One local family has taken their life experiences and put them into writing with the book, “Surviving the Gauntlet: An Ideology of a Drug Afflicted Family,” to help others who are facing or may face the same challenges that struck their family.
Author John Ross Archer Sr., along with co-author and high school English teacher Lori Bohannon Ansley of Sylvania, wrote “Surviving the Gauntlet” seven years ago and recently finished what they started after the death of Archer’s wife, Joan, who struggled with Parkinson’s disease. He dedicated the book to her.
Archer said he promised his wife before she died that he would finish the book. He stated that four months after her death in April, he finally finished it. He noted that Ansley also helped edit his first book, “Pegasus,” which is a high adventure novel that he wrote seven or eight years ago.
When asked about his feelings towards having completed “Surviving the Gauntlet,” he smiled and took a deep breath and exhaled, “Whew!”
Archer, who is originally from Fitzgerald and is a retired colonel from the U.S. Army where he served 23 years, was living in Sylvania before he and his family came to Tifton five years ago. He and his wife have three children, John Ross Archer Jr., Doug Archer and Beth Hobbs, who all live in the general Tifton area.
“Surviving the Gauntlet” centers around his youngest son, Doug, who became addicted to drugs and alcohol at a young age of 16 when they moved from Germany to Fitzgerald after Archer retired from the military. Throughout the book, Archer talks about the pain and heartbreak that his family suffers, as well as their faith in God that keeps them going.
The idea to expose his family’s experiences to help others came to him in 2003, and after much prayer, he decided to express this to his family during the same year on Christmas Day.
To his surprise, they all agreed, even Doug, with the idea to publish a book; Doug was the most enthusiastic about the idea. He noted that his surprise came from the fact that his family were willing to expose their dysfunctionality.
“We all felt a strong desire to help other families to either avoid it or to get through it,” Archer stated. “If they can take strength and hope from our experiences, then we would have fulfilled our purpose.”
Ansley writes at the beginning of the book in the preface, “John believed that God could use his family’s experiences to help other families through or to avoid some of the same pitfalls that had mired them. As he and I conducted the individual and family interviews and poured over the notes, I was overwhelmed by their candidness. No matter what we discussed, no one ever retreated from the challenge to be frank about his actions and thoughts during those years.”
She further stated, “Our desire is that this book will challenge the reader to examine his family’s interpersonal relationships, as well as his relationship with God. We also challenge the reader not to make issue where there is none, but to confront, not hedge, the real issues in life.”
Ansley explained in the preface that they chose the title, “Surviving the Gauntlet,” because “the Archers’ struggle to emerge as a family unit through the addiction years much resembles running the gauntlet. Running the gauntlet is an ancient form of torture whereby victims had to pass between two lines of attackers who would each strike them as they passed. Throughout time, this same term has come to mean passing through and dodging difficult situations...However, for the Archers, success was not based upon personal maneuvering, but by following God.”
Archer said he wanted each family member to express their own experience in the book and he tried to tie it all together for the complete project. In the book, he explains in the epilogue that John Ross did not participate in the writing of the book, because “his memories are still too vivid and painful.”
Now that the book is out, Archer says the experience of writing it was “wonderfully cathartic.”
“It helped clear the air among ourselves,” he said. “It put a lot of things to rest in the family and strengthened us greatly. That’s proof that the Lord was in charge and that’s what got us through. It was a life-changing experience for all of us.”
He added, “It did at first bring out emotions through the editing process, but it’s different than when we were actually living it. We’re very glad we did this. We’re seeing the benefits already. We pray that it gets into the hands of individuals who can benefit from our experiences. That was the main intent in the first place. It really tested our faith.”
Although his wife died before she could see the finished book, Archer said he knows she’s very pleased with it and is “smiling down on us.”
He stated that the message of the book is: “You can survive it. The thing that got us through was faith and it can get you through it, too. You can’t give up on it.”
He added, “The biggest problem my wife and I faced was that we were in denial for a long time. A lot of people around us knew Doug had a problem before we did. We were the last to know. We knew something was wrong, but we didn’t know what. Deep down, we suspected it but didn’t want to admit it.”
His message to others who are in denial is: “Don’t wait too long to admit what you suspect to be true.”
As of today, Doug is doing fine. Archer said he has been clean for six years now, but as far as the social and legal aftermath, it’s been a constant problem.
“You have to get clean every single day. He gets up every day and says he’s going to be clean today. That’s with every addict — it’s a continuing process. You’re clean but you’re never cured.”
Archer noted that his book is for everyone because, “It can happen to anyone at any time. No one is immune. It knows no class barrier, social barrier, etc. Anyone is subject to be a victim. Everyone should have an awareness that it can happen to them and their family.”
Archer noted that when he was living in Sylvania, he ministered to teenagers who were in detention centers. Also, he participated in retired professional football player Bill Glass’ prison ministries.
“Surviving the Gauntlet” was published by Balboa Press and it’s available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Balboa Press and also, e-book. In addition, visit the website, http://goindiebooks.com/412435/, to purchase a book.
The price is $3.99 for e-book; about $12.99 for paperback; and about $30 for hardcover.
Archer stated that the book is not yet available in local stores; it can only be purchased online. He noted that he would like to do a book signing.
However, his main objective is “getting the message out there.”
To contact Archer, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact reporter Latasha Everson, call 382-4321.