number of homes in America suffering the ravages of alcoholism and alcohol
abuse is at a new high in Gallup surveys going back a half-century. Four
in ten women (38%) now report that drinking has been a problem in their
With alcoholism and alcohol abuse as key components
in virtually every major societal problem, one can conclude that America
does not have a crime or health problem so much as it has an alcohol problem.
Alcoholism stems, in part, from what Carey Sipp, author
of The TurnAround Mom, calls "the mother of all addictions"-the
addiction to toxic intensity. This addiction, like all the others it generates,
is likely to make parents unavailable to their children and is damaging
to them in other ways as well. The resulting neglectful and abusive behaviors
are most often unintentionally passed on from generation to generation,
perpetuating cycles of addiction and abuse.
intensity and alcoholism
tells us that toxic intensity addicts escape reality by creating and maintaining
a cycle of chaos, confusion, and anxiety, then seek relief from the negative
results through alcohol, other drugs, work, abuse, their own adrenaline,
relationships, sex, money mismanagement, overeating, dishonesty, or any
other self-destructive, compulsive behaviors.
She explains that during the brief period of relief,
the addict may take actions-driving under the influence, overspending,
over promising, becoming involved in destructive relationships-that create
even more chaos, confusion, and anxiety, thus perpetuating and intensifying
Carey asserts that toxic intensity-along with its fellow
traveler alcoholism-is fueled in part by our often frantic lives in which
we overextend and undercare for ourselves. This self-perpetuating combination
creates fear, which fuels intensity, and an energy deficit, which clouds
She believes further that our expectations of what we
need to live "the good life" have moved so far out of line with
reality that "we hurt ourselves with addictions and lack of self-care,
and hurt others with the resulting irritability, anger, jealousy, violence,
and verbal abuse."
alcohol, and unavailable parents
many of today's parents simply do not make time to model or teach self-care,
much less address alcoholism and other addictions. Nor do they lead their
pressured partners or children into even a few minutes of the daily family
quiet time this author advocates as a means of establishing or restoring
a sane and loving home life. Carey believes that for children, this non-intense
family time, along with other gentle practices she advocates, will help
prevent the addictions to toxic intensity - and subsequent substances
and behaviors - well before the cycle can ever begin.
It is no accident that Carey consistently begins the
list of addictions with alcohol. In her case, and in that of many other
adult children of alcoholics, the addictions to alcohol and toxic intensity
are so intertwined that it is hard to see where one starts and the other
For too many families, alcohol addiction begins-or becomes
manifest-when the most vulnerable of family members reaches a most intense
and vulnerable time: the teenage years. While an ounce of prevention before
teenage drinking begins could save lives and heartache, research shows
that many parents are simply not doing a very good job of helping their
children learn responsible attitudes regarding the use of alcohol.
At least one-third of teens say they would like to talk
about this topic to a greater degree than is presently the case. Yet many
parents are not available or interested in talking about attitudes and
behavior regarding alcohol, in spite of the horrifying facts: in at least
six of every ten child-abuse cases alcohol is a factor. The number one
killer of teens and young adults is highway crashes related to alcohol.
Among teens who commit suicide, alcohol is a factor for four of every
ten. The same figure applies to adolescent drownings. Yet many parents
avoid talking to their teens about these scary realities.
Nearly half of teens see drinking as a problem among
their peers. The proportion rises to 57% among teens aged 16 and 17. Although
tougher drinking and driving laws have helped reduce alcohol-related driving
deaths, twenty-one of every hundred teens report having been in a car
at least once with someone their age who was under the influence of alcohol.
When alcohol kills a classmate or family member, the
pain of grief fuels toxic intensity and anxiety. Yet teens and adults
alike are quick to ease their grief, guilt, and anger, ironically, with
Our teens have relatively free access to alcohol. About half say it is
very easy to buy, and a third say it is fairly easy to buy. Further, many
high-school students head off to college totally unprepared for a drinking
environment, which includes peer-pressure-driven binge drinking-consumption
of at least five or more alcoholic drinks in one sitting.
