How Rush Limbaugh’s Ex-Wife Healed Her Trauma and Dysfunction

After her husband went to rehab for his drug addiction in 2003, Marta Maranda did something very unusual: She checked herself in. Sober.

“Rehab was the last place I thought I would end up,” she says, adding that she has never even had a cup of coffee in her life. “Checking myself in was the scariest thing I’ve ever done.”

Maranda felt that she needed to do something radical in order to change her life. She was exposed to the clinic’s offerings during Family Week, when her husband at the time, Rush Limbaugh, was getting treatment there. A survivor of incest, Maranda discovered that the clinic could help her heal and change some of her dysfunctional behavior. She chronicles her experience in her book, “What It Looks Like.”

“They were giving me answers, and an open door,” says Maranda, who had previously worked as a writer and had also been a stay-at-home mom. Suddenly, the opportunity to heal and change was right in front of her—so she took it.

One big motivating factor was her children, who were in their 20s at the time. She realized she had caused her family pain and had already passed down her dysfunctional behavior. The only way to improve the situation was to change herself as an example. “I thought, ‘This stops here with me,'” she says. “My children are going to see a healthier way to live life.”

Over five weeks, Maranda learned to break down her defense mechanisms, distinguish between real and perceived threats, set boundaries, and take responsibility for her own behavior—including her own knee-jerk reactions to perceived threats. She says it’s important to “look inward for reasons, not outward for blame.”

She realized she was letting her childhood trauma arrest her development in her adult life, leaving her stuck in a dysfunctional place. With the book, she hopes to encourage others to do the work that she did: looking inward, admitting past mistakes, and also recognizing positive things, such as personal successes upon which one can build.

“I can’t use my childhood experience as an excuse anymore,” she says. “I have the power to write my own story.” And write she did; her book is more than 400 pages long.

Since leaving the clinic, Maranda has continued with therapy and meetings, which help her deconstruct her experiences for information, not shame or blame. She’s proud of how far she’s come and feels that her positive change is a gift for her children. But, she’s quick to point out that she has not reached some peak of enlightenment. Her work on herself and her healing is an ongoing process. “I am not fully healed or fully transformed,” she says. “I am far from done.”

For so many years before she checked into the clinic, Maranda says she made herself blind to her own dysfunctions and didn’t take opportunities to heal. Ultimately, she’s glad she took the scary step of checking into the clinic to jump-start her journey toward healing. “That’s what healing looks like,” she says. “Looking at every opportunity to make a difference in your life.”