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Suffering Is Optional

From Hope for Today, January 30: “The alcoholic was obsessed with alcohol, and I was obsessed with the alcoholic. I watched, monitored, controlled, and exercised my need to feel hurt. I felt self-pity, embarrassment, superiority, resentment, and anger. All of these took obsessive turns filling my mind and heart. I wondered why I indulged in these draining behaviors and emotions, which only resulted in further misery for me. In Al-Anon I began to realize that wretchedness and gloom, though familiar and comfortable to an extent, were optional. Serenity is possible with changes in my attitude, expectations and responses. Today I want to exercise my option to be happy, to feel calm and good.” I indulged in these draining behaviors because I was sick too, a fact that many of us find very hard to accept. Joining this recovery fellowship has been a real education for me, as I gradually learned that loving an addict and/or living with him/her has taken a powerful toll on me in ways that I often couldn’t see. What may have appeared to be healthy coping mechanisms when I was a child—trying to control the chaos around me, for example—has become a losing battle when I’ve tried to take control of the addict I love. “My life had become unmanageable…” Yes, when I needed pills to go to sleep. Yes, when I couldn’t afford many things for myself because I was giving money to my addict. Yes, when  I took responsibility for the tragedy of addiction, isolating myself behind a curtain of shame, like a bad person, certain that God was punishing me. Now, I...

Stormy Weather

The road to my spiritual life began when I was a young child growing up in an alcoholic family. But I didn’t start to walk this road until halfway through my life when my daughter fell ill with drug addiction. I was very unhappy growing up. It’s a classic story of family dysfunction that many of us have experienced as children. But back then I didn’t have Alateen to go to. My father was never treated and died prematurely because of his illness.  I, too, was untreated for the effects of alcoholism, and grew into an adult child. Many of us know how rocky that road is: low self-esteem, intense self-judgment, inflated sense of responsibility, people pleasing and loss of integrity, and above all, the need to control. I carried all of these defects and more into my role as a mother to my sick daughter, and predictably the situation only got worse. I was a very hard sell on the first three steps of Al-Anon, and my stubbornness made me ill and cost me my teaching career. But once I did let go of my self-reliance, my whole life changed for the better.  The Serenity Prayer has been my mantra every day. I’ve learned to let go of what I can’t change. I don’t have the power to free my daughter Angie of her disease, but I can work hard to heal from my own.  This is where I’ve focused my work in the program. My daughter has gone up and down on this roller coaster for fifteen years, and right now she’s in a very bad place....

What Do You Mean, Accept?

From Hope for Today, February 3: “How ready and willing am I to invite the transforming power of acceptance into my will and my life? ‘Al-Anon offers us a new beginning…We can learn to accept ourselves and become willing to change our attitudes for the better.’” On the topic of addiction, there are a myriad of things to accept—or not accept. I recognize that this topic invites debate. But I believe that addiction is a brain disease, and accepting this as true has simplified my life a great deal. It has enabled me, for one thing, to take the first step in my recovery program, admitting my powerlessness over addiction. I’m powerless over all illnesses. I can assist my loved one to get help, but I can’t wave a magic want and wish her illness to go away. Just like a diabetic, my daughter Angie needs to take her medicine if she wants to manage her illness and stay healthy. So, this is my truth. Avoiding it and continuing to deny, judge, control, and enable only add to the sorrow and suffering I’m already going through. For me, acceptance and faith go hand in hand, and practicing them both on a daily basis lightens my load a great deal and improves the quality of my...

Loosen Your Grip!

From From Survival To Recovery, page 268: “Living fully requires enough trust to release our manipulative, tight-fisted control of life, for only then can we accept the guidance of a Power greater than ourselves. For adult children of alcoholics, our damaged, devastated trust has to be healed and nurtured bit by bit until we feel safe enough to truly let go and let God. Trust does not come from reading a book, however inspired, but from experiencing new relationships in which we are trusted and we can learn to trust those around us…If we willingly surrender ourselves to the spiritual discipline of the Twelve Steps, our lives will be transformed…Though we may never be perfect, continued spiritual progress will reveal to us our enormous potential…We will laugh more. Fear will be replaced by faith, and gratitude will come naturally as we realize that our Higher Power is doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves…” “We will laugh more.”  How can I, beset by depression and instability for many of my early years, come to revisit my life now from another perspective? How have I learned how to laugh and see the comedy in things? What has enabled me at last to live well and be happy? Being in the rooms. But I hasten to add that we can learn the same tools elsewhere: the tools of letting go and accepting what we can’t change; the tool of gratitude (a big one—half the world is starving; I have enough food and a roof over my head); the tool of detachment and understanding our personal boundaries in relation to...