Monday, July 13, 2020

On the Spotlight: 'Stepping Stones: A Memoir of Addiction, Loss, and Transformation,' by Marilea C. Rabasa

Marilea C. Rabasa is a retired high school teacher who moved west from Virginia eleven years ago. Before that, she traveled around the world with her former husband in the Foreign Service. She has been published in a variety of publications. Writing as Maggie C. Romero, Rabasa won the International Book Award, was named a finalist in both the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards and the USA Best Book Awards, and earned an honorable mention in The Great Southwest Book Festival, for her 2014 release, A Mother’s Story: Angie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.  She lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for a number of years and now resides in Camano Island, Washington. Visit her online at: 

About the Book

Addiction is a stealth predator. Unrecognized, it will grow and flourish. Unchecked, it destroys.

Marilea grew up in post-WWII Massachusetts in a family that lived comfortably and offered her every advantage. But there were closely guarded family secrets. Alcoholism reached back through several generations, and it was not openly discussed. Shame and stigma perpetuated the silence. Marilea became part of this ongoing tragedy.

Her story opens with the death of her mother. Though not an alcoholic, it is her inability to cope with the dysfunction in her life that sets her daughter up for a multitude of problems.

We follow Marilea from an unhappy childhood, to her life overseas in the diplomatic service, to now, living on an island in Puget Sound. What happens in the intervening years is a compelling tale of travel, motherhood, addiction, and heartbreaking loss. The constant thread throughout this story is the many faces and forms of addiction, stalking her like an obsessed lover, and with similar rewards. What, if anything, will free her of the masks she has worn all her life?

Read Marilea’s inspiring recovery story and learn how she wrestles with the demons that have plagued her.



Our first year in Greece, Angel and I took the kids swimming on Crete, went skiing at Mount Parnassus, and made the trip up to Nea Makri Naval Base often to buy things in the commissary. There were four bases in Greece that we used for our shopping: the large Hellenikon Air Base, just south of Athens; the small one north of us on the island of Evia; and two more bases on Crete, one in Souda Bay and another in Iraklion. The American presence in that country was considerable and was becoming more and more controversial.
In a letter to my mother, dated 11/24/87, I wrote:

Dear Mom,
Angel has been on the front page of the news here. He has been on the negotiating team for the American bases here. He was in London and Stuttgart for a week, meeting Ambassador Flanagan, and brought him here to begin negotiations with the Greeks. The whole process will be on and off for a couple of years. I’m sure Angel will be promoted as a result of this. Now that his picture was on the front page, we will be hotly pursued by the Greeks. Security has to be increased now. Angel and I have to switch cars occasionally.

I took more of an interest in the political controversy with the unfolding of a tragedy in my own neighborhood—the place where my children had roamed around freely, walking their dog, playing ball, and feeling entirely safe.
As that first school year ended, our family was busy squabbling over what our summer plans would be. But all the plans came to a sudden halt on June 28 with the assassination of our neighbor Bill Nordeen.
 This was too close.
A security detail drove Angel to work daily following the murder, and I shook with fear for months, thinking of my children walking to the school bus every day. Pedro Joaquín Chamorro had been murdered in Nicaragua only ten years before. Up until that second murder, I had enjoyed a devil-may-care attitude about my life. Our adventures in the Foreign Service had been enriching and stimulating—but also dangerous. Even with the kids, I eventually went along, firmly attached to my husband and the sexiness he found from living on the edge.
Angel was attracted to danger; it’s true. It’s not accidental that he became a terrorism expert at the Rand Corporation following his tenure in the Foreign Service. And I think when we were first married it felt exhilarating, watching the fomenting of a left-wing revolution in Nicaragua. I was younger then, and I didn’t have a growing family to consider.
I didn’t find the edge exhilarating anymore.
My husband was relaxed and unstressed about the work challenges he was dealing with and the threats to Americans. But it was a difficult time for me. Our house had become an armed camp with policemen guarding our comings and goings.
            “Angel, why is the security detail here all the time? It’s scaring the children,” I asked him as I watched our kids running to catch the bus. My hands had begun to shake—my reaction to fear that went back to my childhood. “I don’t want to see police cars here all the time. Please, can’t you tell them to meet you at the corner?”
            “Stop it, Marilea,” he snapped, brushing me off, “do you want to end up a widow like your mother?”
I woke up one night while Angel was away on embassy business, sweating and shaking, with the image of heads on stakes up and down the highway to the base at Nea Makri. I doubled the number of cigarettes I’d been smoking in an effort to relieve my stress.
The children were in school all day and had many after-school activities to occupy themselves. But I couldn’t sleep much at night, continually waking with old “They’re coming to get me” nightmares from my 1973 breakdown so many years before. But there in Greece it wasn’t drug-induced paranoia: those fears were real. The terrorist organization under suspicion, November 17,  had promised to kill more American diplomats if the United States refused to remove its bases from Greece.
The bomb that blew up near our house that day was still exploding in me.
Every time I saw Angel’s security guard pick him up I wondered if he’d be coming home that night.
            Bill Nordeen had also been in an armor-plated vehicle, and it did nothing to protect him.

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