September 17, 2004: Headlines: COS - Paraguay: Writing - Paraguay: Alcoholism: The Olympian: Paraguay RPCV Toren Volkmann writes about Alcoholism

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Paraguay: Peace Corps Paraguay: The Peace Corps in Paraguay: September 17, 2004: Headlines: COS - Paraguay: Writing - Paraguay: Alcoholism: The Olympian: Paraguay RPCV Toren Volkmann writes about Alcoholism

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Paraguay RPCV Toren Volkmann writes about Alcoholism

Paraguay RPCV  Toren Volkmann writes about Alcoholism

Paraguay RPCV Toren Volkmann writes about Alcoholism

Family breaks the silence
Son's alcoholism translates into book to help others


"A long night of drinking used to make me tired ... now it makes me stay up and shake," Toren Volkmann wrote in May 2003. "I'm an alcoholic. I guess drinking like an alcoholic for eight or nine years was part of the problem."

Click Here Volkmann wrote about his problems with alcohol for himself -- in his journal. But Volkmann, 25, who grew up in Olympia and recently moved back, soon began to share his writing with others.

"When I was asking for help and getting assessed, I showed one of my assessors some of the writing I'd been doing about my alcoholism," said Volkmann, who went through rehab just one year ago. "And I sent that home to my parents and my brothers so they could understand more of what I was going through.

"It shocked my parents a lot and my brothers as well, because they didn't really know what I was experiencing."

Now, Volkmann is sharing his journey -- from partying high school student to beer-bonging collegiate to out-of-control drinker and beyond -- in the book "Our Drink: Detoxing the Perfect Family" (Elton-Wolf Publishing, $19.95). He wrote the book with his mother, Chris Volkmann of Olympia.

"My mom always keeps journals and always has written," Toren Volkmann said. And as the Volkmann family came to terms with a son's alcoholism, Chris Volkmann recorded her fears, hopes and self-recriminations.

"I wondered how I could have let this happen," she wrote soon after Toren called with the news of his alcoholism. "My pacing often led me to the boys' shared upstairs bedroom, where I would bury myself on their couch, wrapped in afghan, weeping at what had become of our perfect family."

This is highly personal material, and it's still raw. It was only last September that Toren Volkmann, then working with the Peace Corps in South America, realized he needed to ask for help.

Sharing the story in the book was not an easy decision.

"I had some sleepless nights because the subject matter is difficult and it's a small community," Chris Volkmann said. "The whole world is a small community when you get down to it. The problems we're experiencing are universal.

"Twenty percent of American households do experience this, so you know there's people going through this, but they don't talk about it," she said. "It's a silent sadness."

But, Toren Volkmann said, it was the inescapable reactions of his family and friends that really worried him.

"I was in the Peace Corps," he said. "I was supposed to be there for two years, so when I had to come home and go into treatment, everybody I knew was going to know. That's where I feared judgment and scrutiny the most, from the people I know."

Both mother and son said they hoped the book -- and their public appearances, including a recent one at the North Dakota Alcohol & Substance Abuse Summit -- would help other families in similar situations.

"There's a standard that you hold yourself up to as parent," said Chris Volkmann. "I felt like by talking about this openly and saying things didn't go like we planned, that it could give other parents courage to look at our family and maybe have some better decision-making in their families."

Chris Volkmann said she had difficulty finding books relevant to her family's situation, even though it's a common one.

"There were good books about addiction and illegal drug use, but I couldn't find anything that really talked to a family about alcoholism in a broad sense -- about how the whole family deals with it," she said.

And that's what Chris and Toren Volkmann decided to create with their self-published book, which includes resources and information, facts and figures about alcohol abuse among teens and young people. In one study cited in the book, 47 percent of college students who drink said their primary reason for consuming alcohol was to get drunk.

The Volkmanns also are spreading their message to addiction professionals. At the summit in North Dakota, they presented a four-hour workshop on "Breaking the Binge Cycle."

"One woman came up to us and said, 'I've been going to conferences for 35 years, and I seldom buy a book, but I'm buying this,' " Chris Volkmann said.

The Volkmanns are particularly excited, though, that their story has touched other families.

"We get phone calls every day from people we know," Toren Volkmann said.

"And people we don't know," Chris Volkmann added.

"There's a lot of crying," Toren said. "People relate it to their own lives. In the end, it's not really about us -- it's about them and their families."

book signing

- What: Chris and Toren Volkmann, the authors of "Our Drink: Detoxing the Perfect Family," will sign copies of their book.

- When: 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday

- Where: The Fireside Bookstore, 116 Legion Way S.E., Olympia

- For details: To find out more about the book, see

- To buy: The book is for sale at, Fireside Bookstore, Orca Books and The Popinjay.

Six drinking danger signs

The Volkmanns' Web site,, lists these signs that someone has a drinking problem:

- Heavy drinking; drinking to get drunk

- Binge drinking, defined as five or more drinks in row for men, four or more for women

- Hangovers and blackouts

- Trouble with relationships or difficulties at school

- Legal problems

- Family history of alcoholism

When this story was posted in October 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: The Olympian

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Paraguay; Writing - Paraguay; Alcoholism



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