marilea.rabasa@gmail.com

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 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...

“Look Back Without Staring”

From Hope for Today, September 13: “Never underestimate the power of self-awareness to put past experience into a new perspective…Until we take the time to look at ourselves honestly. we may never be free of the bondage in which alcoholism holds us captive.” As the mother of an addict, I was focused completely on my daughter Angie and her problems. In the beginning of her addiction, I failed to see that how I handled the chaos in my home might have more to do with me than with her. I didn’t realize what a powder keg my past was bringing to an already explosive situation. My own history of substance abuse played a big role in my reactions. Whoever said “Blame is for God and small children” forgot about me. I thought Angie’s illness was my fault. I burdened myself with guilt and an inflated sense of responsibility, and that burden crippled me when dealing with the consequences of her bad choices. I often lost my own moral compass, the one I raised her to follow. That guilt put at risk all the healthy boundaries I had set in place with all of my children. I became lost. Much of my behavior was a misguided attempt to protect my daughter. I became overprotective, and shielded her from the logical consequences of many choices that might have taught her some valuable life lessons. I did step up and put her through four rehabs. I was happy to do that and so hopeful. But after she got out and relapsed every time, I fell back into old patterns. I didn’t see...

Life goes On, And We With It

“The greatest gift we can give one another is rapt attention to one another’s existence.” ~Sue Atchley Ebaugh Happy New Year to my grandchildren. If ever there were a reminder of grace, it’s in the face and voices of my son’s children. “We love you, Bela!” May the new year continue to teach me that focusing on one’s blessings is the best way to live well....

Taking Care Of Ourselves

From Courage to Change, July 12: “If you would be loved, love, and be lovable.” ~Benjamin Franklin   For much of my life, I didn’t take good care of myself. I was often focused on how other people felt about me, and, chameleon-like, I adapted my behavior to please them. After years of this, I lost touch with who I was or what I really wanted. I’ve gotten much better at doing what’s best for me, but I still have slips now and then. I went off the rails spectacularly last summer, putting other people’s desires ahead of my own. But I’m grateful to have a recovery program that got me back on track. “Progress, not perfection.” In the first years of my daughter’s drug addiction, I lost my compass a great deal. I often put Angie first—at great cost to myself. In my case, it backfired. I’m less concerned with being lovable than with loving these days. And loving sometimes involves hard choices. Ironically, putting myself first is the healthiest ground for love to flourish. And if I’m lovable as a result, that’s icing on the cake.        ...

Happy Distractions

From Courage to Change, June 9: “If my problems have brought me to prayer, then they have served a purpose.”   There are so many different ways to pray: walking; meditating; talking to a Higher Power; singing; baking bread; sewing. I view prayer as letting go of myself for the time being and turning my attention to another activity. Turning to something else that calls me, that enriches me. My problems with my AD Angie leveled me to the ground in the beginning. I took it on myself as if that were my calling. And I felt good about myself in the process because I was trying to fix a terrible problem. But what distinguished my behavior from prayer was that it was all about me. Far from turning to someone or something else, my obsession about saving my daughter was grounded in misplaced guilt, feelings of inadequacy, and stubborn will. I was addicted to my daughter. I’m grateful I found a recovery program for parents of addicts that was compassionate and useful. I wasn’t helping myself or my daughter by blaming myself for an illness I didn’t cause. I needed to let go of behaviors toward her that weren’t helping. Though I’m always ready to help Angie when she asks for help, I’ve moved on. I don’t know what the future will bring, but I do know one thing for certain: I deserve to enjoy what’s left of my life. I don’t want addiction and its wreckage to claim two victims in my immediate family.      ...

With My Eye On The Ball

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow; it only saps today of its strength.”  ~A.J. Cronin   Living in the present moment takes a lot of discipline. To never think about the past? The parts we can’t seem to let go of: our remorse, guilt over things we can’t undo now? We have happy memories, too, but the bad ones often pop up like weeds. And never look ahead to tomorrow? We have hopes and dreams, fantasies. Sometimes our fears push us to project in negative ways. And that’s just wasteful, though I always rationalize that it’s preparing myself for the worst. But placing all of my attention on what’s happening right now, without distracting myself with other times, gives me a chance to maximize each moment I’m experiencing. Time is a valuable commodity, and I want to make the most of mine. Watching my daughter and all other addicts lose themselves in the hellish world of addiction has been a powerful object lesson for me. I’m learning to appreciate the gifts of time and appreciate what’s right in front of me. “Just for today,” I will do the best I can with what I’ve got....