Abuse and Addiction Resources



I wrote this chapter of “Unscrewed: Becoming Whole Again”  http://johngouldener.com/?page_id=3877  in 2005 during a 30 day in patient treatment at Sierra Tucson,  where I was being treated for sexual trauma from childhood abuse. In those 30 days I became the man I always wanted to be but it took some time to actually realize it (www.SierraTucson.com). My dad was a functioning alcoholic.  He worked hard every day but beer was the most important thing in his life; at least  that is how I perceived it. When at home he always had a Falstaff with a napkin over the top by his side. He seldom said anything and left the run of the house to my mom — who was a total control freak and made all the decisions. I can’t even begin to count the number of times he would promise to take me places and he would either show up late, show up buzzed.  That made me feel sad, angry and lonely. When I was seven he promised to take me camping and fishing on the Buffalo River, just me and my dad –for two whole days.  I couldn’t wait, because I had never done much with my dad except go to the beer joint and sat on a barstool, spin around until I got dizzy and drink Orange Crush in an amber bottle.  I always pretended it was beer. This was going to be awesome, just me and my dad!  I felt really special.  Finally the day came and we headed out to my aunt and uncle’s farm on the Buffalo River near Hurricane Mills Tennessee.  We talked about all the fish we were going to catch and how much fun we were going to have. Looking back he was such a nerd and so fragile, there was  no way he could have done any real fishing. I should have smelled a skunk. As we were leaving Waverly just before we turned off into the country, we stopped to get food, a few cokes and beer.  I remember thinking, “I wish he wouldn’t get any beer.  I wish he would not drink on this trip”.  Since he only bought a six-pack  I thought there wouldn’t be much drinking. I guess I was feeling good but a little anxious.

When we got to the farm, boy was I excited! We drove past the farm houses down into the bottoms and though the corn fields with what I remember as towering cornstalks. I couldn’t wait to get to the river and set up camp. Then we came out of the fields to a place we called the “pump” which was a hand water pump driven into the ground.  I knew that we had arrived when I saw the pump because I had been there before with my uncle Bill and I knew the pump marked the entrance to the campground. That spot  was awesome although I don’t think that word had been invented back then.  It was nestled in a grove of trees right on the banks of the river with a little boat dock that I had watched Uncle Bill make the summer before. There was Uncle Bill’s boat tied up at the dock. I remember that blue Evenrude motor.  Everything was in readiness for us. I remember dad saying “as soon as we set up camp we would take the boat and go upstream a bit to a good fishing hole”. The next thing I remember, we were sitting at the picnic table eating bologna sandwiches, chips, pork & beans.  Me with an Orange Crush and dad with a Falstaff beer. I remember feeling sad because of the beer. Yet, even before we had finished lunch, I heard a vehicle in the distance approaching through the cornfield. I figured it was Uncle Bill in his new 52 Chevy Pick Up on his way down to check on us.  However, when the vehicle came within sight, it was not Uncle Bill’s truck; it was a car I recognized  — a black Studebaker.  It was Mattie, one of dad’s drinking buddies. He wasn’t part of the plan! My heart sunk, I felt like crying.  I remember a feeling of overwhelming sadness and fear. Loneliness and disappointment rolled over me like a river fog.

My dad spent the next two days drinking the two cases of beer Mattie brought with him. My dad and I never went fishing again.  I hated Mattie; he was a big-mouth blow hard  who always made life miserable when he came to our house.  Now he had come to steal my dad from me.  I felt cheated, that I didn’t matter and that people would always disappointment me.  I felt lots of shame, I felt like something was wrong with me. That was the day I began a process of not loving my dad. It’s now fifty-three years later and I still remember it like it was yesterday.  I remember walking down to the boat dock and looking into the water and seeing perch feeding  around the dock posts. As I watched the fish swim about I could hear Mattie and my dad talking and Mattie and laughing.  I could have drowned and neither of them would have noticed. The drinking went on into the night and the next day.

