marilea.rabasa@gmail.com

Reconciliation

When I met my partner, Gene, twenty-four years ago, he was an experienced canoeist, and he loved paddling every summer. So I figured I’d better learn fast. One memorable incident was during a trip to Quetico Provincial Park across the Minnesota border in Canada. It was there that I added a chapter to my “Life Lessons” journal. Gene and I always went canoeing with his friend, Stewart and his wife, Joan. I didn’t like Joan from the beginning. She talked non-stop, endlessly showing off how much she knew about everything. And worst of all, because I can’t even boil a carrot, she was a gourmet cook. So the two weeks of wilderness paddling and camping were a challenge for me. At the end of one day, we scouted around for a stellar camping site and I showed Joan the one we had found. “This island sucks,” she sniffed, “Stew and I’ll stay on that one over there,” she informed us, pointing to another one across an inlet. “Okay,” I chirped. “See you tomorrow.” I was awakened in the morning by the smell of smoke in the air. “Gene, get up!” I screamed, looking across the water. “There’s a fire on Stew and Joan’s island!” We piled into our canoe and raced across the inlet to find them frantically trying to remove the underbrush from the flames. Soon we heard the Canadian Forest Service arriving by helicopter to douse the area. It took twenty-six hours, but they finally extinguished the fire. Joan had neglected to stamp out her cigarette while she was shitting in the woods, and, well, shit happens....

The Poison Of Resentment

I think we often forget how much carrying resentments burdens us. As they say,”It’s like swallowing poison and waiting for the OTHER person to die.” It’s only natural to feel angry sometimes, to develop a resentment. But if we have no control over it, it’s best to let it go. There are many healthy ways to do this: go for a run, write in a journal, confront the person in question and try to talk it out peacefully, turn the resentment over to God; the list goes on. Before I got into recovery I lost sleep a lot, overate a lot, shopped a lot, and buried my feelings a lot. But these are not healthy ways to respond to resentments. And they didn’t go away anyway. Another jingle I hear in the rooms is this: “expectations are premeditated resentments.” So once I’ve developed a resentment, I take a step back and look at the expectation that probably got me there. And I try to confine my expectations to myself—to people, places and things that I have some control over. Staying in control is important to us, so I try to keep my expectations within reasonable bounds. Staying focused on me is a step in the right direction, and ensures that I’ll have a happier...

Recovery At Its Best

My former husband, Angel Miguel Rabasa, died last week in Washington, D.C. He had been ill with cancer and, despite surgery and chemotherapy to slow down its progress, he succumbed on 9/26/16, three days before his 68th birthday. I, along with his children and grandchildren, scrambled to get there from the West Coast. But none of us, including his two sisters from Miami, made it in time. He died surrounded by his wife and other loved ones. I have just two things to share regarding the passing of this good man: first, the early years of our marriage were filled with excitement and colorful stories that will keep our grandchildren entertained for years to come; the second thing, and this is such a blessing, is that the storms we have weathered in recent years have brought us closer together and we have become good friends. Such a gift! I am grateful beyond words for the difference this man has made in my...

Happy Birthday, Angie

Dear Angie, It’s me, Mom. Today is your 37th birthday. How could I forget? I know it’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other, and maybe you’re thinking that you can’t turn around and fly over that bridge you burned and come back to your family. But I’m here to tell you: yes you can! You don’t know how a mother’s love is everlasting. It’s not something I even think about, like do I or don’t I love you? From the moment you were born—such an easy birth, slipped in between lunch and dinner—I became more than myself. I grew another body part, or at least a bigger heart. For 21 years we were a part of each other’s lives. We had our ups and downs, but I was your mother and you were my daughter. I have drawers full of cards and gifts that tell me you were there, that you loved me. I look at those gifts sometimes so I can remember, because it’s been 4 years, and I don’t want to forget. I email you sometimes cuz I don’t want you to forget either. Please remember: as long as there is life, there is hope. And our love for you is...

The Freedom Of Forgiveness

“Forgiveness doesn’t make the other person right, it just makes me free.” We’ve heard all the sayings along this line: ‘right vs. happy,’ etc. When I think of how many battles I’ve gotten into—fueled by my own ego and my need to win—I feel dismayed at the wastefulness of good energy. How we humans get in our own way! Well, because I’m human, I still fall into the trap. But the three A’s—awareness, acceptance, and action—help dig me out of that hole. When I slow down—and get off automatic pilot—I allow myself to behave differently. And I’m happier as a...

Taking Ownership Of My Own Recovery

Memoir Excerpt: “Many people are not strong enough to battle the terrible force of addiction on their own. Application of the Twelve Steps had proven successful over and over again since they were put together by a couple of alcoholics and their friends back in the late 1930’s. Addicts need help; some say they need spiritual help. Our society is full of naysayers—skeptics who eschew these programs that are found in every major city across the country, and in big cities, in many of the churches, meeting three or four times a day. There’s a reason for the popularity of Twelve-Step programs: they work for many people. So I promised myself I would try harder now. Angie was worth it. Angie was worth it? There is no one place on this journey to pinpoint where I discovered that I was worth it. I knew what a flawed human being I was. I was aware of my mistakes along the way—big ones and little ones. But as I was starting to embrace the principles found in these Twelve Steps I was reacquainting myself over and over again with my own humanity and feeling my self-worth solidify with roots into the earth. None of this growth in me would have occurred if Angie’s illness hadn’t pushed me onto this path. And I would always—still—reckon with the survivor guilt that has challenged my right to be happy while my daughter still struggles with addiction. There are many who view Twelve-Step groups as cultish and unattractive. There’s such a powerful stigma in our society against addiction in all its forms that, I suppose,...