“Many people in recovery face great fear
in entering or reentering community life.
We must be in a position to say, “Take my
hand and I will take you there.” To offer
those words, we must first know that
community terrain and have connections
with its people and institutions.”
– William White
My name is Donna Mae (Goles) Baukat. Stephen M. Baukat is my husband of almost 40 years in late 2021. The first thing you should know about me is that I am transparent, and I love to share my story of how I have been recovering since the late 1960s from mental health issues. The reason I am being open about my recovery is that my story might help someone who may take time to listen.
A story always starts with a beginning — mine starts as an infant. In fact, because I was conceived out of wedlock, my mother held me responsible for her marriage to my father. Both have passed. I was never open to strangers about the physical and emotional abuse I experienced as a child, nor have I talked about the neglect. In Y2004, my mom admitted that she married my dad only because she was pregnant and failed in attempting an abortion. She said she went to have an X-ray complaining of stomach pains and knew that she should have mentioned her pregnancy to the technician. After I was born, she told me she could not hold me or coddle me as a mother would her baby because of her strong anger that her first child forced her to be married to someone whom she did not love. My father did not know how to express affection, which I grew to know throughout my childhood and into my adult life. Mom was mainly the reason my dad whipped me with a belt. She might be arguing and fighting with him about how Donna Mae did not do the family’s ironing or folded the clothes or cooked rice or, whatever, before she got home from work.
My childhood experiences meets the Abuse in Childhood Experiences (ACEs) survey in which I score six.
“There are 10 types of childhood trauma measured in the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. (There are many others…see below.) Five are personal — physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect, and emotional neglect. Five are related to other family members: a parent who’s an alcoholic, a mother who’s a victim of domestic violence, a family member in jail, a family member diagnosed with a mental illness, and experiencing divorce of parents. Each type of trauma counts as one. So a person who’s been physically abused, with one alcoholic parent, and a mother who was beaten up has an ACE score of three.” [source: https://acestoohigh.com/got-your-ace-score/]
ACEs is a guideline that tells us the likelihood of a child developing serious health problems in adulthood. There are many types of trauma, of course, i.e., racism, bullying, watching a sibling being abused, losing a caregiver, etcetera. I discovered the ACE survey in 2019 and was amazed by its accuracy. My health has not been good. In fact, one doctor treating me with medication for Bi-Polar Depression said I have way too many health problems. It s important that children are protected from the types of trauma described in the ACES survey.
While a mother with three children and two in diapers at the same time, I was married to a Marine drill instructor who smoked heavily and drank cases of Coors. My parents were not alcoholics, but my dad behaved as one. That first marriage was a painful time that began just before the Vietnam war. As a foot soldier’s wife, I raised my children alone for months at a time when their father was overseas and fighting a war. He was a good father, but his wife was last on his list. First the Marine Corp, second the children, third his drinking with the guys and lastly his wife. Again, the neglect affected my mind and preoccupied me with finding ways to get his attention. When he returned home (three-days after training the “boots” in San Diego), he changed and immediately went to play with the kids. I had been cleaning up the house and prepared a big roast, expecting him to come see how I was. A good father for children is the best thing for them—but, for a neglected wife, it was horrible!
Without going into the details of how I caused my dress to ignite into flames, I was lucky that he walked into the kitchen and saw me in flames. Wearing only a tee shirt, he grabbed me into his arms and put out the fire. I did not admit what I had done to cause the fire, instead, I had regained my senses and asked that he get ice to put in the bathtub. As the cold water filled the tub with me wearing the burned long muumuu I had made, he ran back and forth from the fridge with ice. He grunted and showed complete disgust as I was trying to cool the searing pain I was feeling. Almost in shock, my voice wavering, I asked him to take me to the hospital. He fussed back toward the children’s room to get them ready for the late afternoon ride to the Balboa Naval Hospital. We arrived with the corpsmen leading me to an examination room, the burns on my stomach feeling worse and I was crying with intense pain over 30% of my body. They couldn’t take me to the military burn center because it was too late and we should have called an ambulance to reach me sooner. Over the next 14 days, I was calling from my bed to the hallway outside my room for someone to give me relief for my pain. By the end of three hours, I was so desperate for morphine, the nurses and corpsmen let me cry out for help rather than coming in to say it was too soon for the pain shot. Today, I have the scars that reminds me of that day when I recall vividly every step I took to cause my dress to ignite from the pilot of our range oven. I described to the doctors that I reached over the front range with the lit pilot on, but the floor polish I “accidentally” spilled on my dress caused my muumuu to catch fire. It would be in a later hospital stay for major depression that I admitted to a psychiatrist of the tragic details in how I caused harm to myself.
As many months and years have seen me battle with depression, anxiety, mood changes, mania and anger, I sustained nine shock treatments that temporarily cause memory loss. My first husband Walt and I separated in 1973; our divorce was final in 1975. Over the next eight years of divorce, I raised our three children for a time until they decided to live with their dad. It gave me opportunity and time to pursue an outside sales career, and I was paying child support. Those years of entertaining clients were times of discovering my self, but most of the times I was lonely. I started drinking socially. In one night, I drank three or four glasses of Jimmy Beam over the rocks. Driving home at three o’clock in the morning was slow and deliberate. I prayed all the way home that I would not weave or be stopped by a police car. Most of those years were in Orange County, California. The people I dated were swell company, and I had a rule of never getting serious with anyone. I did not consider myself an alcoholic, and I tempered my drinking to remain mindful when taking a client out to fancy lunches or dinners.
