Reclaiming Childhood – Part One

I have practically no memory of life prior to a pervasive sense of shame and secrecy around sex. It was a dark cloud that settled into every nook and cranny of my being. From the moment I awoke to the moment I fell asleep, intrusive thoughts and images occupied my mind.

I clarify my statement with “practically” because I have a few snapshot memories around age 2. They are from the first of two houses I called home in Stow, Ohio. I remember a swing set and sand box in the back yard and listening to records on the big console stereo in the living room. I remember getting a “bed night snack” in the kitchen, my mom reading to me in the recliner, and my sister explaining to me what “weekend” meant. That’s about the sum total of my memories in that house. They are my only memories before the dark cloud appeared.

I have no concrete memory of what created the dark cloud. And the absence of that memory has been the single biggest frustration of my life. Years of trying to make myself remember have been fruitless. As a counselor who specializes in sexual trauma, I know attempting to force a repressed memory into the stream of conscious thought is counterproductive, even potentially harmful. But as a survivor of an early sexual encounter, that knowledge has not squelched my desire to remember.

While the memory of what happened was locked in the vault of repression, the effects were not. Having the door to sexuality opened early in my childhood put me on a path that nearly destroyed my life. I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t want it and I sure didn’t understand it, but I had to live with the aftermath. And I had no clue how to do that.

I have learned a lot since beginning recovery in 2002, about myself and the dynamics of sexual addiction. Add to that pool of knowledge a master’s degree in counseling and multiple post-graduate courses in sexual trauma. I’ve put a lot of pieces of the puzzle together over the past 15 years. I know a 4-year-old doesn’t simulate sex out of nowhere. Fantasy is often the mind’s attempt to correct a trauma. Compulsive behavior has a root. The body stores emotional memory in a powerful way, and when it gets triggered it can be overwhelming. Forty-five years later I still don’t remember what created the dark cloud, but I know something did. And I know what house I lived in when it happened.


My second childhood home in Stow was on a quiet neighborhood street, Mohican Road. Several families with children my age lived nearby. I lived there for about three years, but I’ve never had many memories of life at that house. (When the mind blocks out a memory, it often blocks out large chunks of them.) And the few I do have, they have always felt dingy. It’s as though someone took my childhood memories and coated them with shame, sadness and fear. Even memories that should evoke joy like learning to tie my shoes, pushing the lawnmower with my dad, riding my Big Wheel – these memories have always been accompanied by flat affect. The balloon of my childhood joy was deflated early on.

Since beginning recovery, I’ve done a good bit of work around my early sexual experience. In the absence of a concrete memory it’s been difficult, but I’ve worked with the pieces of the puzzle that I’ve had. I’ve worked through a mountain of shame. And like trying to escape quicksand, I’ve struggled with feeling powerless. I’m grateful for the progress I’ve made, and I watch for opportunities to continue healing.

Last month I presented a weekend workshop on sexuality at the Stop Nine Church in Byesville, Ohio, less than two hours from Stow. I thought that visiting my childhood home could be a healing experience, so I made plans to take a detour through Stow before my return flight home on Monday.  Friday morning as I was leaving for Ohio, I typed the address for the house on Mohican Road into Google Maps. I wanted to verify how long the drive from Byesville would take.

When the address popped up, I clicked on the street view. There it was, just as I remembered – a two-story house with a grassy front lawn. My childhood home of forty-two years ago appeared to be in much better shape than I expected! I swiped right, then left, checking out the houses next door. They looked like I had pictured in my mind. But I certainly did not anticipate what happened next.

StowOH5On a whim I started to turn the view to the house across the street. From the core of my being instantly came the thought, “Don’t do that!” Too late, my finger had already swiped the screen revealing the house. The emotion flooded over me in an instant! Anger, disgust – I don’t recall a time when I have felt more raw anger. The tears erupted. There was no visual memory, but the emotional memory was unmistakable.

That experience Friday morning sealed my resolve to return to my childhood home Monday morning. Fortunately I had a most enjoyable and encouraging experience speaking at the Stop Nine Church. The connections made with the leaders and several members over the weekend filled my emotional reserves. It left me in a good place for the emotional roller coaster ride that was coming.

(to be continued)

Letting Go

MR2 GrandCanyon2

It was love at first sight!  In February of 2005 I found a 1991 Toyota MR2, T-top with leather seats, for sale on eBay.  With each bid, my heart raced faster. The price was rising to the point I knew I should stop bidding.  But I REALLY wanted that car!  Fortunately, the other bidders quit just before the price hit my ceiling, and I won the bid!!  A few days later I flew from Virginia Beach, VA to Tampa, FL to pick up my “new” car.  I can’t recall ever being more excited about making a 12 hour drive than I was that day.  And so began my adventure with my favorite car ever.

