marilea.rabasa@gmail.com

The Benefits Of Fellowship

From From Survival to Recovery, p. 19: “Surrounded by other recovering people, we are learning how to heal our broken hearts and create healthy, productive, joyful lives…(our program) has led many of us to serenity, fellowship, and relief from loneliness and pain.” Because of the stigma and shame surrounding all forms of addiction, many of us have kept our loved one’s problem (or our own) shrouded in secrecy. I did most of my life, and only in recent years have I dared to share my family disease with the rest of the world. I realized that until I faced the dreaded subject and learned more about it, it would continue to rule me and my family. “It” is addiction and all of its effects and consequences. They are far reaching, especially for the family of an addict. And they can become terribly complicated as we become enmeshed in the lives of those we love. Being in the rooms of recovery has helped me untangle the mess. That’s why a number of programs have been so valuable to many of us who suffer. We break out of our isolation and share our stories with others like us. We gain valuable perspective by listening to others. Our self-esteem soars as we see others listening to us and validating our experiences. We are offered compassion and understanding inside the rooms when it may be hard to find either of those things on the outside. And we begin our journey toward getting our lives back when once they seemed to be...

FEAR: False. Evidence. Appearing. Real.

“In Al-Anon, the answer to ‘What if?’ Is: ‘Don’t project! Don’t imagine the worst; deal with your problems as they arise. Live one day at a time.’ I cannot do anything about things that haven’t happened; I will not let the past experiences make me dread the unknown future. ‘It is a vain and unprofitable thing to conceive either grief or joy for future things which perhaps will never come about.'” (One day At a Time in Al-Anon pg. 193) In another recovery book is this quote: “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow; it only saps today of its strength.”  A.J. Cronin said it better than I ever could. If I choose to put my foot in the future and worry about things that haven’t happened yet, both my feet are no longer planted in the present, and I’m not focused on what’s happening right now. The present, whether good or bad, is the only thing I can genuinely experience. So I owe it to myself to live it, learn from it, benefit from it, and go to sleep. Tomorrow will come soon...

Changed Attitudes

  “I am the adult child of two alcoholics. Before I came into Al-Anon, I had no dreams or hope. I saw my life through my husband’s drinking. I had heard about Al-Anon, but couldn’t conceive how it could help me. As long as my husband was still drinking and had no intentions of stopping, how could going to meetings and focusing on myself make a difference in my life? My existence felt like an out-of-control whirlwind that nothing could stop… Without Al-Anon I would be on a dead-end road. Instead, my path is one of belief in the gift of recovery.” From Hope for Today, August 31:   Substitute “my husband’s drinking” for my daughter Angie’s drug problem and that’s my story. I was so joined at the hip with my child that I couldn’t separate my life from hers. Hers was chaos, so mine was too. As her parent, I felt overly responsible for her problems, and I took on too much. It helped her not at all when I shielded her from accountability and took on the blame myself. I needed to find some relief. My recovery program has given me some tools to manage my life better. I’ve learned to detach with love, I’ve let go of my guilt, stopped enabling, and I’ve learned to have faith in someone other than myself. Though I thought I did at first, I did not know what was best. Being in the rooms was a complete education for me and I learned how to cope with Angie’s addiction more effectively. When I was willing to face the fact...

Happiness Is A Choice

From The Forum, December, 2016 “Someone else’s drinking brought me to the meetings, but day-to-day living keeps me coming back.” When I joined the rooms of recovery, I thought that if my my daughter would just change, then I would be happy. I looked everywhere for the magic bullet to bring about this change. Time passed, and for a while it looked like Angie was changing. And then she wasn’t. I was confused. How was I ever going to be happy if I kept riding on the roller coaster with her? It was time for me to get off. I needed to realize that a lot of my problems were of my own making. And allowing my happiness and well-being to depend on other people isn’t wise because I have no control over them. But I do have power over my own life and the choices I make. So I’ve learned to put the focus back on myself and change in ways that will help me to live better. I’ve let go of obsessing over a disease I can’t control. And I’ve turned my attention to other things and people in my life that bring me joy. My recovery program has shown me how to work the tools “in all my affairs.” It has shown me how it benefits me everywhere. It started with my daughter. But, with or without success on that front, I can still lead a good and productive life elsewhere, enjoying healthier relationships to really make my life worth...

