Independence Day

2015-American-font-b-Independence-b-font-font-b-Day-b-font-font-b-celebrations-bHappy birthday America! For those of us in the USA, today is our country’s 239st birthday. Hopefully it will be a great day for you too. I expect there will be a record number of hamburgers, hot dogs, ice cream and watermelon going down the hatch, being chased by all manner of liquid refreshments.  Tonight our celebration of freedom will be capped off with multitudes of bangs and booms from border to border and sea to shining sea by millions of exploding Chinese fireworks. In the spirit of freedom please indulge me as I climb up on my soapbox one more time.

The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776. This week as I thought about those incredible 239 years of freedom for our nation, it dawned on me that for most of my years living in the land of free and the home of the brave, I was neither free nor brave. Sadly, I know from personal experience that I’m not alone. For me a secret shame hijacked my personal freedom at age fourteen, the day I was sexually abused by someone I trusted. That day I made two decisions. I would never let it happen again and I would never tell anybody – ever!  The first decision was a very good one; the second very bad.

Here’s something I learned over those forty-five years of carrying that top secret pain. Shame kills.  For me it killed my insides, my confidence, my self image and my “me”.  At the same time on the outside, most everything I touched turned to gold.  I lived in a world of praise and respect, but I could never accept my accomplishments. What I’m trying to say is that in spite of doing well and looking good I was never able to feel good about me.  The shame of the abuse was more powerful than the accolades of the success. It wasn’t even a close race. As I played my part of poster boy of success on the outside, on the inside the shame was choking the life out of my soul.

In the fall of 2005 I had enough. I decided not to live that way any longer. In short I craved my independence so desperately that I swallowed my pride-based fear of rejection, came clean, sought help and I found it.  It was not a complicated process — painful yes, but not complicated.  I unloaded my four decades long shame shackle with its accompanying chain of self-defeating behaviors and became the man I always wanted to be.  For the first time my inside matched my outside! Contrary to my life long fear, I discovered that none of the folks who love me shunned me; instead they loved me more and taught me to accept their love. They walked beside me through my fears and my pain. So the shackle of shame has finally been broken and at last I have my “me” back. I’ve discovered that Humpty Dumpty can indeed be put back together again.

I go public again today because I’ve learned that there are many others on this day of freedom who are not free for the same reasons or different reasons.  If you are one I urge you to make this your personal Independence Day.  Facing my fear was not nearly as bad as was the fear of the facing.

Something to Think About.    The online version of my book for free Unscrewed: Becoming Whole Again. My personal story of abuse, shame, guilt, addiction, failure,rehab and victory. http://johngouldener.com/?page_id=3877

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