whether it’s a good job, good health, other healthy children, grandchildren, or a sunny day. Life goes on, relentlessly, with or without us. I choose to live well in the time I have left. My recovery has taught me that I deserve...