The next afternoon Uncle Bill came to the camp and he and I fished the rest of the day while dad and Mattie finished up the remaining beer.  I felt safe with Uncle Bill.  I also felt important, loved and worthwhile. He was in the back of the boat by the motor and I was up in the front.  We had pulled up under sycamore trees.  I remember how huge those trees were.  The fish were biting like crazy.  Uncle Bill made a big to do over every fish I caught. I felt great! I thought about Uncle Bill.  How great a man he was. He never drank, smoked or cussed.  I felt good and safe and we always had a good time. After a while, I guess after I had lost interest in pulling up those perch,   I said, “Uncle Bill, I love you more than my daddy and that makes me feel sad. (I’ve felt guilty for saying that almost my entire life).

That fishing trip was the genesis of my waning love for my dad, which was only reversed when he was dying of lung cancer 21 years later.  Two days before he died, I was in his bedroom at the house, just the two of us.  It was obvious that his time was short. He looked at me with his brown eyes that had sunken back into his skull and he faintly whispered the words I had longed to hear all my life. “John I love you and am proud of you”. Tears cascaded  from my eyes. Two days later, I was back in the room with him when he died in his sleep.  Again it was just the two of us. I went to the kitchen and told my mom he was dead. I called my brother and sister and the funeral home.  I felt guilty because I had little or no emotional feeling and my dad was lying in his bed dead.  More guilt.

The fishing trip was a major  negative turning point in my life. To my seven year old brain  the message I received  was that my dad cared more about Mattie than he did me. I had already figured out that he cared more about beer than he did me.  By now, I already had a gaping hole in my self-esteem. At seven I felt sad, lonely and guilty. I expect it was a lot to do with me having a difficult time trusting and  why I have always struggled with a fear of rejection and abandonment issues.

Most of my life was lived in a hyper-vigilant mode looking for any signs that someone was going to let me down, or didn’t care about me or doesn’t have time for me, or that someone was angry or disappointed in me. Then I started obsessing that the relationship was coming unglued. That always leads to a spike in the cycle of shame and guilt and hopelessness.  Then things would get better until the whole cycle repeated itself.  This had been a long standing problem but became even more problematic in the years 2000 to 2005…

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Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again


Recently, I was with a contractor friend of mine when he took a cell call. I could tell that there was some kind of problem with the project; then I heard my friend calmly say, “Let’s learn from it”.  I thought what a great attitude. Instead of ranting and raving, he just said “Let’s learn from it”.   There isn’t anything that will ever happen to us that we can’t learn from.

When I was a little boy my mom made the best coconut cakes ever — all from scratch.  Her cakes were always made with “real coconut”.  I would drive a nail into the eyes of the coconut, so we could drain the milk to be used later.  Then I would smash the shell with a hammer. Wow!  I loved to eat hunks of fresh coconut. Once I ate too much and woke up sick-really sick! I didn’t eat coconut for a while after that. I do now, but I know when to stop, because I learned something about the dynamics of crossing the coconut threshold. I also learned it was nice to have a momma to hold me when I was throwing up.

I’ve learned that you can’t trust everybody. I took my car to have the brakes checked at a “name brand place”.  The guy called me and told me, “Gee, I’m sorry but you’re going to need this that and the other”. Something told me I was being conned, so I picked up my car and took it to Midas.  They found nothing wrong. I learned that you can’t trust somebody just because he works for a well known company.

Fifty years ago I was sexually abused by someone I trusted and respected. My life was never the same after that day. I made myself two promises. I vowed that it would never happen again and that no one would ever know. It didn’t and no one did until a little over five years ago when in desperation I told my friend Gene, whom I trusted. In just a few days he was telling others. His betrayal was both one of the worse and best things that ever happened to me.

Here are ten things I learned from that  decades long  experience:

1…Keeping secrets is a path to destruction.

