marilea.rabasa@gmail.com

Rain Dancing

The road to my spiritual life began when I was a young child growing up in an alcoholic family. But I didn’t start to walk down this road until halfway through my life when my daughter fell ill with substance use disorder. I was very unhappy growing up. It’s a classic story of family dysfunction that many of us have experienced as children. But back then I didn’t have Alateen to go to. My father was never treated and died prematurely because of his illness. I, too, was untreated for the effects of alcoholism, and grew into an adult child. Well, many of us know how rocky that road is: low self-esteem, intense self-judgment, inflated sense of responsibility, people pleasing and loss of integrity, and above all, the need to control. I carried all of these defects and more into my role as a mother to my sick daughter, and predictably the situation only got worse. I was a very hard sell on the first three steps of Al-Anon, and my stubbornness cost me my health and my career. But once I did let go of my self-reliance, my whole life changed for the better.  The Serenity Prayer has been my mantra every day. I’ve learned to let go of what I can’t change. I don’t have the power to free Angie of her disease, but I can work hard to be healed from my own.  This is where I’ve focused my work in the program. My daughter has gone up and down on this roller coaster for nearly eighteen years, and right now she’s in a very bad...

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....

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...

Awareness, Acceptance, Action

“The universe is run exactly on the lines of a cafeteria. Unless you claim—mentally—what you want, you may sit and wait forever.” ~Emmet Fox Fear has always kept me from asking for what I want. But the older I get, the less I care about rejection. Living fully means facing that on a regular basis. And I always learn something. Maybe I learn that my request was ill-timed or inappropriate. Other times I might learn that I asked for just the right thing, but it was denied. I can spend hours ruminating on why it was denied, driving myself batty. Or I can accept that things worked out differently, and let it go. My energy is better spent on other things I have control over now. That’s important. Because wasting my energy on things I can’t do anything about saps my strength—strength I need to stay in...