#SameHere Celebs

#SameHere Celeb Alliance Profile – Dwight “Doc” & Monique Gooden

Dwight “Doc” and Monique Gooden

Dwight is a 4X MLB All-Star, 3X World Series Champion, NL Rookie of the Year (’84), NL Cy Young winner (’85); Dwight met Monique in 1998, and they have two children together: Dylan & Milan; They are committed to co-parenting as productive partners, even after divorce; Monique is both an artist and educator, and will be building her own platform to help others around the topics of: living with partners facing addiction, and co-parenting after divorce, putting your children first

The format for Dwight and Monique Gooden’s story share is quite different than those on our other pages.  They are the first members of our Celebrity Alliance to share, together.  Therefore, we have given some backstory as to how they got involved in the Alliance, through a relationship with our Founder, Eric Kussin, and then some back-and-forth as to how the Gooden’s personal life challenges came to be:

Eric: 
The text came in when I was least expecting it.

The name: Dwight Gooden.  The time: Just weeks after his most recent 16-week rehab stint.

As a kid who grew up on Long Island in the 1980s, I could have never imagined this is how it would go down. “Doc” reaching out to me?

But here we were in 2019 and unlike in his days with both New York baseball teams, where it was me cheering, and him performing, we both needed each other.

I had formed this alliance, two years prior, and a big part of it was getting celebrities to open up about their life challenge and subsequent mental health struggles, and even their triumphs over those challenges. We’d partnered with some big names, with inspiring stories. Amanda Beard. Theo Fleury. Tyler Hamilton. Robin Lehner.

But Dwight Gooden was one that had eluded me. Doc was on my list from Day 1. We had been put in touch by Grandstand Sports, who ran our opening night auction back when we first launched in November of 2017.  Doc and I spoke back then. He shared some of his story with me. But he wasn’t yet ready to share so openly.

He’d been the toast of the town in NY – first with the Mets and especially during his ‘84 Rookie of the Year campaign, ‘85 Cy Young season, and in ‘86 with the team’s magical World Series run. He’d later win two more World Series with the Yankees as a member of both the ‘96 and ‘00 teams.

Like most fans, and then later as a sports executive, I’d formed my opinions of Doc from afar. They went something like this: great guy, genuine heart deep down, someone you wanted to root for, but someone who struggled with his own demons. I didn’t think about it much deeper than that, nor where those demons may have come from.

But as I started this alliance and began to understand my own story and how our past experiences shape our lives, I realized Dwight’s story was likely never really properly told. And if we’re going to move past this concept of stigma that plagues our society, we have to tell the real stories of our greatest stars.  Dwight Gooden didn’t simply have a drug or alcohol problem…no, he used those methods to cope with pain he was experiencing from childhood events he’d never learned to properly deal with.

I just knew there had to be more to Doc’s story than someone who’d gotten too famous at too young of an age and then turned to partying and substances as a result. There had to be a story of challenges and/or trauma from childhood which led him to substances early on, to escape the emotional pain.

When I got that text from Doc, he, and his ex-wife Monique, were now ready to join our alliance – to share openly in the hopes of helping so many others out there who’ve turned to substances to numb their pain.  Here is their story:

Monique:

“My ex husband, Dwight Gooden, was one of the most exciting professional athletes to hit the scene in the New York market – first as a pitcher with the Mets, and then later with the Yankees and other teams. We’d later meet when he was with the Cleveland Indians in 1998.

Dwight faced many challenges in his past – traumatic events that life just handed him, that caused him to go through a lot of emotional pain.”

Dwight:

“Growing up, I was told by my dad, men don’t hug, they don’t talk about their problems, and they certainly don’t cry.

Something inside of me had always felt like we should be allowed to talk about things openly, but I knew that way of thinking was against my dad’s beliefs. I knew deep down that he loved me, but he wouldn’t show it.

My dad had grown up in the south, in Georgia, and had only advanced to a 3rd grade education. To him, a man’s job was to work, & throughout his life, the only time I actually did see him cry was at his mom’s funeral.

When I was 5 years old, my older sister – who was more than a decade older than I was, but still quite young, had just had a child, with a man who was a very violent individual. At our family’s house one day, he would exercise that violence by shooting a gun at my sister, hitting her with eight bullets, one of them in her head! I was holding her son, my baby nephew, in the bathtub of our bathroom at the time, to keep him safe.

To stop him from shooting my sister, my mom shot this man, and injured him enough to stop him from going after my sister, however, with the injuries sustained, the doctors thought my sister would die. Fortunately, she miraculously survived, but the bullet that was in her head/brain was too dangerous to remove, so she’s lived the rest of her life with it lodged there. This has been very problematic, because the bullet and the way it moves, has caused her many seizures.

Though this was all traumatic, my father remained the same, always. No emotion. My mom, when my dad wasn’t around, would let me open up and share my feelings with her. However, my dad remained stoic, always. I wanted to hug my dad, but when I tried the first time, he put his hand straight out and stopped me. The only time I had a chance to directly tell him I loved him, was when he was on life support. He’d pass away never outwardly telling me he loved me.

Growing up, despite all of this, I wasn’t a ‘user.’ I tried alcohol for the first time as a kid at a family barbecue when I was 12, but never drugs like cocaine, as a youngster.

