marilea.rabasa@gmail.com

Learning From Repetition

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” ~Aristotle I remember when my daughter Angie was in early recovery, a doctor we knew told her to replace the using habit with something else, something healthful. Any habit, good or bad, takes up time in our lives. When we want to rid ourselves of bad habits, according to this doctor, we need to replace them with something else that is pleasurable. Easier said than done, of course, when drugs are surrendered in favor of something else. But creating good habits takes commitment, determination and time. Many addicts give up drugs and rebuild their lives. They just have to stay committed to sobriety. My wish for all of us caught one way or another in the hellish world of addiction is that we find a better way to live—a way to live well and be...

No Casseroles

NAddiction is a terrible thief, stealing Angie away from us in the night. She had her whole life ahead of her. There’s still so much shame and stigma in this country around it. Some people think it’s caused by bad parenting. Others say it’s a moral failure. Many believe it’s a choice. Are they kidding? Who is their right mind would choose to stick a needle in his arm and live in the gutter like a wild animal? If my daughter had cancer, friends and family would express sympathy, put their arms around me and ask if they could help. Not so when it’s addiction. Many people look the other way, afraid to mention it. They’re not judging, necessarily; just keeping their distance.  It’s the modern...

Who Has The Power?

W From Sharing Experience, Strength and Hope, p. 329: “Myself, I can change. Others I can only love.” Once upon a time I thought, because I loved my daughter, it was my responsibility to change her for her own good. How could I not? Her choices were killing her. Then I learned that she had a brain disease and the cure was out of my reach. Out of my reach. So I learned to let go and detach, but always with love. Serenity is the gift I give myself when I let go and let...

Bangs

When Angie was in her last rehab in 2009, I flew across the country for Parent’s’ Weekend. After excitedly showing me around the grounds, she bumped into a couple of new friends. “Hey Angela, show us more of those moves.”
 Angie still enjoyed showing people what she had been able to do as a gymnast in Greece. “Sure,” she said, proud of her agility. She showed us, among other things, a backward twist that must have been difficult then. She wasn’t ten anymore. When she leaned backwards toward the floor, her hair fell back and I saw the scar. She must have had an accident when she sustained a deep gash around her hairline in the middle of her forehead. When Angie was a child, she looked like a beautiful mandarin doll. She always had a thick pile of bangs to frame her oval face. But her hair didn’t fall that way anymore because of the scar and she could no longer wear bangs. The last time I saw my daughter was in 2012. She was still using, and since then has cut herself off from her family. But I wanted to see her and stayed in a San Francisco motel very near the hostel in the Tenderloin where she was living. She was to spend a night with me and had a key to the room. It was five in the morning when I heard her unlocking the door, and I jumped up to open it. “Hi Mom.” “Hi honey. I need to get back to sleep.” I have a picture of her sitting on my bed the...

The Power Of Words

From an old Facebook thread, this mother’s comment: “I am sick of hearing addiction is a disease! It is a choice! I have been clean/sober for over 20 years. I made a choice! I chose to put a needle in my arm. I chose to get drunk because I could not handle what life gave. I chose to get clean and stay clean. Life is all about choices. I did not choose this for my daughter, she did! What I need to do is take care of me today. I choose to let her go no matter how much I love her!” My response is this: This may be a problem of semantics, but it also involves the old chicken and egg confusion. Which came first?  I think the question “Is addiction a disease or a choice?” oversimplifies: I think it’s both a disease and a choice. The soul sickness that most addicts have—from which they seek relief via drugs, alcohol, food, gambling, etc.—is an emotional condition. Call it depression. But when addicts self-medicate with a substance, then the substance often takes over in the body, creating a craving. Then it’s physical. Then it’s addiction. So I think the mother on FB is saying that there is choice involved: the choice to fight the disease and go into recovery. Many addicts do just that. But there may be a genetic predisposition in some people to be vulnerable to addiction. In any case, the American Medical Association has stated that addiction is a brain disease. And what people choose to do about it—or any disease—is a matter of choice....

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.”...