marilea.rabasa@gmail.com

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...

Beach Combing

I have a huge collection of shells that I’ve amassed over fifty years. But I’ve pretty much stopped collecting because I have no more room to put them! It’s time to enjoy what I have. And to wonder what they’ve represented to me all these years. Ego. Such a fundamental part of the human condition, and yet the very thing that makes us human and separates us from God. It’s ego that keeps us struggling in our relationships, ego that keeps us from accepting things as they are and feeling content with what we have. Ego and our willfulness beneath it that traps us in our restless search to outdo ourselves and others. And it’s ego that makes us want to leave an imprint in the sand. All human beings wrestle with ego, but addicts have found a solution that elevates them from their soul sickness: losing themselves in substances and behaviors that provide oblivion for a time.  “We want what we want when we want it.” That tired old phrase smacking of egocentricity and childishness. Addicts in their disease are all about themselves. In Alcoholics Anonymous, one definition of an alcoholic is an egomaniac with an inferiority complex.. To be “relieved of the bondage of self,” as the Third Step Prayer states in the Big Book, I’m learning how to nurture a relationship with God and remember my place in relation to Him. My importance is next to nothing in the scheme of things. This keeps me right-sized and humble. I’m just another grain of sand on the beach. Learning to live beyond ego has been one of...

Letting Go…Over and Over Again

From The Forum, June, 2015:   “My son’s future is his—not mine. ‘He is not living his life for me,’ I thought as I shuffled into the cold kitchen. It was three o’clock in the morning. I was in search of an Al-Anon daily reader. My son, my only child and someone I loved more than anyone, had been arrested, spent the night in jail, and was in more trouble than I ever imagined possible. I had never thought that my child, whom I put through college and spent many waking hours imagining his promising future, would be in that situation. However, all of that changed when his addiction became known to the family. From that time on, I faithfully attended Al-Anon meetings, sometimes four times a week, got a Sponsor, chaired and spoke at meetings, and volunteered to speak at an Al-Anon meeting at the women’s prison. My son’s future was my future, and I told myself that my efforts made in recovery were for the both of us. Deep down, however, I was betting that my recovery would ultimately guarantee his recovery. In my heart, I believed that the love we shared along with the Al-Anon and A.A. program would be the life raft he needed to recover. I was his mother. I could make it happen… Now, weeks after the arrest, awake at 3 a.m., I reached for the book, Courage to Change, and randomly opened to a page that said, ‘You can’t live someone’s life for them.’ It was what I needed to hear. As challenging as it was, I had to stop living his life and focus...

Guilt, The Most Crippling Emotion

“The ride (to rehab) was quiet. Xavier played a lot of tapes so we wouldn’t be able to talk much. And what could we say? All I could think was that Angie would snap out of this. She would get it right away; I was sure of it. How could this be happening anyway? I was certain I had been dreaming and would wake up from this nightmare. This sort of thing happens to other people’s children, I assured myself. Angie was a Foreign Service brat.  She was born in South America and moved easily from country to country, or so it seemed.  When we lived in Greece, she competed in England with the gymnastics team. When we lived in Rome, a scout picked her to be in a movie. She was a shining star, and her outward accomplishments duped me into thinking she had a bright future. Oh boy, was I ready to take the credit! Ten years later, when she was twenty-one, I was completely unprepared when she started tumbling into the hell of drug addiction. I should have, but I didn’t see it coming. Oh boy, was I ready to take the blame.” excerpt from my award-winning memoir, A Mother’s Story: Angie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, by Maggie C. Romero.   It has taken me sixteen years of 12-Step recovery to relieve myself of the guilt that acted as a roadblock not only in my own recovery but, so very tragically, in Angie’s. Guilt kept me pandering to her needs and enabling her at every turn. It put at risk all the healthy boundaries all parents...

A Family Disease

“Where might my daughter be now if fate, or genes, had been kinder to her? Now, several years into her illness, I am coming to terms with the terrible legacy that began generations ago in my own family and which I have unwittingly passed on to my daughter.  All these years I’ve diligently searched for answers, clarity, and solace in the face of terrible pain. Like a gift from the universe, it has come to me slowly, and it is with me now. But it’s been a hard won victory. I liken the effect addiction has on families to a bomb exploding in the living room with everyone nearby.  The shrapnel hits us all in different places; none of us is left untouched, though some may be wounded more than others. Some even ignore the explosion or block it out as the insidious effects of addiction take root in these bewildered individuals. What happens when a bomb drops anywhere? Doesn’t everybody run for cover? That’s what happened in my family. Angie’s brother and sister got out of the way as much as possible—a healthy response, I suppose—shrapnel wounds can be pretty dreadful. It broke my heart to see them pull away from their sister. But now Angie was so isolated in her family. And so began the long journey, Angie’s father’s and mine, of carrying her, much of the time, on our backs.” ~excerpt from my award-winning memoir, A Mother’s Story: Angie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, by Maggie C. Romero, available on Amazon   I got an email from my old friend in Virginia whose son is a heroin...