Lessons From Nature

“Take rest; a field that is rested gives a beautiful crop.” ~Ovid I was blindsided by my daughter’s drug addiction. Maybe I shouldn’t have been, but I was. So I went into high gear from the beginning in an effort to save her. I did what many parents do. We all do what we can because we love our children and we want them to be okay. But I exhausted myself and I crashed hard. I had to make some serious changes in my life in order to survive the strain of being an addict’s mom. With much gratitude I embrace my recovery program now. In the rooms I have learned so many things: to let go of my guilt; to accept that addiction in a loved one isn’t my fault; to detach with love; to cease obsessing about my addict and focus more on myself, changing my attitudes, and making my life better; taking care of myself; resting my mind and my body. There’s a lot of peace from accepting what I can’t change, as much as that hurts. I’ve stopped wearing myself out trying to convince Angie to reenter recovery from her addiction. Only she can make that decision; I accept that now without resistance and recognize my powerlessness. Life is unfolding as it was meant to. I believe things happen for a reason, and I hold onto that faith....

HOPE: Happy. Our. Program. Exists.

“The first gift a newcomer receives from contact with Al-Anon is hope. Seeing how others rise above their problems, listening to situations worse than their own, absorbing the atmosphere of love and goodwill, send them home with a new lease on life.” (One Day At a Time in Al-Anon, pg.94) “Happy Our Program Exists.” Well, that’s an understatement! Without the tools I’ve picked up in the rooms of recovery, I would be very depressed. It wasn’t easy to undergo a complete overhaul of my attitude, but I needed one. I came into the Program miserable, anxious and terrified. I felt overly responsible, as though what I did could cure my daughter’s illness. But over time I’ve learned to let go of a situation I lacked the ability to change. There’s a lot of freedom in...

Emotional Calisthenics

  From Hope for Today, August 20: “The more I feel my smallness and powerlessness, the more I grow in spirituality.”   There’s a lot of wisdom in that short sentence. And it has everything to do with turning our will over to a Higher Power. It’s about letting go of our ego more and becoming right-sized. This is hard work, because catering to our ego is part of what makes us human. We are all at times slaves to our will and desires, but living with an addicted child in the family all these years, I’ve learned how my will can distort reality. Turning myself into a pretzel was destroying me. I’ve learned to accept what I cannot change, and allow the peace and serenity of the Spirit to fill me up. I don’t have the power to change my daughter, though I wish with all my being that I did. So I’m still learning to let go, even after all these years. It’s so very hard; Angie is my child. Life goes on, and there are other voices out there. I’m listening to...

DETACH: Don’t.Even.Think.About.Changing.Him/Her.

“How can I best help the alcoholic? By not interfering when he gets into difficulties. I must detach myself from his shortcomings, neither making up for them nor criticizing them. Let me learn to play my own role, and leave his to him. If he fails in it, the failure is not mine, no matter what others may think or say about it.” One Day At a Time in Al-Anon, pg.29) For mothers of addicts, detachment is one of the hardest tools to use. We are inevitably joined through years of raising, nurturing and loving our children as best we could. And when things go so horribly wrong as they do with drug addiction, it’s only natural to question ourselves and how we raised them. Self-blame is common, as we take on too much responsibility for our child’s illness. I myself overcompensated where I shouldn’t have. I felt guilty and that guilt crippled my judgment. I became an enabler, and that prevented Angie from learning from the consequences of her (drug-induced) behavior. Thankfully, I’ve had years of recovery work to learn how to detach from the pain of watching my daughter self-destruct. I did send her to several rehabs and hoped that a sound upbringing and family love would turn her life around. But ultimately the choice to recover (or not) is hers alone. I wish I had the power to change her. I wish things were different. But I have two other children who were raised the same way, and they are blessings in my life. I’ve stopped blaming myself, and I’ve learned to accept a situation I...

Where Do Rainbows End?

  Memoir Excerpt: “A parent never gets over losing a child, Carlos. I’ve learned how to be happy and make the most of my life. My recovery Program is strong. But I’ll never stop missing Angie and all her possibilities. Never. When addiction claims our loved ones, we often feel resentful. It feels to us like we had been tagged, even though we had run as hard as we could. It’s taken me a few years to get to a place where I don’t feel angry or gypped anymore. My lot is no better or worse than any other mother’s whose child was struck down by illness. Whether or not she outlives me—as is the law of nature—remains to be seen. In the meantime, I must remember to watch the mountain turn into a big red watermelon, and enjoy the colors of New Mexico.”...

Remembering Angie

  Today is my daughter’s 39th birthday. She made this tapestry for me after her first rehab. She was always interested in Oriental art and designs. I think the simplicity fascinated her. For a long time I couldn’t look at it. In my early recovery, I was still wedded to the “If onlys.” But over time, I’ve learned to let go of “might have beens” and appreciate what is. I hang the tapestry proudly on my wall now. It’s one of many of my happy memories of her. I had twenty-one years with her as my daughter before addiction hijacked  and transformed her. I’m grateful for the good years I had with my daughter. I love...