I grew up with low-esteem and an over-achiever. During grade school, I was first on the honor roll at a private Catholic elementary school for girls in Honolulu, Hawaii, where I lived the first 13 years of my life. The Canadian Sacred Hearts Nuns were the kindest and gentlest people I have ever known. They never knew that under my midi-length pleated navy blue skirt were belt marks. They nurtured my creativity and I was heard for my thoughts without getting a slap in the head or being told that I talk too much, or that I asked too many questions. I actually ran away from home every day to get to school. The 14-mile bus ride in the mornings to school and back, gave me a chance to complete my homework and to be free from the loud voices and sounds of slamming doors and broken dishes. I would feel like an escapee from the small bedroom where I hid under the covers praying my mother or father would not fly into the room to pull me out of the bed to finish some house duty that I might not have done well. That was the period I was in the first through part of the seventh grade. In February 1958, a few weeks after my 13th birthday and after I left Sacred Hearts Convent School for Girls, we were on a plane leaving Honolulu airport and waving to 30 cousins, our grandmother and grandfather, uncles and aunts. I recall looking out the window as we taxied by all of them waving goodbye, and the only thought I had deep inside my mind and heart was not grief of leaving them. I was feeling relief!
Thinking the feeing of relief to myself, not having breathed a word to anyone all those years — except for a vague “First Confession” in the 2nd grade to a priest in a confessional in preparation for my First Communion sacrament. Clearly, I was happy to be going away from the man my parents left me and my sister with whenever they needed to have a babysitter. Tata Cerillo was my maternal grandmother’s old friend before she passed. According to a black and white picture I remember of myself in a diaper, mom and dad was living with Tata in Liliha (a Filipino community on Liliha Street). He later moved to a duplex nearby. Tata was the source of money my parents needed when they were broke. On that plane leaving for San Francisco where my dad was going to meet us, I had a self-talk. “I won’t have to take naps with Tata anymore and he won’t ever touch me again!”
Recovery from those memories, not being able to tell someone I was hurting all those years, and not seeing the punishment for a person that hurt me — and, likely my kid sister — are why I was finally relieved of leaving my birthplace. But, those secrets stayed with me until I found help in a mental health treatment hospital. Abuse, emotionally and physically, still followed me through my high school years and into my first marriage. It has been through my husband Steve that I have come to know recovery more real and more soundly. Through my trust in Jesus Christ and answered prayer, Steve has been like a doting mother and a loving father that I had always yearned for. This may never happen to another person like it did for me. My faith in God and my cry that He send me to the proverbial needle in the haystack for a man who loves God — who will then be able to love me — is why we will be celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary later this year in 2021. Recovery is never complete, but the process must start somewhere. For me, it started with being emotionally and physically exhausted from feeling depressed, anxious, lonely for true love and a desperation to know that I am okay to be “me”.
I was born to Filipino parents whose culture is influenced by the Spaniards who invaded their homeland in the Philippines. Our Filipino culture has its rules, similar to peoples who have been conquered and made to acquire the cultures of their conquerors. Unlike the Native Americans in North America, Filipinos are considered immigrants to the United States. I was born in a Territory of the United States at the time, but I am a Naturalized American Citizen. Unlike Native American or Indigenous Peoples, my family culture did not suffer at the hands of those who took children from families to boarding schools to learn the American way. Although, I am not a Native American, it doesn’t mean that I don’t have empathy for their struggles. In fact, the color of my naturally brown skin has attracted some of the Native American’s my organization has served since 2018. They feel comfortable with me and they have become friends I care for.
I have been working on our newest program: Durango Recovery & Empowerment Services in Durango and in Cortez, Southwest Colorado. I completed the Addiction Recovery Coach training on June 11, 2021, in a virtual class by CCAR/Recovery Coach Academy. I will be taking the Peer Specialist Training with the Colorado Mental Wellness Network starting September 20, 2021. It is a 72 hour course that prepares me for certification. In the meanwhile, we are in search of recovery candidates who will be trained and with whom we will consider for employment. It will start with CCO Coach Agreement with Donna Mae Baukat on a mutually volunteer basis. When funding is received, we will pay for training. Contact us if you or anyone you know may be interested.
Community Compassion Outreach has been serving people experiencing homelessness in Durango, many of whom are Native Americans. Not only do we want to address addiction and mental health with peer recovery coaches in the Native American communities, we know that homelessness can cause addictions to various substances and primarily alcohol. Alcohol breweries and marijuana shops are plentiful in Southwest Colorado, outside Native American Reservations. Homeless people are not the only ones affected by addiction and mental illness. People living in all economic levels are affected, privately behind closed doors. In rural communities, lack of transportation is a reason why so many are not able to meet with counselors and doctors. Peer recovery coaches (both homeless and those residing in homes) are the bridge to treatment and prevention. Recovery has many pathways. Recovery coaches are “partners in recovery”, non-judgemental, compassionate, good-listeners and motivators for a person who is seeking a sober lifestyle.
Durango Recovery & Empowerment Services will be developed over the next several months while we seek funding through grants. Our team consists of a doctor of psychology, a pastor who facilitates Celebrate Recovery at Adventure Christian Church, a few people working on recovery and some who are homeless, an addiction counselor and Donna Mae Baukat.
Is it time for you or someone you know to start on a pathway to recovery? Please contact us at (970) 236-2313 or Email ExecDirectorCCO@gmail.com for further information.
Our mission is to assist individuals & families to prevent, to survive and to exit homelessness with warm clothing, camp provisions, food, referrals to vital resources and connection to housing. We designed a small 560-sq.ft. Essential House for permanent and supportive housing in a Village of Hope development.
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We are located at 255 E. 11th St., Durango, CO 81301. At this time, our office hours are limited due to short staffing and the COVID pandemic. Volunteer professionals are available by appointment only.