1 Amer ica s Most Controversia l Drug Re hab. Introduction A small group of parents from an Orlando, Florida based drug rehab founded Straight, Inc. in April Its first branch was opened in St. Petersburg, Florida. Straight, Inc. was designed to treat adolescent youth from years of age for Chemical Dependency. Over several years, Straight, Inc. opened other branches in other major cities across America, including Orlando, Cincinnati, Southern California, Plymouth, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Virginia Beach, Springfield, Dallas, Boston, & Sarasota. Straight, Inc. theorized that peer pressure got kids on drugs and peer pressure will get kids off drugs. Utilizing professional and Para-professional staff, the group was led in several rap sessions each day. Clients were expected to talk about their past drug use and how it effected their lives, family, friendships, school and trouble with the law. The group of clients held each other accountable for their actions and gave support to each other throughout their treatment. The program utilized a condensed 7-step version of AA s twelve-step program. The 5 Phases of Straight. First Phase- A client is classified as a Newcomer. A Newcomer initially loses a lot of things in the first several weeks. They are prohibited from reading, watching TV, sending or receiving mail, making or receiving phone calls, and listening to the radio. Contact with the family is limited to five-minute talks which are earned by the Newcomer up to two days a week. The Newcomer has even lost responsibility over him/her self. They are held on to and led by the belt loop by Oldcomer s, clients who are further along in their program. Newcomers are watched twenty-four hours a day. Their clothes and personal items, right down to their deodorant, are searched for drugs and paraphernalia, or anything that may be used to get high or harm themselves. On First Phase Newcomers stay in the homes of Oldcomer s and are a part of their family. This exposes them to family life in a home without drugs/alcohol. The Oldcomer s become the Newcomers friend and confidant. They help them learn the steps of the program and how to write Moral Inventories, which are required to be written daily from their third day. First Phase is spent talking about SELF and learning how to share their feelings that they have for their past. It is during this time that they learn the rules of the program and other aspects of being a client in Straight, Inc. First Phase is a minimum of 14 days long, although most clients will spend considerably more time on this phase. The Client must earn his way to Second Phase, when they can go home. Second Phase- Second Phase starts out at that exciting moment when a Clients goes home to his/her family. In cases where the client lives outside the treatment area, he/she will remain in a Foster home with another client. The major goal for second phase is working on FAMILY relationships. The client can now wear a belt and has responsibilities over other Newcomers and work around the building. Reading is limited to the Bible. Phone calls are limited to Dime Therapy in which one can call another client for help or advice. At some point, Staff will conduct an inspection of the home to ensure that Newcomers can be kept safely. All Oldcomer s are required to care for Newcomers at some point in their program. This is done at the discretion of Staff. There is no minimum time frame for Second Phase.
2 Third Phase- The Client on third phase now works on ACHEIVEMENT at school or work, while continuing to work on SELF, and FAMILY. The client returns to the building after school or work. In this important phase, the client faces outside peer pressure for the first time since entering the program. The client can now wear a watch, watch TV, listen to the radio, and read. Phone calls and mail restrictions still apply. There is no minimum time spent on third phase. Fourth Phase- During this phase, the client begins a staged withdraw from active involvement in the program. He/She comes to the building four days a week, after school or work. Fourth Phaser s sit in a specially designated area in the group. Fourth Phaser s may now make and receive phone calls and send and receive mail. The major goal for fourth phase is to learn constructive use of LEISURE TIME and to develop healthy, quality peer FRIENDSHIPS. Fourth Phase lasts a minimum of 90 days. Fifth Phase- During the fifth and final active phase of treatment, the Client is only in the building three days a week. He/She now concentrates on SERVICE to others and social responsibility and prepares for 7 th Stepping. Fifth Phaser s are part of the chain of command and are responsible for the Group. Fifth Phaser s take requests from other clients in the group and pass them on to the higher levels of Staff and ensure that the request is answered in a timely manner. Fifth Phaser s stand along the side the group as an example and watch over the other clients in the program. A client remains on fifth phase for at least 60 days and can only be 7 th Stepped by the Director of the program. 7 th Stepping (Graduation) The client is now out of the active aspect of the program. A 7 th Stepper is required to attend after care meetings twice a week for the first three months and one day a week for the final 3 months. A Client who lives out of state is only required to attend 1 after care meeting a month for six months. A 7 th Stepper is still required to write daily Moral Inventories until the six months of after care treatment is completed. Dating is still prohibited until the six months has ended. The 7 Steps 1) Admit I am powerless over drugs and come to believe that a power greater than myself can restore me to sanity. 2) Make a decision to turn my will and life over to the care of God, as I understand Him. 3) Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself daily. 4) Admit to God, myself, and another human being the exact nature of my wrongs immediately. 5) Make direct amends to such people wherever possible except when to do so would injury them, myself, or others. 6) Seek through prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with God, as I understand Him, praying only for the knowledge of His will for me and the power to carry that out. 7) Having received the gift of awareness, I will practice these principals in all my daily affairs and carry the message to all I can help.
