marilea.rabasa@gmail.com

A Good Daughter

From Courage to Change, September 4: “As we let go of obsession, worry, and focusing on everyone but ourselves, many of us were bewildered by the increasing calmness of our minds. We knew how to live in a state of crisis, but it often took a bit of adjustment to become comfortable with stillness. The price of serenity was the quieting of the constant mental chatter that had taken up so much time; suddenly we had lots of times on our hands and we wondered how to fill it.”          I’ve learned how to “be still in the stream.” Obsessing over Angie and living in all her drama was threatening my health. I was suffering from severe PTSD and endured many other negative consequences in my life as a result of my constant worry over something I couldn’t control. So, I took the first three steps in my recovery program. It was hard to do that because I felt that letting go was giving up on my daughter, not loving her anymore. But that’s not how I feel now.        Once, not so long ago, Angie was a loving daughter to me, a college graduate with her whole life ahead of her. Then, like the great cosmic crapshoot that afflicts millions of families, she fell out of her life and into substance use disorder. She’s been lost to us all for a long time now. But my daughter Angie, not the addict that lives in her body, would want me to reclaim my life as I have, and learn to be happy. I believe this with all my...

Loving Them/Loving Ourselves

“Learn to love someone even when they are unlovable.” Substance use disorder is commonly accepted now as a brain disease. This pronouncement by the American Medical Association causes some confusion because the overuse of substances can cause such unacceptable behavior. It’s difficult to recognize, much less accept, that our loved ones aren’t always making conscious choices. They are under the influence of a bewildering array of drugs which influence them. My daughter, Angie, when she is on drugs, has not even resembled the daughter I raised. She has been angry, combative, and much worse. Her moral compass has flown out the window. I have often felt the need to distance myself from her for my own protection. This is just terrible and so counterintuitive. We want to protect our children from their disastrous choices. But I paid a heavy price by putting myself in the line of her fire. I learned the hard way that I don’t have the power to save Angie from the life she is living. But I do have the power to save myself. Twelve-step recovery is not for everyone; I get that. But it has worked for me. One of the reasons it has worked for me is because an important part of the step work involves self-reflection. It involves looking at myself in the mirror and getting to know myself, warts and all. It involves self-forgiveness, forgiveness of others and letting go of resentments. These are just words, but in fact, they are difficult actions to take. Some resentments that we’ve been nursing our whole lives are nearly impossible to let go of....

Gifts Of The Season

Twenty years ago, my talented Vietnamese student cut out most of the letters for this poem I wrote and he fashioned it into the shape of a tree:              The Christmas tree is a sight to see,              All decorated up ornamentally.              The bulbs all colored, the lights all bright,              I love to watch it late at night.              The gathering of gifts and family I see              As a child of five in my memory.              And now the gifts have come back to me,              Hanging here on this Christmas tree. There aren’t enough branches on the tree for all the gifts in my life. How about you? I haven’t forgotten about the daughter I miss. But I’m happier when I count my blessings. Happy Holidays to all my dear...

Attitude Is Everything

The miracles of recovery just keep flooding into my life, like a welcome storm after a long dry spell. The world around me, and the people in it, remain the same in many ways. The world still turns. But I’m not the same. My perceptions are different, and I see people and events through a different lens. I used to feel intimidated and defensive around my husband’s family. But we recently had a wonderful visit together. I enjoyed their company thoroughly. It is with great relief that I realize the problem was never with them; it was with me. And to be able to own that now, and move on comfortably, is but one of the gifts of my growth in recovery. I’ve heard it said that ours is a disease of relationships, and I agree. How substance use disorder of all forms tears through relationships—mother and child, husband and wife, father and son—and gets in the way of healthy communication. The twelve steps of recovery, when practiced diligently, offer so much hope for change. And that change is reflected in how we relate to those around us. Not every day and not completely. But it’s progress I’m making, not perfection I’m seeking. The willingness to grow along spiritual lines is enough for me. And it brings me closer to the peace and serenity I strive...

Guilt And Redemption

“This journey of mine, this parenting journey, would involve going two steps forward sometimes and then three steps backward. It was not vertical progress I was making, but it was progress. And strangely, the more I kept the focus on myself and striving to be happy, the easier it was to let go of my child. I knew I had paid my dues, and I feared no one’s judgment, least of all God’s. I’ve railed at God many, many times during these dozen years of joy and pain, this God they speak of at Twelve-Step meetings. How many times had I sinned in my life? Many, more than I want to remember. And so the child in me had been sure, earlier on, that I was being punished for all of them. It was my karmic payback. “What goes around comes around,” etc. Indeed, for all of my life, before my breakdown, I had no faith in anything or anyone other than myself. I grew up very lonely and isolated, and if there was a god, he wasn’t paying any attention to me. So I learned to be very independent and self-reliant.  But when I finally found myself on my knees, I felt broken and whole at the same time: broken because my MO for dealing with my problems hadn’t been working; and whole because I finally let myself believe in something outside of myself to strengthen me, to fill in the gaps that were missing in me, and to help me cope. I was starting to develop and cling to a faith that assured me that I was...

Empowerment

What I like about my recovery program is learning that I’m not a victim—that I have choices. My daughter, Angie, is an addict, yes, but I haven’t been victimized or punished for my sins. Angie is sick; addiction is a brain disease, and she has the power to fight it. She can choose. Not easily, to be sure, but the power is in her hands. By detaching myself sufficiently from the agony of her struggle, I can recognize that I am free to choose too. I can help her, if she wants recovery, but beyond that it’s not my battle. As heartbreaking as that is for any mother—to admit her powerlessness—it’s what I have had to do in order to reclaim my life. I love my daughter, and I pray with all my heart that she chooses recovery someday. But in the meantime, I have many blessings to enjoy and pay attention to. Even if Angie were my only child, there are still...