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Posted September 17, 2003 


A Parallel odyssey of a Mother and
Daughter through Addiction

By: Ellen Waterston
Lanham, MD:Taylor Trade:2003
Review by: Lon Woodbury

(Available about October 1, 2003)

At first glance, this is a book about a mother who first turned to a wilderness program, and then to an all girls residential program to retrieve her daughter from spinning out of control through self-destructive activity.

At a second glance it is a book about how one personís substance abuse can turn the lives of loved ones upside down and inside out, requiring drastic self-exploration and extreme intervention for the other family members to recover.

At a deeper level, it is a social commentary about the destruction and chaos that can occur when raising children in a modern society that supports radical individual freedoms and assumes parents are the problem.

This story is about what can happen to a mother and daughter when a father removes himself from his vital constructive role in the family by escaping through substance abuse. It is about the journey of addiction that turns everyone close to him into some version of crazy and how the resulting single parent becomes overwhelmed trying to take care of what is necessary. It is a saga of how that situation twists healthy motherly instincts into overly protective enmeshment and codependency, fostering the motherís addiction to shame, denial, and guilt. It is a chronicle of a motherís attempt to maintain appearances and expectations for her children, trying to do it all in an attempt to salvage what is left of the family only to discover that it is not the right thing to do. Its also a story about the confusion of trying to understand how children can de-emphasize their own significant accomplishments, instead emphasizing their sense of loss when a mother is unable to provide the care, attention and hugs usually present in a two parent family. It is a description of a loss of balance that is understandable, but defies rational explanation.

Every parent who has intervened when a child starts to make negative decisions can find at least a little of themselves in the author's story. Every parent who has ever worried about how their children will turn out will find this book helpful, even if only as a reminder that, "There, except for the grace of God, go I."

Politicians, community leaders, educators, child care professionals and those who think and talk in global terms and spend billions of dollars "For the Children," would be well served by reflecting on this story of one parent's chaos. Hopefully it will cause them to ask themselves, ďWhat kind of society are we building that not only facilitates the obstacles this mother had to struggle against, but often also condemns her for being a poor parent? How can such a negative, destructive and unfair judgment be justified by her children's behavior?

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