3 The Three Signs Think, Think, Think First Things First Easy Does It. Serenity Prayer God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change The Courage to change the things I can And the Wisdom to know the difference Five Cr iteria 1) Is it based on objective reality? 2) Is it goal producing? 3) Does it keep me out of conflict with myself or others? 4) Does it make me act and feel the way I need? 5) Does it protect my life? In the following chapters you will enter a world known by few. Please keep in mind that I do not profess to be a writer. The story line throughout the book may seem inconsistent and choppy. This is a result of a great deal of time having elapsed. The experience is told from information I retrieved from my Moral Inventories, and actual documents obtained from a variety of branches of Straight, Incorporated. The names used in this book are fictional.
4 Amer ica s Most Controversia l Drug Re hab From Childhood to Drug Use I grew up in a middle class neighborhood. I was the older of two children. My sister is two years younger than I. I did poorly in school due to my lack of motivation to do well and a learning disability and hyperactivity that was diagnosed when I was 9 years old. Prior to that diagnosis I was tied to my chair by a teacher using a jump rope when I was six because I couldn t sit still. I was physically abused by another teacher who shook me violently and slammed me against a wall when I was just 7 years old again for acting out and not being able to sit still. I was verbally abused by my fourth grade teacher who constantly told me I would never amount to anything and that I was a waste in her classroom. I started using four letter words at this age. I had very few friends growing up. Even the friends I did have I constantly questioned if they really liked me or not. My self-esteem was practically non-exisistant. When I was in middle school my dad was the Principal. That made life tough for me. People were convinced that because I was the Principals kid, I could never get in trouble. I intentionally acted out so I did get in trouble. I was finally placed back into the mainstream classroom when I was 12. I had spent two years on Ritalin and now the drug was making me more hyper than before. I was still a bit hyperactive, but there were no medications available to help me. I did just enough schoolwork to get by each grade. Sometimes I wonder if my dad being the Principal had an influence on the teachers to pass me when in fact I should ve been held back. In eighth grade I met a girl named Janet. She had a deep beautiful tanned body. She had gorgeous blue eyes and a brilliant smile. I was attracted to her instantly and tried desperately to befriend her. It was during this time that my last piano teacher had to quit teaching me to play because I wasn t using the proper finger techniques to play the music. Within two weeks of that I began writing my own music. I wrote my first song to Janet. Over the course of that year I continued to write more songs to Janet. Whenever I wrote a song to her I would record it on a cassette tape and give it to her. At the end I would ask her to tell me what she thought of it on the other side of the cassette. She never did. I was also writing her love letters as many as three or four a day. In the mean time classmates were relentlessly teasing me. I was a very lonely and depressed little boy. One day I had asked Janet if I could talk to her. She agreed. We were standing out in the hallway just outside the cafeteria. I said, I want to die. Janet seemed confused and asked, You want a dime? Frustrated and sad, I said, No, I want to DIE! Janet looked at me and said, Well, do what you have to do. I was crushed. I didn t really want to die. I wanted attention from her. I wanted her to plead with me not do it and tell me she cared about me. In the end I realized that Janet would never really like me as a friend, let a lone be my girlfriend. But I stilled cared for her very much. After eighth grade we attended Anderson Heights High School. I watched for Janet in the halls but we were very rarely in the same classes. She barely spoke to me. My freshman year was uneventful except for taking up cigarette smoking where I saw older students smoking pot. In the 1970 s it was not unusual for high schools to have smoking areas. As long as the students had their parent s permission to smoke it was allowed. It didn t matter that most of the students were under 18 and it was illegal for us to buy cigarettes but that law wasn t enforced at all. I was never approached about smoking pot with them. During my sophomore year I was in class when I was approached about smoking pot for the first time. I don t even remember who he was, but he told me he was going to get me high after class. I told him that I wasn t interested but he persisted. After class he and I made our way down to the smoking area. He pulled out a joint and lit it. After he took a hit off it, he passed it to me. I was scared. I was afraid that a teacher or principal would catch us. I took a hit and realized I liked it. He and I smoked the whole joint, but I didn t get high.