2…When it isn’t your fault, it  really isn’t your fault.

3…Things that are not faced and worked through seldom get better.

4…No matter what you accomplish in your life, shame will steal your self esteem   and undermine your quality of life.

5…Just because someone claims to be a friend doesn’t mean he has any character.

6…Facing the truth, no matter how painful, is always freeing.

7…Getting help is the mark of real men/women.

8…Worthwhile people will not run from you if you tell them what happened. In   fact, they love you more.

9…The life you always wanted is available; it just takes courage, honesty and transparency.

10…Most folks will not betray you. The ones that do are  more screwed up than you.

Never would I willingly relive my 50 year odyssey, but I’ve  learned a lot about me, people and life – how not to live it and how to live. I’ve also learned, first hand, that God does bring good out of bad, if I let Him.  What is life teaching you? 90 in 90

Recently, I met Gary a first-time visitor to our church (http://www.nashvillecrossroad.com/) who had learned of us from my blog. He excitedly told me how fired up he was about finding our church and that “our service was just what he was looking for and he couldn’t wait to get back next Sunday”. Oh, he also said that he would “love to be a part of our music program”.   I always get a chill when I hear that kind of thing from a new person because in twenty years of ministry I can’t recall anyone who said that ever coming back. As we talked he mentioned that he had just gotten out of a drug treatment program and that he was going to be starting 12 Step meetings the next day.  I complimented him for his choice to go to treatment and then I asked  if anyone at the treatment center had encouraged him to jump start his recovery program by doing 90 meetings in 90 days.  Gary replied that they had told him that “just several meeting a week would be plenty”. I have no clairvoyant powers, but I knew immediately that they did not tell him that! I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps that is what he heard, but certainly not what was said!  So I followed up by telling him that when I started attending 12 Step meetings in 2000 that I did “90 in 90” and had been clean for over ten years and that I strongly recommend that he also commit to 90/90. He looked at me like I had just stepped out of a space craft from another galaxy.

In the “Big Book” Bill W. (Co-founder of AA) wrote that “Half measures avail us nothing”. I’ve found that to be true in life in general, but it is particularly true in my ten year personal journey of recovery. Folks who work the program succeed; those that don’t. Trust me there are  no such things as short cuts in The Program.

Almost Dawn

… By now  I already had a gaping hole in my self-esteem. At seven I felt sad, lonely and guilty. I expect it had a lot to do with me having a difficult time trusting and  why I had always struggled with a fear of rejection and abandonment issues.

Most of my life had been lived in a hyper-vigilant mode looking for any signs that someone was going to let me down, or didn’t care about me or didn’t have time for me, or that someone was angry or disappointed in me. Then I would start obsessing that the relationship was coming unglued; that always lead to a spike in the cycle of shame, guilt and hopelessness.  Then things  would start getting better until the whole cycle repeated itself.  This had been a long standing issue, but became even more problematic in 2000-2005 as the dark secret that I was hiding began the long, slow, excruciating painful crawl  to the light.  I had been a victim of  childhood sexual abuse. I thought that I had buried it so deeply that it would never see the light of day.  Thank God I was wrong!

In August of 2005 out of sheer desperation I told a friend and another staff member that I had been sexually abused at age 14. Of course he promised that his lips were sealed. Yea, right!  A few weeks later in front of two other people he outed me! I had a total and complete crash. Oddly enough he had done me perhaps the greatest favor of my life.  This page will be about what I’ve learned since that fateful day through processing my pain. If you are a victim of abuse feel free to contact me on the blog or email me at gouldenerj@bellsouth.net because you do not have to hurt alone. I did for 45 years. Please don’t you make the same mistake. A great resource  for me was  http://www.sierratucson.com

Other  resources  – YMCA Restore Ministry www.restoreymca.org and Onsite Workshops http://www.onsiteworkshops.com/


I recently met with a middle aged woman who is in a great deal of pain over past bad choices; some of them going all the way back to her teen years.  Like so many before, including myself, she made the comment that if people knew about her past they would run from her. Our meeting reminded me of a life-changing event that took place in my own life in the fall of 2005.

