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Denver Post:
No Fairy Tale, But This Story Needs To Be Told

Feature Articles
About "If I Could"

Denver Post
October 17 2001

Baltimore Sun
May 15, 2001

Washington Post
May 17, 2001

Rocky Mountain Independant
November 2001

iCom Film Magazine Production news brief about "If I Could" June 2003

Psychiatric News, newspaper of the American Psychiatric Association, July 9, 2002. Second article


By Diane Carman
Denver Post Columnist

From the Denver Post Today Section
October 17, 2001

Filmmaker Patti Obrow White attempts to find the answer in her documentary, "If I Could," which will have its local premiere today at the Denver Film Festival. It's not a happily-ever-after story. "If I Could" takes us back to 1979, when 15-year-old Theresa Marasco (known in those days as Tracy) entered a Vision Quest diversion program for youth offenders. Marasco had been sexually abused by her father, who introduced her to intravenous drugs and prostituted her to pay his bills. She was a wreck - angry, belligerent and self-destructive. CBS Reports featured Marasco's story in a 1979 documentary called "The Wagon Train Trial."

Twenty years later when her son James entered a similar program, she agreed to let the filmmaker continue the tragic saga. In the intervening years, Marasco had married Jimmy, who fathered James and a daughter, Holly, and then took off. She survived 15 years of drug and alcohol addiction, got in trouble with the law, took up with another guy and had two more children. It was all too much for James.

By the time he was 12 he had been in and out of mental institutions and juvenile detention. He had a drug problem, was failing in school and was at least as angry, belligerent and destructive as his mother had been as an adolescent.

"I subjected my oldest child to the cycle of dysfunction I learned during my childhood," Marasco admitted with deep regret. Now she just hopes he can find the strength to break the cycle. Marasco said she has been drug and alcohol free for eight years. She enrolled in a paralegal program at the Community College of Denver in 1995. At the time she was homeless with three children.

In December, she is set to graduate from the University of Colorado-Denver with a degree in political science. Some day she'd like to go to law school. But with all that success, she is still struggling. She works part time for Vision Quest and is barely scraping by.

James is enrolled in yet another Vision Quest program, in a residential treatment center in New Jersey. "He's doing real good. He's on the honor roll," Marasco said. Still, she said, she worries that at 14, he's vulnerable. "James has not reached the point in his maturity of really wanting to not go back in the other direction. Right now it's difficult for him with all the peer pressure."

Even with the intense intervention of Vision Quest, which combines counseling, discipline and physically challenging situations to help abused kids, Marasco said it took years for her to begin the process of recovery. "I could probably still be in that cycle right now."

"You have to care about something. You need hope."

All the help in the world couldn't change her until she was ready, she said. "You have to care about something. You need hope."

For Marasco, the moment came in 1993 when she realized that if she didn't change her behavior, she'd lose custody of her kids. "You have to find it within yourself to want change. It's like starvation - starvation for success." But even the commitment to change is only the beginning. Marasco's struggle will last a lifetime.

"If I Could" shows her confronting problems of abandonment, addiction and low self-esteem that go back to her parents and ripple through the lives of her children.

It doesn't have a happy, made-in-Hollywood ending.

"Change takes a very long time, especially with deep-seated issues," Marasco said. "There is no such thing as a quick fix in the mental-health field. Sometimes it takes not years, but generations."

It's not easy to overcome the scars of childhood. As the movie suggests, if they could, they would.



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