OMG, what I’ve learned about ego and control could fill a book. A friend once told me that ego is what separates us from oneness with God. What she meant, I think, was that our ego run amok might separate us from a lot of things here on earth.
It separates us from others when “we have to be right.” It separates us from a lot of people when we feel we know what’s best for them and try to impose our will on him or her. When it’s a loved one who is self-destructing, we feel and ARE utterly justified in our well-intentioned attempts to influence him or her. And we can be right until the cows come home, but others will follow their own will (especially if the physiological need for drugs is present). We can hope and pray, but in the end we must accept our powerlessness over another adult’s illness—and let go.
Just—let—go…boy, is that hard!
“One of the promises of Al-Anon is that we shall learn to be “happy, joyous and free.” I like the free part best. For too many years I’ve been chained to my own human failings. I never understood with such clarity my own defects and limitations until I started to work this Program. I was so lonely and isolated. But when I came to believe after much trial and error that I was in fact powerless over addiction—mine, Angie’s and anyone else’s—I fell to my knees and turned this struggle over. And I felt so much lighter. Now, at last, I was off the hook. I’ve turned over all the lost years with Angie and turned my attention to things I can control now. And that has given me the freedom to focus on other things.
My spirituality is based on three factors: far less EGO (Easing God Out), humble acceptance of whatever my lot is in life, and the vision to appreciate every day for all the good that I can see and experience. In this way, the principles of this Program have changed my life. It’s really great to be alive, and for so many years my life was utterly joyless. That’s the power of the spirit coming alive in me through my spiritual Program.”
From Survival to Recovery, p. 25-26:
“Unless recovery is found, blame, guilt, anger, depression, and many other negative attitudes can go on for generations in a family affected by alcoholism…Focusing on ourselves actually allows us to release other people to solve their own problems and frees us to find contentment and even happiness for ourselves.”
We all have different stories of how addiction has touched our lives. In my life, guilt was a constant theme from very early in my childhood, and, as I said in my memoir, “Guilt is a terrible crippler.” It crippled me, especially, when my own child mirrored the addict in me and morphed into a worse and more dysfunctional addict than I ever was. Guilt and self-blame put me at risk in setting and enforcing boundaries, in becoming an enabler, in shielding Angie from the logical consequences of her behavior. In short, guilt kept me from parenting my daughter intelligently and kept me stuck in a hole. Fortunately I found recovery and release from my own guilt, much of it misplaced, which in turn is freeing Angie to live her own life and solve her own problems.
“Meth addicts can go for days without sleep sometimes, and then they need to crash, recoup their energy and start the cycle all over again. I went back upstairs, tiptoeing around the house, a minefield waiting to be activated by just the wrong look or comment. Most of the time I felt like a scared rabbit.
Angie came and went like a phantom between the holidays. She was a body, yes, but nothing else resembled my daughter. Her face was still healing from the burns she had gotten from freebasing crack cocaine back in October. She lost all her beautiful eyelashes then and had been wearing false ones ever since. How bizarre: false eyelashes at age twenty-two. And the eye drops—always the eye drops. She ate not at all as far as I could see, nothing from my refrigerator anyway. She was painfully thin. But, of course, meth took away your appetite. That was the point, one of them, anyway. All those years ago when I took amphetamines, I delighted in the same side effect. Life was repeating itself and I was in a time warp observing myself at the very same age. God, it was so painful.
We barely spoke. Sometimes she mumbled “Hello,” but mostly she just needed a place to crash and get her clothes. Why wasn’t she living with that creep, her pusher? I was glad she wasn’t and at the same time I’d wished she were. Every day was a surreal pageant, dancing around with this stranger. The terror was so disorienting that I lapsed into denial sometimes and pretended it wasn’t happening. But that was easier to do when I was working. I was on a break from school now and I couldn’t escape from it. It was right in front of me.
As New Year’s approached, I couldn’t bear it anymore. Did I snap? I hadn’t even joined Al-Anon yet, but years later I would hear a saying at meetings: “In Al-Anon we learn to trade a wishbone in for a backbone.” Amazing! I was ready to cross these frightening waters before I even had the support of the group. But I would flee, in subsequent years, to higher ground all too often, unable to navigate effectively. This was going to be a journey as much for me as for Angie, I soon found out. And like most journeys there would be many bumps in the road.”
A Mother’ s Story: Angie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
reviewed by Dylan Ward
“Romero’s unflinchingly honest memoir recounts her life growing up with an alcoholic father, her mother’s emotional abuse, her distant sister, and her own struggles with an eating disorder that’s “like a panther ready to pounce at vulnerable times.” She faces a lifelong battle with her addiction and as a mother she reluctantly witnesses her daughter, Angie, succumb to a similar life of addiction and pain…
Romero alternates with time in her memoir, reflecting on the past and present, attempting to understand key moments and decisions that ultimately affected her family and where she is today. Her complex relationship with Angie is detailed with an emotional and truthful perspective of a mother who, despite everything, still loves her daughter. Through A Mother’s Story Romero comes to terms with her own failures and successes while exorcising the demons that plague her.”
RECOMMENDED by the US Review
“’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.’”
I am not a victim, but an active participant in my own life. I learned the 3 A’s in Al-Anon: awareness, acceptance, and action. Those are three very loaded concepts. Awareness requires some honesty and courage, the willingness to look in the mirror and face one’s reflection—sometimes good and sometimes not; acceptance asks us to recognize the difference between changing what we can and what we can’t, which is really huge and really hard for most ordinary humans like myself; and action asks more courage of us to make changes—rendering our lives happier and more productive.
I may be an adult child, but I’m growing up. I will take responsibility for my own life, for my successes and my failures. In this way I feel empowered, no matter the outcome, to be the star in my own show. “I don’t want to wake up one day and find I’m at the end of someone else’s life!”
“Angie worked at one part-time job after another, saving her money in the bank. I bought her an old car so she could drive to school and she never abused the privilege. Friends were important to her, but she remained focused on school and work. Angie was endlessly thoughtful to both her parents and grandparents on special occasions. And the list goes on.
If I was surprised by my daughter’s drug addiction in 2001, this is why. Later on once her addiction had taken hold of her, I would be incredulous at the dysfunctional behavior I was seeing. It’s as though she had become possessed. She had problems, but I thought I was helping her deal with them responsibly. There were no visible red flags. She didn’t stay in bed every day and pull the covers over her head. She diligently saw her therapist every week, facing every day with discipline and good humor. She never missed her classes and she never quit her jobs. Her grades were excellent. Maybe—and this is important to recognize now—this was the beginning of the denial that would hamper me throughout Angie’s addiction, preventing me from dealing with her illness intelligently and effectively.
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.”
How we think about ourselves is conveyed to others. If we put ourselves down, or have self-deprecating humor, what will others think of us? I will try to guide my thoughts better and guard my tongue more. My inner struggle toward self-fulfillment is very real, but it’s personal. I don’t need to share it with everyone I meet.