REVIEW: Ronni Tichenor and Jennie Weaver — Healing Begins with Us (BOOK)
Healing begins with (you). That’s the core messaging of Ronni Tichenor and Jennie Weaver’s new book, entitled Healing Begins with Us: Breaking the Cycle of Trauma and Abuse and Rebuilding the Sibling Bond. Like the title, the dedications the authors give in the book’s first, few pages also sums up viscerally the tonality and topicalities covered in the read. For our husbands, children, and grandchildren: with gratitude for your love, and with joy for the journey we share. For our lineage: We hope that the work we’ve done will bring greater love and healing to us all, they write, before continuing with the following. “This is the story of two sisters who weren’t supposed to be friends.
We grew up in a home with addiction, mental illness, and abuse issues that generated unhealthy dynamics and often pitted us against each other. The odds of our becoming close and helping each other heal from our childhood were extremely low. We think of it as a miracle for which we are very grateful. We are writing this book in the hopes of making our extraordinary journey commonplace. Our fervent wish is that others will recognize themselves in what we share and use our story to help make sense of their families and facilitate their own healing.”
Hence begins something that is seamlessly part memoir, part self-help, and part overall advice read that lives up to the sometimes overrated quality of its nonfiction subcomponents. Because it’s their lived experience informing Tichenor and Weaver’s expertise, Healing Begins with Us doesn’t fall within these potential, literary flaws. The authors write with an immense sense of gravity, lived grit, and genuinely achieved grace. This does both the read, and its target audience, an incalculably immense service. “In the pages that follow, we detail our story of growing up in a home with dysfunctional dynamics, marked by intergenerational trauma and abuse. And while this is largely our first-person account, we also bring our professional experience to the table in making sense of what happened to us.
Ronni is a Sociology Professor, specializing in (abusive) family dynamics; Jennie is a family nurse practitioner with over 25 years of clinical experience, treating people who are trying to live with the emotional and physical fallout of childhood trauma in adulthood. We use these lenses to tell our own story in a way that will be useful to (mental) health professionals, or anyone who is trying to support someone recovering from experiences like ours,” Tichenor and Weaver write. “…As vastly different as families are, having an adult in the home with an addiction problem creates very distinct and predictable dynamics.
The most basic of these is denial. It has become cliché to compare living with alcoholism to having an ‘elephant in the living room,’ but it is a well-used metaphor because it is so vivid and so accurate. There is this huge, crazy thing at the center of your life that no one ever talks about. It takes up space, and oxygen, and makes an enormous mess, but we all agree that we will ignore it. Our father is an alcoholic. We didn’t really admit that until we were in our late 20s/early 30s. Some people never do. That’s how powerful denial is.”