Nor are parents serving as very good role models. Nine
percent of teens are willing to admit that they drink more alcohol than
they should, but a still greater number, 14%, say this about their parents.
the lack of communication
do so many parents fail to keep their children from getting in trouble
with alcohol? As Carey theorizes, many parents lead frantic, fast-paced
lives and do not make time for this vital topic of discussion. And for
parents who drink excessively themselves, fear, embarrassment, and shame
probably play a role in their unwillingness to talk about alcohol with
their children. These uncomfortable feelings add to the toxic intensity
among family members, helping to perpetuate the cycle.
Further, many mothers, because of abandonment, divorce,
or choice, lack the help and support of a spouse. Single parenting often
leads to fatigue, financial pressures, and children exacting too much
freedom from exasperated mothers or fathers-more staple ingredients of
toxic intensity and addiction.
and preventing addiction-the role of the TurnAround Mom
mothers are in denial about their own drinking habits or other compulsive
behaviors. Trapped in the disease of addiction, they do not know the liberation
that can come through seeking the help of God or a Higher Power and the
support of other recovering persons, as are the suggestions practiced
in Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, and other Twelve-Step programs created
by and for those afflicted with addictive behaviors. They do not know
that the easiest way to influence their own children to avoid trouble
with alcohol and other addictions is to begin, immediately, their own
recovery from alcoholism or any other addictive behavior.
Alcoholism and alcohol abuse touch virtually everyone's
life in the family or extended family, directly or indirectly. As a recovering
alcoholic myself, I am keenly aware of the potential dysfunction that
addictions of all sorts, chemical or otherwise, can have upon a home.
What is called for, in the case of alcoholism, is not only a cessation
of drinking, but a careful examination of the factors behind addiction,
and taking the steps needed to deal effectively with these factors. This
can often mean a transformation of life not only for the alcoholic/addict,
but for the entire family as well. Neutralizing years of addiction and
long-held resentments is healing for the parent; what's good for the parent
is good for the child.
For anyone trapped in addictions and denial, TheTurnAround
Mom is a precious gift. It is an honest, no-holds-barred account
of the author's upbringing in what she describes as a "violent and
alcoholic home." It is an accounting of a person willing to neutralize
addiction and resentments. It offers the reader one woman's dramatic and
encouraging account of how she is coming to terms with her addictions
and keeping her life turned toward that which is healing and positive.
spiritual dimension in recovery
stresses the importance of the spiritual dimension in recovery, and she
reminds us that people can be liberated by becoming aware of their problems,
accepting them, and taking actions that lead to positive outcomes for
themselves and others. She advocates pathways to change, among the most
important: turning our lives and our will over to the care of a power
greater than ourselves, which, for Carey, is God. This means, in part,
taking care of ourselves the way a wise father or mother would take care
of a child, with love, discipline, understanding, compassion, natural
consequences, and forgiveness.
And while she says she truly believes God does for us
"what we cannot do for ourselves," she also believes parents
modeling sane and sober behavior must always remember that "Faith
without work is dead," or, simply put, "We can't expect our
children to walk away from temptations that we cannot walk away from,
and we can't expect them to work any harder at controlling tempers, urges,
addictions, and compulsive behaviors than we do."
The TurnAround Mom will help break down the wall of denial.
It is a book written with sensitivity, love, and humor. Carey's unusual
chapter structure uses three fast-moving vignettes relating to each of
the ten chapter topics, followed by the applicable and realistic action-oriented
steps she learned and created during her seven-year study of parenting,
reparenting, addiction and recovery. Each chapter's first vignette recalls
life as a child or teenager in an alcoholic home or other intense situation;
the second reveals what life was like as an alcoholic/intensity addict,
either active in the addiction or just getting into recovery; and the
third shares inspiring thoughts and observations on what life is like
now for a mother who is turning her family toward sanity and serenity.
In a loving, humble way, Carey's compelling story and
practical steps will lead challenged parents onto the fullest road to
recovery: healthy self-care, building a support structure, creating a
sane and loving home life.
This is a book that deserves to be widely read and will, I'm certain,
help salvage many lives and restore homes to peace and sanity with its
basic message, "You've got to raise yourself before you can raise