Book Review: Mommy’s Disease by Carolyn Hannan Bell, MS, LPC

untitledCarolyn Hannan Bell has delicately captured the fine line between showing the damage alcoholic parents inflict on their children and explaining the disease of alcoholism in a non-moralistic way.  So often, no matter how far we’ve come in the field of addiction medicine and understanding the physiological aspects of alcoholism, the alcoholic is still considered an outcast or morally deficient person.

In her book, Mommy’s Disease: Helping Children Understand Alcoholism, Hannan-Bell approaches the subject from the child’s eyes.

The child, “Mila” simply doesn’t understand why her mom “acts funny,” or “fails to show up for visitations.”  She loves her mom and wonders what she must have done to make her mom do these things.  In one exchange with her father, Mila says, “If Mommy loved me she wouldn’t ever have any drinks at all!”

The father in the story is the explainer of the disease and he does a great job! “Whoa, Mila! Mommy’s drinking doesn’t have a thing to do with you, or me, or anyone.” And he goes on to explain how much the alcoholic mother loves her daughter — but that drinking makes her behave in certain ways that hurt the ones she loves.

I wished the story had a happy ending, that the mom got sober and the family was reunited! But sadly, unfortunately, statistics don’t back up the happy ending.  Marriages and families are broken because of alcoholism, and the important thing is to love the children through it.

This book is especially helpful for young children, under age ten or so. The author is a practicing psychotherapist in New Jersey who works with families and individuals suffering from the emotional effects of alcohol and substance abuse. Her first book, “Daddy’s Disease,” gained praise from others in the field who work with the children left in the alcoholic’s wake.

One reviewer states, “Carolyn nails the fear and confusion brought about by an alcoholic parent, as seen through the eyes of a child. The book provides instruction for guiding a child through the anger, fear and disappointment produced by the conduct of an alcoholic parent, while still preserving the precious parent-child bond…” Jackie C

Hannan Bell’s web site Alcoholism Hurts Kids has more information about the books and the author. Buy the book on Amazon here.

10 thoughts on “Book Review: Mommy’s Disease by Carolyn Hannan Bell, MS, LPC

  1. Hi 9. First time comment from me. Taking you back to an old post, with a question? This book sounds great for families with young kids. In my case, my children are grown adults in their 20’s. They are becoming very distant from me because they know I drink occasionally- Never when I am with them, or in any situation which would affect them. For me this feels like a lot of pressure and lack of support. Most parents have experienced their kids doing things, or acting in ways that we would not approve of, or don’t like, but hardly any parents would distance themselves from their kids? We would pray for them, and encourage them to think about changing the bad actions. Question: how should I react to this? BTW, I had stopped for a year, a year or so ago, and am mustering the willpower to quit again. Thanks!

    • hey! thank you for reading my blog. I agree about the book being more for young children. my children are in high school and the issues they face are different. I have no solutions to anyone else’s problems. but explain a little bit more? so you drink and your grown children don’t want you to drink? is that correct?

  2. Yes. When they were young, we had a blended family (Brady bunch) which was tough. Quite a bit of tension, and I drank openly, and a lot (I now really regret it). But they developed an aversion to my drinking- very understandably. But that was long ago and now they are still very averse to any alcohol use by me. And as I said, it feels like a lot more pressure on me. Quitting for good is hard and at this point I feel like I could use encouragement vs. distance from my kids.

    Just curious if, in your journey, or hearing about others, what your thoughts are? Thank you!

    • ah yes I get it and I can relate. in my journey there have been many many people who loved me and wanted me to stop drinking. I’ll let you know for certain your children’s response is out of love. different people express love differently. some would love me and try to fix me but then when they realized they couldn’t fix me they went away–distanced themselves from me. this REALLY HURTS so I understand what you’re feeling. the only way to deal with this is through the wisdom of the serenity prayer. we have no control over the way they respond to us. but know it is out of love. they think this “tough love” of shutting you out will somehow get you sober. they’re wrong but we can understand their thinking and understand it comes from loving us. the only two in my life who truly continued to love me unconditionally were God and my mother. my sisters did finally come to understand this is a disease and not a “choice(per se)” and they did move into the unconditional love too which I am so grateful! I need love to heal, not avoidance and ostracizing. conventional wisdom since the 1980s (war on drugs) is to use tough love on an alcoholic or addict. thankfully counsellors and many rehabs are realizing that tough love doesn’t work. there are still people like your children and like my best friend who believe if they show us love then they are “enabling” us. they’re wrong but we can understand they’re response and behavior is out of love. but it hurts, adds to our sense of loneliness, shame and isolation. the only thing we can control is ourselves. use all the resources and prayer and willingness and courage we can to try to recover. if we do that then these loved ones will come back into our lives. but unfortunately if we can’t get and stay sober they will continue to avoid us. I’m so sorry for your pain. I do understand,

      Sent from my iPhone


  3. Boy, you do get it!! I think this is exactly the situation, and this is totally how I am feeling. I am hoping for some way to establish some communications on this with my kids, but, I think that can be tricky. Your words and view point are extremely valuable. If by the grace of God, I can talk to them about this, I’ll remember your words. My first tendency would maybe to be a bit defensive, or worse a bit offensive…”why have you shut me out for so long”?? Neither would be beneficial to restoring our relationship. A lot of my prayers are devoted to this.

    May God bless you! Thank you for the great counsel and advice, and I look forward to following your blog posts.

    • no. neither defense or offense. you know this I know. focus on loving and changing yourself whether they come back to you or not. anything we say while we are still drinking will be counter productive. get 90 days then approach them for love and support. God bless us both! xo

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