Neatly coinciding with the end of Alcohol Awareness Month, Olympian Leah Pells is releasing her new book, Not About a Medal. Canadian native Pells is a three-time Olympian but her book, aptly titled, does not focus on her highly acclaimed running career. She tells her story of growing up with an alcoholic mother. Journalist Shelley Fralic of the Vancouver Sun interviewed Pells earlier this week and reviewed the book yesterday. Moved by Pells’ description of an emergency room visit for her mother’s nasty fall shortly before passing, she included the following excerpt:
The look on mum's face was one of pure shame and embarrassment. I'd had it. I was fed up with these judgments. She had endured a lifetime of negative remarks about her illness and always just took it, never fighting back. I was done listening to other people's judgments, especially from a medical professional. I ... let out a long stream of words, which, in no uncertain terms, let the doctor know she was ill and to keep such derogatory remarks to himself.
Finding the book difficult to read (at moments) because of the pain endured by its protagonist, Fralic observes, “Pells knows that running saved her… it was her way out of the cyclical trap that many children of alcoholic parents fall into.”
Dr. Tian Dayton is exploring these relationships in her new book, The ACoA Trauma Syndrome, which is to be released in September. People in alcoholic families who grow up with trauma sometimes suffer from long-lasting effects that require help and attention. A form of post-traumatic stress reaction, these childhood relationships often get played out in adult relationships.
So Pells’ story, while not unique, is one that desperately needs to be shared in the mainstream media. The more people who bring attention to these issues, the better chance the recovery community has at alleviating them.