marilea.rabasa@gmail.com

Standing In My Own Light

STEPS: Solutions. To. Every. Problem. “If we have Al-anon, there is no need to stand in our own light and try to solve our problems in darkness. The ways and means that Al-anon offers have lighted the way for so many thousands of despairing people that no one can question their power. “When I am faced with a problem that seems impossible to solve, when I feel trapped in a situation and can see no way out, let me ask myself whether I am standing in my own light. I must find the vantage point where I can most clearly see my difficulty as it is; then answers will come.” (One Day At a Time in Al-Anon, pg.297) The 12-Steps are my guidelines for living. There is so much I’ve learned: about powerlessness, about faith, about  honesty and the importance of making amends, about owning up to my mistakes on a daily basis and trying to make things right, and finally, I tell others how I’ve learned to be happy and appreciate my life, despite my losses. I might have picked up these tools for living elsewhere. I happen to have found them in recovery fellowships. I got my life and my sense of humor back. No small accomplishment. And I’m grateful.  ...

QTIP: Quit Taking It Personally

“When the guilt of the alcoholic explodes, I must realize that it is always aimed at those nearest, and often dearest. I want to remind myself that such outbursts only reveal the drinker’s own unhappiness. I will not make the situation worse by taking seriously what the alcoholic says at such times.” (One Day At a Time in Al-Anon, pg.55) I can think of two run-ins I had with loved ones recently because they were in a bad mood and I was handy. Instead of internalizing it as though it were my fault—and overreacting badly—I might have brushed it off and tried to brighten their mood a little. Next time I’ll try...

More Breathing Lessons

“These are the only genuine ideas, the ideas of the shipwrecked. All the rest is rhetoric, posturing, farce.” Jose Ortega y Gasset taken from Richard Rohr’s book Breathing Under Water 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. How we navigate our lives together on that ship is as varied as the shells in the ocean. But 12-Step work has a lot in common with many other forms of spiritual recovery, some of them organized religions. I go out of my way to avoid the “R” word, but don’t we all seek peace and serenity in our troubled world? The tools we use strive toward the same goal. We need not be divided. We all pray for the same miracles, the health and wellness of ourselves and our loved ones. When I remember that, I feel as though we are all part of the same...

LOVE: Let. Others. Voluntarily. Evolve

  “The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” ~Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island My sponsor often tells me that whatever I decide to do in my relationships with people, let it come—not out of anger or spite, jealousy or resentment—but out of love. And if I truly love someone, I need to just let them be. This is VERY hard when a loved one is addicted. But I don’t have the power to change other people or their choices. When I make the effort to let go, things usually turn out...

Secrets Make Us Sick

From Hope for Today, June 25: “As I was growing up, I felt unsure and afraid of life. In my alcoholic family, we didn’t discuss thoughts and feelings, so I believed I was the only person who felt this way. I hid my insecurities for fear of being ridiculed and shamed by those who knew me. Although it hurt, keeping my secrets to myself made me feel safe. Thought for the Day: …I can set my secrets and myself free.”   That is a big part of my story. And I found after being in recovery for a few years many other people just like me, people who grew up around alcoholism and other forms of addiction. The stigma was so great fifty years ago that no one discussed it in my family. And even now there is shame attached to the disease. But I’ve been adding my voice to many other addicts out there, mothers in particular, who are learning to live with the cruelty of addiction in a loved one. I live better and feel healthier without the burden of secrets weighing me down. If we bring addiction out into the open, it will lose its power. And I, for one, feel lighter....

