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Sometimes, Loving Is Enough

From Hope for Today, Al-Anon Family Group, Conference Approved Literature,August 14: “Holding on to anger, resentment, and a “poor me” attitude is not an option for me today…Remembering that alcoholism is a disease helps me see the person struggling beneath the burden of illness.” It’s so simple to give in to anger. Losing a loved one to addiction is pure hell. I’ve cried out against everyone: God, all those who stigmatize and judge addiction, all those who shun my daughter as though it’s contagious, and myself, too, for my misguided attempts to help her by enabling her behavior. Many years in the rooms of recovery have opened my eyes and my heart to the “new realities” of addictive disease. When I was growing up, I thought drug addicts wore tattoos and rode motorcycles. And of course they had to grow up in poverty. When my daughter became an addict, I was sure she would snap out of it. But I was wrong. This disease doesn’t discriminate. It can happen to anybody. The American Medical Association has helped by declaring addiction a brain disease. Now that I know my daughter has an illness, there is no room for blame or judgment. There is no room in my heart or mind for anger. I can only feel great compassion for her. And I will always love her. It’s as simple as...

Just Breathe

From Each Day A New Beginning, Karen Casey, August 19: “’…to have a crisis and act upon it is one thing. To dwell in perpetual crisis is another.’ ~Barbara Grizzuti Harrison Exaggerating the negative element in our lives is familiar behavior for all too many of us. But this obsession is our choice. We can stop at any moment. We can decide to let go of a situation that we can’t control…and be free to look at the possibilities for happiness.” When my daughter first became sick with addiction, I followed my instincts and ran to her rescue. I was totally caught up in the drama of it, the pain and heartache, eventually even a feeling of martyrdom. It wasn’t long before I became sick too—sick with depression and anxiety—and I sought relief. My recovery program has helped me understand the nature of addictive disease and accept that I have no more control over it than I would have over diabetes. A diabetic might need to take a pill to get better; Angie also has the power to heal from her illness. But the initial decision rests with her, not me. I can only offer support. Such acceptance has enabled me to let go of my inflated sense of responsibility and detach from my daughter’s problem. That in turn has allowed me enough space, enough breathing room, to step back and remove myself from all the drama. I no longer get sucked in like I used to. Now I’m “free to look at the possibilities for happiness.” I truly believe that in her best moments Angie would want me...

Seeing More Clearly

“After coming to Al-Anon, my emotional sight improved.” ~The Forum, 8/19, Al-Anon Family Group, Conference Approved Literature What does that mean? When I started wearing glasses, I could read better. Improvement in my emotional sight has been slower, and not so dramatic. By using the tools of the program, I started to understand how my own shortcomings were getting in the way of healthy choices for me. My guilt around Angie’s addiction was getting in my way, keeping me from resisting manipulation and unacceptable behavior in her. I had no healthy boundaries and didn’t feel I deserved to speak up for myself. This is crippling behavior between a parent and a child, especially a child on drugs. Many addicts when using will try to manipulate to get their way, even lie and steal. Lacking the ability to say “No!” to my daughter, she simply ran over me like a fast-moving train. Now, many years into my recovery program, I have healthier boundaries and stronger defenses against anyone who wishes to harm me. It is the greatest sadness in the world to know that one of those people is my own daughter. But she is split down the middle: the child I raised is lost right now; the addict is in charge when she is using drugs. It is the addict I must be wary of, not my daughter. Those of us with addicts in our lives need to be mindful of this. We can love our child and feel great compassion for him/her. But when addiction rules with all its attendant behavior, my experience has taught me that it’s...

Just Being Myself

“The Al-Anon program has helped me see that pleasing others over myself is no longer in my best interest.” ~The Forum, 8/19, Al-Anon Family Group, Conference Approved Literature I’ve always been a people pleaser. I wanted others to be happy, and I often sacrificed something of my own to achieve that. Not always something obvious like an object: my dessert, my jewelry, or my car. Usually it was much more subtle so I wouldn’t take notice: my time, my opinions, even my values. There was a time when I was like a chameleon, but like the lizard I was usually afraid of offending people. That’s why I made the “sacrifice.” But it was my integrity that, over time,  I lost. In recovery, I’ve learned to understand that people pleasing isn’t always a healthy behavior. Often we lose ourselves in the process. My step work has helped me get to know myself more honestly and like myself anyway. If I value who I am, it’s easier to stick to my guns and not fear the consequences if someone disagrees with me. The cost of losing myself to please others is greater than the benefit of being who I am. People respect...

Restore Me To Sanity

R “Second Step Prayer: Heavenly Father, I know in my heart that only you can restore me to sanity. I humbly ask that you remove all twisted thoughts and addictive behavior from me this day. Heal my spirit and restore in me a clear mind.” How often have we tried to play God, to control everything and everyone around us, especially if they’re on a self-destructive path? This, to be sure, is what provides us with a sound rationale for doing so. “He’s killing himself! We have to do something; we have to stop (SAVE) him!” I said those words, and played out that scenario, for a number of years. But it got me nowhere. My daughter has been in and out of recovery for seventeen years. And when she was in recovery, I was sure it was because of my efforts to save her from herself. Then, when she slipped out of recovery, I found a way to make myself responsible for that too. I was so joined at the hip with Angie, enmeshed in her illness, that I wasn’t paying enough attention to mine. I found myself exhausted and broken from all my efforts to save her. So I cut the cord and recognized that the path she was on was hers alone. I needed to forge my own path, continuing on my recovery journey. Nothing has ever been harder for me than this separation, watching her flounder in the grips of heroin addiction. Nothing. So I turn my pain over to God, and that gives me...