When I came up to NY, things started to change a bit. I learned in that first year in ‘84, what it was like to not be able to leave your house, go to dinner or the movies without everyone recognizing you and swarming you and knowing exactly how much money you were making. I was on the cover of so many magazines as Rookie of the Year, and in the news all the time. I was a 19 year old kid, but never got a chance to actually be a kid at that time in my life.

I’m not complaining about that at all, and don’t want it to sound that way. But going back to all my stuff from being younger, and now the stress of being that much in the public eye and not having my own space, almost ever (I didn’t know it at the time, but do now), things built and built inside me. When they build like that, they eventually impact you and even explode out of you. Because I’d been taught not to share, I was an easy target to find other things to mask the pain from what had built inside me.

1985, back in Tampa with my cousin after that first season in the majors, was the first time I tried cocaine. After holding on to all I had as a child and up until that point, I remember when the effects of the cocaine hit me for the first time, thinking to myself: ‘Wow, this is the way I want to always feel.’ It took away all the stressful feelings of the load I’d been carrying.

In fact, just to show how much the past trauma had impacted me, the bathroom was my ‘safe space.’ It took a while for doctors to explain that to me, but I’d always go to the bathroom to use cocaine because of the safety I felt in the bathroom, all the way back when my sister was being shot and I was protecting my nephew. That was the spot where we’d escaped to safety.

Every time as a kid I’d play ball out in our town, if I heard police sirens, I’d get this uncomfortable feeling and want to run inside. In fact, that nephew that I held in the bathroom all the way back then, now faces his own set of mental health challenges, and thinks cops are alway out to get him. He too had been taught not to talk about things and still believes to this day, that people who open up are weak.”

Monique:

“Most of the world didn’t know that background Dwight just shared. They didn’t know he was turning to substances to drown that emotional pain and find the quick fix to the pain that was built inside of him. Instead, especially in a big media market, they just dragged his name through the mud, and called him things like a ‘junkie’ or a ‘druggie.’ Well there is a reason why people turn to substances, and pro athlete or not, those vices are hard to escape once they ‘work’ for you in escaping the pain, like they did for Dwight back in Tampa, and then you become addicted to them. Your chemistry even changes where you become dependent on them – especially when you aren’t taught healthier coping mechanisms.

Nonetheless, I had to learn to deal with Dwight’s addictions, over time, and they wore on me and our family. I think I was at times, in our marriage, a walking zombie and numb because I couldn’t believe that my life was falling apart. Others might have looked from the outside and thought – the ‘perfect life,’ she’s married to a star athlete who makes tons of money and is beloved by fans.

But that’s not how it works when someone is an addict trying to escape their pain from earlier life experiences. I knew, despite how Dwight’s addiction wore on me, that I had to rise above the challenges this scenario caused, because our kids relied on me and I needed to be fully present for them.

I knew that I had to file for divorce when it got to the point that I had to sleep with the kids in my room, night after night, with the door locked. I did not want the kids to see their dad coming home high.

Our breaking up had nothing to do with Dwight as a person. He has a phenomenal heart. It had to do with the effect of the substance abuse on me and our kids.”

Dwight:

“As I got older and I had my own kids, two of them with Monique, I wanted to break the cycle of not showing love within a family, openly. I wanted to love on all my kids. When Monique would protect the kids from me, early on, I was looking at it a selfishly – like she was going against me, unfairly. But looking back now, as an addict back then, I didn’t like myself either. How could I have expected her to like me, or to have her expose the kids to me. I had to look at myself. I was destroying myself.

I’ve been through number of different programs to try to heal and to get away from being a user. Just recently I went to a 16 week mental health program – and I learned more about my trauma and getting sober and how to stay away from those vices. Right now, Monique and I have a great working relationship and we co-parent our kids in a very collaborative and loving way. But it’s taken some time to rewire my brain to be able to feel and accept the emotions I’ve always wanted.”

Monique:

“Though as Dwight said, we are co-parenting in a very productive way now, the times back then when he was using so heavily, necessitated me to find several strategies to help me get through the rough times. Faith has always been very important to me, so I prayed every night, and I would go to women’s support groups, for spouses/partners who were in similar situations, dealing with a partner who was abusing substances.

I found that exercise helped me with stress. Talking it out instead of holding it in – to one of the pastors at a local church, and most of all, to my mother.

I decided to share my story because I’ve gotten so many request to share my story in the past – given how public of a figure Dwight is, and how interested folks are in knowing what it was like to manage this challenging time in my/our life. I also have a co-worker who would confide in me at work about her own situation and so I knew the effects these scenarios had/have on others.

Talking to the #SameHere group, I realized celebrities and their families all go through challenges – and sometimes substance abuse or divorce – challenges that are relatable to so many out there. We can be heroes who help others know they’re not alone, and share how we too have faced those challenges and have dealt with them.

Most of all Dwight told me I should share my story (together with the details he shared here) as it would not only help others, but it would even help me to get it out there.

I think people will be surprised at all that my family and I went through. I think they will not believe it at first – what Dwight faced as a kid, what I faced in our marriage. I think they will realize how strong of a person I am to have battled through these obstacles, and how sincere Dwight and I both are – in co-parenting and being positive influences in the lives of our children.

I will be eventually starting my own page with motivational and inspiring words to help people throughout the world. I like TD Jakes, Joyce Meyer and Joel Olsteen and the approach they take. I also think the relatability of my/our story will be able to help so many out there and I cant wait for our story to be a part of the healing process for many others.”