marilea.rabasa@gmail.com

Freeing Our Children

F “Angie told me once that that’s why she hated NA meetings: often in attendance were drug addicts not in recovery, people she needed to avoid. But in her case I don’t think that’s true. I think she didn’t go to meetings because she needed to deal with her addiction her way, and not be told by anyone else what to do: CSR—compulsively self-reliant—just like her mother. Or maybe she just wasn’t ready to embrace recovery at all, a painful possibility I had not yet considered. I was still determined, at that point, to believe that she was going to beat her addiction and that I, of course, would be the glorious savior she would spend the rest of her life thanking, handing me my redemption on a silver platter. I would finally, thank God, let go of the oppressive burden I was placing on my daughter by demanding she get well so that I could be OK. My mother unconsciously did the same thing with her children: she was a demanding perfectionist, beating back the pain of self-doubt and unworthiness by raising “successful” children. I’m very glad to have found recovery from my dysfunctional upbringing. It has helped to  “relieve me of the bondage of self” (Anonymous Press 63). And most importantly, most importantly of all, my recovery has freed my children.” You can find my book, A Mother’s Story: Angie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, by Maggie C. Romero (pseudonym) on...

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...

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.”...

Remembering Angie

  Today is my daughter’s 39th birthday. She made this tapestry for me after her first rehab. She was always interested in Oriental art and designs. I think the simplicity fascinated her. For a long time I couldn’t look at it. In my early recovery, I was still wedded to the “If onlys.” But over time, I’ve learned to let go of “might have beens” and appreciate what is. I hang the tapestry proudly on my wall now. It’s one of many of my happy memories of her. I had twenty-one years with her as my daughter before addiction hijacked  and transformed her. I’m grateful for the good years I had with my daughter. I love...

Lessons In Letting Go

  “Her apartment was only two miles away from the condo. I parked on her street and was relieved to see her car, so I knew she was home. Running up the stairs, I tripped over a cat and sent it screeching down the steps. I knocked on her door but there was no answer. I knocked again—again, no answer. Music was playing, so I knew she was home. If she’d answered her phone, I could have told her I was coming. But I was determined to see her so I banged on the door. Finally, she came and opened it, a cigarette hanging out of her mouth while she zipped up her jeans. Without waiting for an invitation, I brushed past her and approached the bedroom, but stopped in my tracks. Joe, her boyfriend, was lying on the bed, prostrate, his long legs hanging off the end. He was so out of it I don’t think he knew I was there. ‘Mom, come back here,’ she hissed, frantically beckoning me back into the living room where she was standing. ‘This is not a good time.’” ‘It’s never a good time, Angie. You’ve been avoiding your father and me, and I want to know why.’ ‘Mom, I know you’re worried. Joe’s really trying to kick the stuff, honest. Me too. We’re detoxing right now. That’s why it’s not a good time.’ ‘Not a good time…’ Summer of 2005 was upon us, and Angie had been struggling with serious drug addiction for four years. First it was methamphetamine, then cocaine, and now meth again. There had been countless betrayals, one...

Expectations

    “In recovery, we learn to profoundly adjust our expectations, hard as it is. We raised one child, and now we have another. We are all too aware of the change that drugs have produced in our children.  A parent wrote in Sharing Experience, Strength and Hope a very revealing statement, something I could have written myself. It is a key to understanding my story, my mother and father’s stories, and my daughter’s painful struggle: ‘I expected my children to be perfect, to always do the right thing. I tried to control them by giving them direction and making them do things in a way that I felt was correct! When they didn’t, I could not handle it. I could not accept their drug use and I felt that their behavior was a reflection on me. I was embarrassed for myself and scared to death for them. I became so distrusting of my children that I showed them no respect. I would meddle and invade their privacy looking for any excuse to challenge and confront them. When I came to Nar-Anon, I learned that my interference and my attempts at controlling them were actually standing in the way of their recovery. I learned to let go of the control I never had in the first place.’   Weeks were passing by and I was growing suspicious that I wasn’t hearing more regularly from Angie.  I knew in my gut that they had moved to Richmond hurriedly for a reason, and if they were running away from something, they were probably using drugs too. I called this hotel chain...