In September of 2005, I was in a thirty-day trauma treatment program at Sierra Tucson, in Tucson, Arizona (http://www.sierratucson.com).  During that time my older brother died. The trip home for Eddie’s funeral was one of the strangest experiences of my life. Perhaps for the first time, I allowed myself not to be the “hero”.  Since I was a little boy, I had thought that I had to fill that role. I started out as the ‘family hero” and ended up as the self appointed “hero of the universe”. At hero status, I could solve anyone’s problems other than my own.   Quite honestly, I’ve made a pretty darn good hero; however, just under the surface, I’ve always had a longing for someone to do the leading and let me follow for a while.  Perhaps that is why I used to sometimes be a “needy” person.

Relinquishing my role as the guy in control and sitting back and observing at the funeral and for some reason not feeling that I had to single handily meet all my family’s needs was forever freeing and life changing .  For the first time since I was a child, I didn’t have to pretend that I had it all together. I didn’t have to pretend that everything was OK when it wasn’t.

It seems strange, but I think that was the first funeral that I’ve allowed myself to show my emotions. I hadn’t shown any at my dad’s or my oldest brother’s.  Sure I’ve had them before, but I stoically refused to let them surface. But at Eddie’s funeral I cried like a baby; to the point that looking back I felt a little embarrassed.  But I’m glad my tears flowed. I felt cleansed.  I felt real.

After the funeral I immediately returned to Sierra Tucson. I couldn’t wait to get back.  Perhaps for the first time in my life at ST I experienced unconditional love and it was pulling me back with a persuasive tug. I never thought unconditional love was possible on earth.  I was wrong.  Unconditional love is served up 24/7 in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona.

Somewhere in my 30 day stay, something happened that blew me away. What happed was “I got it”!  Here’s what I mean.  At ST I had been open and honest about me by sharing about  my 45 years of  shame and guilt from the abuse. I told them in detail how it made me feel.  I let those people see me as nobody before had ever seen me.  I let them see the real John.  No pretending that I’m feeling great.  No whistling when I really feel like a zero.   From the day I got there, and believe me I was not a pretty sight that day, they only saw the real John and in spite of that they loved me without condition.  So what “I got” was I don’t have to pretend any more. I don’t have to hide my shame and smile when I’m really sad. I can deal with my real feelings.  I don’t have to feel unlovable anymore.

I brought what I learned home, tested it and it works just as well here. Actually, in a sense, it seems to work better. I’ve found that when you are real it doesn’t repel people; on the contrary it draws them like a magnet.  I’ve also learned that I don’t always have to be a hero, nor do I have to be right.  Sometimes it is fine to just be a Bozo on the bus.

Just like few people will hold your recovery against you, few people will ever run from a truly honest person.

Patty’s Call

It was late afternoon and I was the only person left in the office. I’m not sure of the date, but I do recall that we had already moved into our new church building which took place in the spring of 2005.  I picked up the phone  to hear the voice of one of our long time members  and a personal friend. Patty was calling to give me what she described as a “heads up”.   She went on to tell me that her brother, whose story about being sexually abused by Father Paul Hass in the mid-sixties had been in the local media several months prior, was going to be calling me. The instant she told me that I got a stomach ache. Patty went on to say that he had been talking to CNN and that the network  was going to conduct an  interview  in Nashville  and he wanted me to be a part of it.  I was terrified!  How did David know?  I hadn’t told anybody about Father Hass. For forty-five years I had hidden my secret shame from the light of day.

I was in a near panic as I hung up the phone; my heart was racing as I put my head down on my desk. I thought of my  mom and what it would do to her if “that” got out. I also thought of what it would do to me. I think in my heart I knew that it was over. I just had no idea it would end the way it soon would…

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