Over an 11 year period, I drove almost 150,000 miles through at least 15 states in that little car.  It became a source of joy for three generations of Holladays.  After I graduated from Regent University in May 2006, my vehicle needs changed and a 2-seat sports car no longer was a fit. My dad had become fond of the little car, so he purchased the MR2 from me. After 18 months and a hip replacement,  my dad decided he would prefer to see his grandchildren enjoy the car. The MR2 keys came back to me wrapped in Christmas paper with a bow!

With a center of gravity just under the driver’s right elbow, that car would hug a curve tighter than a toddler hugs a teddy bear.  My kids and I enjoyed many drives on curvy county roads that paralleled the thrill of roller coaster rides!  On one occasion (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it), Griffin and I clocked our time from the south end of Old County House Rd in White Bluff, TN to the Charlotte, TN line just over the Jones Creek bridge at 59 seconds.  That section of road, with its sharp turns, dips and hills, normally required at least 3 minutes to navigate in the Suburban. I was never able to break that record, although I admit I tried a time or two.


Baby Ruth on a trip back to Texas after “speaking” in Tennessee

Savannah learned how to drive a stick shift in the MR2, thanks to her Aunt Drea. Griffin actually learned how to drive in it. Baby Ruth and I made several trips together in the MR2 during the years she presented with me.  One of my favorite memories of her in that car happened in Holladay, TN at the North 40 Truck Stop.  I had a take out container of pumpkin crunch left over from Thanksgiving that I had packed for the road.  I stopped to fuel up at the truck stop.  In an effort to “Baby Ruth proof” the pumpkin crunch, I stashed the take out container up under the brake peddle and slid my seat forward.  When I returned to the car, I noticed Baby Ruth licking her lips and traces of whipped cream around her mouth.  Sure enough, my 80 lb. 10 year-old rottweiler had managed to get to the pumpkin crunch.  The only trace of the dessert left in the car was quickly disappearing from Baby Ruth’s lips!

By far the most memorable adventure involving the MR2 happened in the Grand Canyon.  Griffin and I drove the MR2 out to Prescott, AZ to tour Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University during spring break 2015.  On the way home, we detoured by the Grand Canyon and spent a night in the park.  After a day of sight seeing via bicycles and a hike into the canyon, we started toward Flagstaff for the night.  About 10 minutes into our journey east along the rim on Desert View Dr., smoke began to

MR2 GrandCanyon4

Emergency crews respond to the 911 call about the MR2

pour from the engine compartment of the MR2.  I pulled over, grabbed my computer bag from the trunk, and we ran back about 100 feet from the vehicle.  I called 911.  I think every member of the Grand Canyon National Park emergency crew arrived on the scene about 10 minutes later.  That event may be the subject of another blog post in the future, but the short story is Griffin and I left the MR2 at the Grand Canyon and returned home.  Two months later my dad and I made a trip back to the Grand Canyon to retrieve the MR2.  That trip was another adventure in itself!

Even typing those words almost two weeks after the decision brings tears to my eyes. The MR2 was connected to a sea of memories of raising children and adventures on the road.  It’s been like a friend for a decade of my life.

But sometimes the price of holding on is more than the pain of letting go.  Be it an addiction, a relationship, a collection of “stuff” or something else,  maybe it’s best to open our eyes to the toll it’s extracting.  Stealing joy from the future by holding on to the pleasure of the past seems like a focus in the wrong direction.  Anything you need to let go?





Steve and Baby Ruth

Hello.  My name is Steve Holladay.  I am the father of 4 children, am married to my wife of 18 years, and live near Dallas, TX.  My house is also home to 2 rottweilers, Baby Ruth and Little Texas.  I enjoy a good steak and am very fond of chocolate in almost any form. 

In many ways I’m not much different than most people.   I enjoy spending time with friends.  I try to do more than time will permit.  I juggle responsibilities of marriage, fatherhood, work, and ministry, and sometimes find myself off-balance in the process.  I experience financial challenges, struggle with doing the right thing, want to be liked, and sometimes wonder what if…

In other ways I’m somewhat unique.  I was on the loosing end of a battle with sexual addiction from childhood until age 33.  I am 7 years into my recovery and am greatful to God for leading me in the healing process.  I am frequently invited into the lives of others seeking help for issues related to sexuality.  I walk with people as they visit very difficult pieces of their life.  These experiences provide me with an uncommon perspective on the subject of sexuality.

God’s gift of sexuality, intended to be a source of pleasure, mystery, intimacy, and security, has been distorted in this fallen world and robbed of its true value.  For many, sex is viewed as dirty, shameful, secretive, hurtful, and empty.  I’ve lived both.  I value the former and regret the latter.

I hope you will find the insights I share in this blog of value.  I envision that some posts will be educational, some inspirational, and some down right humorous.  Sometimes I’ll share information, other times I’ll share myself.  I invite you to share as well.