marilea.rabasa@gmail.com

The Boomerang Of Enabling

A few years ago in one of my support groups in New Mexico, a friend shared how she had to lock everything up in her house. She’d lock the jewelry here, the silver there. She had a different key for every place, and one time she was so flummoxed by her son that she lost all the keys! We laughed together at that one, grateful that we still could laugh. This is what it comes to for many of us parents. We erect walls to protect ourselves, keeping the addicts out. And then, of course, we feel guilty about doing that. My daughter Angie used to steal valuables from my home in order to sell them for drug money. It was safer, she thought, to steal from me than from a store. She already knew what an enabler I was; but she was still a thief. And even though her addiction pushed her onto the wrong path, she still should have paid the consequences if she was going to learn and mature. But I let her get away with it.  I deeply regret that. They will work us, manipulate us, and use every tool in their arsenal to get what they want if they’re still using. Parents are so vulnerable, and they’re walking a fine line between helping their child recover, and enabling them to continue using. We learn eventually to sit frozen in inaction, to do nothing.  We learn to let our addicts be accountable for their own actions, and hopefully learn from the consequences: eviction, jail, or death. But it’s that last consequence that holds us hostage,...

Lighten Up! Do We Still Know How To Laugh?

  From Courage to Change, March 13: “I’m apt to think of Step Seven—‘Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings’–as a step I take tearfully and on my knees. I’ve had that experience, but I want to entertain the possibility that Step Seven might be taken with joy—and even humor. Sometimes the sign that I have actually gotten humble enough to ask my Higher Power to remove a shortcoming is that I can laugh about it. Suddenly a past action or decision of mine seems ludicrous and I can stop taking myself so seriously… So the next time I want to tear my hair out because I haven’t gotten rid of some nagging shortcoming, I’ll try to lighten up and see how silly my intensity can be… Desperation and pain can certainly lead me to humility, but in Al-Anon I’m cultivating a new and eager willingness to follow my Higher Power’s guidance. Because I am willing, I’m freer to learn from all of life’s lessons, not just the ones that hurt.” How did I ever get here? When I began my recovery journey I was in so much pain I couldn’t see through the river of salty tears I was drowning in. I was consumed with sadness, alternately watching Angie slowly self-destruct and determining to save her from herself. We all know that unhappy place, and we pray to be released from our sorrow. I’m one of the lucky ones; I stuck around long enough to learn how to laugh again. “whether the alcoholic is still drinking or not…” I’m not angry at God anymore and I accept His...

Stirring The Pot

I love this cartoon from the New Yorker. But it’s not why I published my memoir. I suppose some authors put their stories out there for less than altruistic purposes. My motive was to heal from the disease that has crippled my family and me for generations. Many people still think of addiction as a choice or moral failing. So where I fully expect compassion from most people, I still feel judgment from some of those who have never walked in my shoes. And those are the people who will look at this cartoon and might say, “Hell, yes, she’s plotting to wipe out those people who nearly ruined her life!” No, I’m not. “Those” people are my people, and we’ve all been swirling around in the maelstrom of addiction for a long time. Addiction is emerging from the shadows and people are talking openly about it. The shame and stigma are starting to evaporate, and people are viewing addicts in a new light, deserving of as much compassion as any other sick person. And those witches stirring their cauldron, planning to poison the evildoers who wronged them? They’ll be out of a...

Recovery Blog

This is a recovery blog, recovery from addiction—my own and a number of my family members. But I’m hoping that it will evolve into other musings about my life. Recovery is a big part of my life right now. But it doesn’t define me. I’m the sum of many parts—and I have more years behind me than in front of me. You know, it’s a darn shame that addiction has such a bad rap. Is it an affliction found only in industrialized societies? Do pygmies in Africa, some of them, eat too much food? Do descendants of the Inca living in Peru still chew too many coca leaves? And how do their peers treat them if they do? Do they laugh it off: “Oh, there goes Kon again, racing through his chores. Shit, man, I could use some of that stuff he’s chewing. I could barely get off my mat this morning.” Or, deep in darkest Africa, our pygmy pal Polyps finds herself ignoring her chores so that she can scrounge around for fallen mangoes that she stuffs into her mouth like a hungry dog. She waddles back to her circle of huts looking like she’s about to retire and have another little pygmy. How do her peers view her? Do they inflict shame and flog her with banana leaves? I’m just wondering out loud if this disease is confined to Western civilization. I guess it doesn’t matter. Right now I live in the heart of New Mexico, one of our country’s hotbeds of drug abuse. When I was house hunting six years ago, I looked at one house...