Lessons In Letting Go

  “Her apartment was only two miles away from the condo. I parked on her street and was relieved to see her car, so I knew she was home. Running up the stairs, I tripped over a cat and sent it screeching down the steps. I knocked on her door but there was no answer. I knocked again—again, no answer. Music was playing, so I knew she was home. If she’d answered her phone, I could have told her I was coming. But I was determined to see her so I banged on the door. Finally, she came and opened it, a cigarette hanging out of her mouth while she zipped up her jeans. Without waiting for an invitation, I brushed past her and approached the bedroom, but stopped in my tracks. Joe, her boyfriend, was lying on the bed, prostrate, his long legs hanging off the end. He was so out of it I don’t think he knew I was there. ‘Mom, come back here,’ she hissed, frantically beckoning me back into the living room where she was standing. ‘This is not a good time.’” ‘It’s never a good time, Angie. You’ve been avoiding your father and me, and I want to know why.’ ‘Mom, I know you’re worried. Joe’s really trying to kick the stuff, honest. Me too. We’re detoxing right now. That’s why it’s not a good time.’ ‘Not a good time…’ Summer of 2005 was upon us, and Angie had been struggling with serious drug addiction for four years. First it was methamphetamine, then cocaine, and now meth again. There had been countless betrayals, one...

Independence Day

From Opening Our Hearts, Transforming Our Losses, p. 169: “I’m still grieving, but the despair is gone.” “I am learning that though I grieve incredibly for the loss of my ———- (fill in the blank), I don’t have to drown in that pain.”   Before getting into recovery, I wasn’t aware of the tools available to all of us to cope with the inevitable disappointments in life. No one had explained to me the concept of letting go of people and situations that I had no control over. This is huge because the continual battle of my will to change the unchangeable was exhausting and taking a toll on me more than the person I was hoping to change.   The regular practice of gratitude has gifted me with a perspective on my own life, simply focusing on my blessings and keeping them in the forefront of my mind. Surrendering to a greater being than I am for guidance and faith is so basic. And I  believe absolutely that no matter what happens in my life, all will be well. These are but three of the tools the program has given me. And when I pick them up and use them, no matter what sadness I must deal with, the despair is lifted and I have hope. Happy (early) Fourth of July, everyone! This year I’m celebrating sixteen years of freedom and independence from the disease that affects so many of us. God Bless!                ...

Getting Ready For Change

From Hope for Today, June 17: “Thought for the Day:  Although God does not completely eradicate my defects, I am provided with Al-Anon tools to maintain my separation from them. ‘I expected to just say, ‘Okay, God, take over!’ and they’d be gone overnight. It didn’t quite work out that way.’”   If only things were so simple! I’m in partnership with my Higher Power, but I still have to do the footwork. The key word above is “separation.” I will always have defects; that’s what makes me human. But to be able to step back and look at them, to separate myself from them for just a bit, gives me the chance to take a look and decide what to do. It’s hard, sometimes, to let go of some defects. Sometimes stubbornness masquerades as determination; sometimes martyrdom looks like healthy self-sacrifice. There are a million ways to justify our behavior and rationalize it. But when a defect stands in the way of my well-being, or that of someone I love, then I’m grateful for the objectivity I’m given, allowing me the grace to separate from it.  ...

“Listen And Learn”

So often I don’t listen. I’m consumed by my own thoughts and the next thing I will say. But there’s so much I don’t know. I feel I must know a great deal; I must appear strong and competent. For others. I know I don’t know everything, but I want to appear confident. For others. I would do well to put myself aside and learn from others. For me....

I Believe

From Each Day A New Beginning, May 1: “We may see clearly how and why we get in our own way. But unless we have faith in a power greater than ourselves, we won’t step aside. We won’t let go. We’ll do the same things and “understand” ourselves in the same ways. We may even use our “insight” to keep ourselves stuck—to  protect ourselves from the risk of change. Now, having had a spiritual awakening, having come to believe that a higher power can restore us, we possess a gift more powerful than the keenest insight—faith in our ability to grow and change. We are children of God. All the creative power of the universe streams through us, if we don’t block it.” The unseeable. The unknowable. Faith. Before recovery, if I didn’t see it, it wasn’t there. Now, like Indiana Jones, I’ve learned to take that leap of faith that frightened me most of my life. And I’ve been rewarded. God has become the pilot of my ship. I can sit back and enjoy the ride. I don’t have to be in charge anymore. And I know that all will be...