5 Over the next few days I smoked pot and it wasn t until the fourth time that I finally got high. The high wasn t as intense. It took awhile before that happened. Once I started getting high I started looking for more opportunities to smoke. Within three weeks of my first joint, I was doing other drugs. Speed and LS D were the next drugs I did. During that same time period I was buying my own drugs. Every morning in the smoking area I, along with at least a dozen other people, would wait for the dealer to arrive. It was a mad dash to get the best pick of the joints he was selling. After I bought my joint we would get in a circle at the far end of the smoking area and smoke as much as possible before the first class of the day would start. The highs usually lasted 4-5 hours. I really started liking the way I felt and wanted to get high more and more often. Pot had become my drug of choice, but would use Speed when it was available. I never really like the high that speed gave me. It gave me what felt like a sore throat. One day I bought a hit of LS D (Purple micro dot) someone had told me that people using LSD talked to walls and had bad hallucinations. I was a little scared but I took the hit. It was an intensified high. Kind of like a marijuana high. I didn t have any hallucinations, just a buzz. I liked it, but it was rather expensive. I only used LSD two other times over the five years I used drugs. My relationship with my straight friends took a turn for the worse. I was hanging out with the potheads more often. By my junior year I managed to get my first job at local steak house washing dishes. Janet was working there, but resigned shortly after I got hired. Coincidence? I don t think so. I hated the job but liked the idea of having money to buy more drugs. I was now buying pot by the half or whole bag. I was getting high everyday. I can remember going to my hang out in the woods and seeing how much pot I could smoke in one sitting. I was skipping school more often in order to get high. I was isolating myself from the rest of family. I would come home and head straight to my room or down stairs and watched TV. One day in the smoking area someone I had known since elementary school approached me. He asked if I wanted to smoke a joint with him. I, of course, said yes. This joint was different. The paper was red. It was a larger joint than I had seen before. He and I smoked it. It tasted different. I asked him what was in it. He told me that I was smoking pot with Cocaine in it. I was a little scared. Had I really gotten to this point in my life that I was doing Cocaine so soon? About a half-hour later I learned that this guy was arrested for possession. The high was something I had never experienced before. For a while, I was afraid that I might never come down from its effects. By the end of my Junior year I realized that I had a serious drug problem. It was the only thing I really wanted to do. I had to attend Summer school in order to become a Senior. I even got high in Summer School. I attended a Christ In Youth Convention in Michigan with my youth group from church. I really needed to get away from the drugs for a while. I rededicated my life to Christ and swore that I would quit doing drugs. But within a week, I was smoking pot again and looking for other ways to get high. After I relapsed I started getting high while at church functions. One time our youth group was going on a retreat out of town. We stopped at a restaurant to eat. But another guy and I went to the restroom and smoked pot. We were nearly left behind because everyone was back on the bus waiting for us. We didn t have time to smoke a cigarette to help cover the pot smell. We got back on the bus, knowing we reeked of pot. I was scared and embarrassed when I walked by my sister. No, I have to say that I felt more ashamed of myself for what I was doing. My sister endured a lot over the years as I continued to use drugs. I worked in the Audio Visual Department at my church. The room we worked in was close to an exit. After the Minister would start his sermon, I would step out to the parking lot and get high. I often times stole cigarettes out of cars in the parking lot.
6 One day my parents found my pipe and a stone, along with some other paraphernalia in my bedroom. I was scared of what they were going to do. I admitted to them that I had experimented with pot and tried speed once. They believed me and told me to stop using. I told them I would. My senior year saw the addition of more drugs. I was introduced to Downers, Tye Stick, Hash, Rush, and later, Alcohol. Although a lot of these drugs weren t used on a consistent basis, I use them whenever I could. There wasn t a drug I wouldn t do at this point. I remember huffing Rush in choir. After using it so much I got bad headaches, but I really didn t care. The buzz was the only thing I wanted. I got a 10-day out of school suspension for smoking outside the smoking area. That was the longest period of time I ever went without doing drugs since I started. I was grounded and didn t have an opportunity to get out of the house. When I returned to school I bought as much pot as I could. At this point I was saving as much pot as possible to smoke on the last day of school. I was also attending night school so I could graduate with the rest of the class. I was told that if I failed one class I would be held back another year. One day my English teacher was giving me a lecture in the hall just outside my classroom. He was telling me that I could be doing so much better in class. I knew what he was saying was true. There were a few times that I really worked hard for the first half of the quarter and get B s and C s by midterm. But then I would stop working and slide by with D s and F s. While my teacher was talking I began feeling sick to my stomach. I asked if I could go to the rest room. He told me no. The next thing I remember I was waking up on the floor. My head and jaw hurt badly. I was taken to the nurse s office via stretcher. The Paramedics were called. I remember one of the medics looking concerned. I was bleeding from my ears and mouth, a textbook sign of a head injury. Witnesses told them that I passed out and fell flat on my face. My knees didn t buckle and my face took the full force of the fall. I was loaded in the squad. On the way to the hospital the medics started giving me a hard time and accused me of being wasted. I denied that I had taken anything, knowing full well that I had. We were stopped at a railroad crossing. I heard one medic say, It s a good thing he s not in full arrest. I cannot remember anything else until I woke up in a hospital room. I had lost consciousness for several hours. I was kept in the hospital for 5 days while they ran a series of tests to determine why I had passed out. It was then that I learned who my true friends were. My Minister visited me once in the time I was there. I called all my friends to see if they could visit, but none of them showed up. In the mean time my parents told me that they had found the pot I had in my jeans. I was upset about losing that pot. I called June, a girl that I was taking a liking to. She was a track star on the school team. In fact she later broke the Ohio state record for the women s 400 dash. She had pretty green eyes and shoulder length brown hair. I thought she was the prettiest girl ever. She showed up just about every day. I asked her out on a date and she said yes. I was the happiest I had ever been since doing drugs. The doctors were not able to determine why I passed out. I left the hospital a little concerned. I knew that drugs were part of the reason I passed out. But that didn t keep me from getting high. I returned to school and got right back into the drugs again. No one really said anything to me about my stay in the hospital. But I could hear people talking behind my back. June would try to get me to quit, she was concerned about the amount of drugs I was doing. But I didn t want to quit. I lost my job at the steak house but I really didn t care. As long as I could get my hands on drugs, I was fine. I continued to steal money from my family in order to support my habit. I even broke into a friend s house one night, and took money from his brother s room. I was almost caught in the house when everyone came home while I was still there. The terror I felt as I jumped the fence can t be put into words. An arrest was the last thing I wanted.
