Marilea Rabasa’s “Stepping Stones” is an engrossing story of generational addiction, told by a woman has been both an alcoholic and a bulimic. Throughout this memoir (her second: her first is about her daughter’s addiction), Rabasa is blunt and direct in her revelations about her life.
Rabasa had a disappointing childhood with an emotionally distant mother and a father whom she struggled to please and who virtually ignored her. Several years separated her from her older siblings, triggering even more feelings of isolation and loneliness. She regrets not being close to her oldest brother and is not able to cultivate a close relationship with her sister until much later in life. The constant theme in her life is filling voids. In an effort to keep herself occupied, she volunteers, sings in a choir, and roams the woods behind the family home.
For most of her life, Rabasa grapples with eating and alcohol issues–again, to fill the emptiness. She only sees herself through a single prism and it proves difficult to destroy that one- dimensional view, leading to more heartache and more self-destructive behavior.
Addiction is a generational issue in Rabasa’s family: her father struggled with alcoholism and her daughter with drug addictions, and she sees herself in this hereditary context. But she does not sugarcoat her feelings, the circumstances, or her shortcomings. “I was prideful but deceitful,” she writes, “holding on to my elevated position by concealing what was really going on with me behind closed doors. My closet had housed a colorful collection of masks.”
It is a profoundly clear statement. Rabasa wore many masks as a child, teenager, daughter, sister, wife, and mother. They hid what was really occurring, to the detriment of not only her own emotions and physical well-being, but also her relationships with her children. One daughter sent her a vicious email saying “Of course I ended up on drugs. I had YOU for a mother.”
The chapters of “Stepping Stones” are brief and succinct, and occasionally I felt that additional extrapolation would have been helpful. But generally, I found Rabasa’s forthright manner to be engaging and succinct. She has dealt with her issues and has been able to reconcile with her mother, sister, ex-husband and two of her children.
Anyone who has wrestled with addiction and emotional turmoil can gain solace and comfort from reading this memoir. Marilea Rabasa encountered many obstacles and emotional impediments but has accepted herself, along with her mistakes. She likes who she is—something that not all of us can say.