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Detachment 101

“Detachment is not detaching from the person or thing whom we care about or feel obsessed with. Detachment is detaching from the agony of involvement.” Boundaries…boundaries…boundaries. Where do I end and the other person begins? A strong sense of self enables us to set clear limits with others. I was terribly enmeshed in Angie’s life; I had never separated from her in a healthy way. Because we were so alike, I identified with her and felt overly responsible for her messes. Her problems became my problems and it never occurred to me to let her tackle her own issues, both for her betterment and my own. But thankfully my work in recovery has helped me face myself in the mirror and make some important changes. I made the necessary separation, first of all, from Angie. I no longer feel the “agony of involvement,” as I’ve let go of Angie’s illness and the ensuing consequences of her drug use. I can’t save her from herself. I can only love her and be here for her should she choose to walk with me in...

The Ache In Their Souls

Memoir Excerpt:  “While Angie was in Fredericksburg, I really stepped up my attempts to reach her. For one thing, I had an address to mail things to. For another, I thought she might be reachable while she was in Doc’s care. But I see in so many of my communications a dreadful tendency to condescend to her. I still clung to the illusion of control and I wanted her to do things my way. ‘Honor them, Angie, honor them.’ I know what I meant when I said those words to her, reminding her of the moral code I had raised her with. But how she would react to them was a different matter. Many of my letters to Angie throughout her addiction were pages of barely veiled anger and disappointment. Since she was so sick I didn’t have the heart or the courage to be more honest with her. She saw through the mask anyway. My letters demonstrate how deeply entrenched I still was in needing to fix and control her. I needed to back off and let her find her own way. I kept hearing my mother’s old (imaginary) voice in me: “You can’t let go of her, Maggie. That’s not love. You can’t just stand by and let her self-destruct!” It’s no surprise that she never answered these letters. Angie was well into her twenties by now and I should have known better anyway. I really needed to do more of what the Program was telling me to do. Even in my own journey of self-discovery, no one could have told me that I was OK. I...

Attitude Is Everything

From Courage to Change, May 27: “There have been days when many of us felt that good times would never come again. After so many disappointments, it seemed too painful to continue to hope. We shut our hearts and minds to our dreams and stopped expecting to find happiness. We weren’t happy, but at least we wouldn’t be let down anymore. Caring, hoping, wanting—these are risky. But as we recover from the effects of alcoholism, we may find that the risks are worth taking. In time, it may not be enough to simply avoid disappointment; we want more; we want rich, full, exciting lives with joy as well as sorrow. Just finding the willingness to believe that joy can exist in our lives today can be very challenging, but until we make room in our hearts for good times, we may not recognize them when they arrive. Nobody is happy all the time, but all of us are capable of feeling good. We deserve to allow ourselves to experience every bit of joy life has to...

Looking Within

Memoir Excerpt:  “That summer (2009) 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...

Find Something To Smile About

Silver linings are everywhere in our lives. I try to appreciate them when I see them. My family has lived through four generations of alcoholism, but it wasn’t until my daughter was stricken with drug addiction that I was motivated to go into serious recovery for myself. Losing Angie all these years to this cruel disease has been heartbreaking, and my serenity has come at a very high price. But though I’ll never get over these lost years with her, I like to think that she would be glad that I’ve survived and am learning to live well. This is how I honor her memory. She’s left a few flowers along the way, and I’m...