Walls Or Bridges?

“Thanks to my recovery program, I have learned to build bridges instead of walls.” ~”The Forum,”  Al-Anon Family Group, Conference Approved Literature What does that mean? From what I’ve learned in recovery, it’s about learning to set healthy, workable boundaries. And what does that word mean? A lot of questions! I grew up in an alcoholic family without many boundaries. There was a lot of guilt, and a fair amount of permissiveness related to that. My parents were sometimes neglectful and/or passive. I was allowed to run wild and became rebellious. Even my moral code was challenged. I was not a happy camper, and it showed. As an adult raising my three children, is it any wonder that much of my parenting was the same? We pass on what we were given. When Angie started abusing drugs at age 21, I was blindsided, but I shouldn’t have been. I was in such denial about myself and my own shortcomings that I was incredulous at the change in her. I couldn’t believe it! But, in time, with a lot of my own recovery, I learned to not only believe it but to understand it. And most importantly, not to blame myself for it. Because of MY misplaced guilt around Angie’s addiction, early on I set almost no boundaries with her. Why would I have to? She was 21; I had instilled a moral code in her since she was a child. What I didn’t realize, and gradually learned with horror, was how the personality of the addict changes, how they abandon their moral code over and over again to serve...

My Glass Is Half Full

From Hope For Today, January 23: “One of the gifts I have received from recovery is learning how to maintain an attitude of gratitude. Before the program I didn’t really understand the true nature of gratitude. I thought it was the happiness I felt when life happened according to my needs and wants. I thought it was the high I felt when my desire for instant gratification was fulfilled. Today…I know better. Gratitude is an integral part of my serenity. In fact, it is usually the means of restoring my serenity whenever I notice I’m straying from it. Gratitude opens the doors of my heart to the healing touch of my Higher Power. It isn’t always easy to feel grateful when the strident voice of my disease demands unhealthy behavior. However, when I work my program harder, it is possible. ‘Just for today I will smile…I will be grateful for what I have instead of concentrating on what I don’t have.’” Accepting life on life’s terms is hard. My daughter has been a drug addict for seventeen years, and I grieve the loss of her in my life every day. The five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance—I know them all, and not always in that order. My path to recovery involved a lot of denial in the beginning and, as it said in the reading, “the voice of my disease demanded unhealthy behavior.” So I’m grateful now for the serenity and peace that I have in my life. Acceptance is the gift I give myself every day when I let go and give Angie to God....

Seeing Through the Tears

S From Each Day A New Beginning, January 9: “‘The Chinese say that water is the most powerful element, because it is perfectly nonresistant. It can wear away a rock and sweep all before it.’ ~Florence Scovel Shinn Nonresistance, ironically, may be a posture we struggle with. Nonresistance means surrendering the ego absolutely. For many of us, the ego, particularly disguised as false pride, spurred us on to struggle after struggle. ‘Can’t they see I’m right?’ we moaned, and our resistance only created more of itself. Conversely, flowing with life, ‘bubbling’ with the ripples, giving up our ego, releases from us an energy that heals the situation—that smoothes the negative vibrations in our path. Peace comes to us. We will find serenity each time we willingly humble ourselves. ‘Resistance is more familiar. Nonresistance means growth and peace. I’ll try for serenity today.’” It is very hard to accept life on life’s terms. When I faced a heartbreaking situation in my daughter, I fought tooth and nail to free her of the addiction that had taken hold of her. And I was stubborn; I persisted. For several years, I resisted. But I learned that my power in her struggle was limited. And I needed to surrender my ego and my will to the power of my God. And have faith—a deeply held faith that everything in my life is unfolding as it was meant to. I found my peace...

Breathing Lessons

From Each Day A New Beginning, September 16: “When working the steps we are never in doubt about the manner for proceeding in any situation. The steps provide the parameters that secure our growth. They help us to see where we’ve been and push us toward the goals which crowd our dreams.” Many times in recovery meetings people refer to us all as shipwrecked human beings. I like that metaphor because it reminds me that we are all together on that ship, all part of the same human race, triumphing sometimes, often struggling, but together. We are never alone. But there is much division around the topic of addiction. Much of the problem arises from semantics: is addiction an illness that strikes, like cancer, without permission? Or is it a moral failing? That simple question lends itself to hours of discussion; whole books have been written about it; bloggers have exhausted themselves going back and forth in the argument. I used to enthusiastically participate, certain that I was making valid points here and there. It’s the “here and there” that finally derailed me as I was hyperventilating on this fast-moving train of rhetoric. In the final analysis, does it really matter what it is? Getting caught up in all the arguments just kept me from putting my focus where it belonged. I needed to get back to self-care. And stepping back. And taking a breath. How we navigate our lives together on that ship is as varied as the shells in the ocean. Twelve-Step work has a lot in common with many other forms of spiritual recovery, some of...

You Just Gotta Laugh!

From “The Grapevine” 11/18:                                                 “Sorry I Asked An old timer with 40 years of sobriety had a dream. In it, his first sponsor, who passed years before, appeared. The old-timer, seizing the opportunity, asked him one question: ‘Is there AA in Heaven?’ ‘Well Jim,’ his first sponsor replied, ‘there’s good news and bad news. The good news is yes, AA meetings are held in heaven. The bad news is, you’re chairing this Saturday.’”  ~Marty Z., Palm Bay,...