7 Penny, a girl I had often skipped school with was getting married. I took my first drink at her wedding reception. I discovered I had a low tolerance for alcohol. I got sick most of the time. I didn t even like the taste, but I liked the buzz it gave me. I didn t drink everyday for a while. I still preferred pot to anything else. On the last day of school I got really messed up. I smoked pot, drank alcohol, smoked hash, dropped speed, and LS D, huffed Nitrous Oxide, and Rush. I had never been as high as I got that day. During my graduation ceremony I got drunk and high before arriving at the ceremony and huffed Rush during the actual ceremony itself. I was truly a mess that day. I remember feeling scared to even go up to other classmates and say goodbye. I never had many friends and thought people didn t like me very much. I was lonely and I just wanted to leave. After graduation I got a job working in a warehouse. I also started attending college. I was going for an Associates degree in Communications. After office hours at the warehouse my boss would allow me and some of the other employees to stay late on the clock and drink as much beer as we wanted. I can t tell you how many times I drove my car drunk. I am surprised that I was not arrested that year. I was eventually fired from the warehouse. I got a job working in a body shop washing cars. One of my responsibilities was to clean the interior of the cars including the ashtrays. I found pot in a lot of cars this way. I also found other drugs in glove boxes. I stole everything I found, figuring no one would ever complain about it to my boss. I was really surprised how many drugs I found. I found a film canister with 20 hits of Speed, & several bags of pot. I almost always had something to get high with while I worked there. I was drinking more and at one point I was taking up to seven hits of speed at once. Less than a week later my mom found the speed I had hidden in my room. There were only three hits left. My best druggie friend, Thomas, who was still in school for another year had gotten kicked out of his house for using drugs. He resorted to living in the woods in a nearby neighborhood. I felt obligated to help him out in anyway I could. I remember the first time I saw him, he had a make shift bed made out of plywood, a small area was cleared for making a fire and a dishwasher rack was used as a grill. He was sitting on a cinder block; he had a plastic bag with some white stuff in it. I was naive and really thought he had developed a respiratory problem being out in the cold and wet weather. I figured the white stuff in the baggie was a prescription drug for his problem. What he really doing was huffing glue. He showed me how to do it. The buzz was fantastic, but I started having some dangerous reactions to it. I would pass out and would wake up crying like I had never cried before. I started huffing glue every chance I got. It got to the point that I would walk down the street with the bag over my mouth and nose and huff it in broad daylight. I didn t care who knew. This drug nearly killed me. One night I was alone in a park down the street from my house. The park was closed and no one was around. I started huffing the glue. As I was getting high, I started hallucinating. I saw a man on a 10-speed bike coming at me. As he went by me, he hit me in the face. I fell and lost consciousness. I woke up crying. I believe that when I came out of my high from huffing in this manner, I had really stopped breathing. Crying is a way for the lungs to get stimulated and breathing to start again. Much like a newborn needs to cry after it is born to start breathing on its own. This was by far the most dangerous drug I ever did. I quit huffing after this, the fourth incident. After the first semester of College was over, I dropped out because I failed accounting. I became discouraged and gave up on furthering my education.
8 One night Thomas and I were driving along SR 34 in Batavian, Ohio. I had smoked a lot of pot and had a few beers. I passed a State Trooper, and he pulled me over. I was a little more than nervous. I was terrified. The Officer believed I was driving under the influence. He gave Thomas & I a roadside sobriety test. We both failed. The Officer s words caused my heart to drop. Well, your friend is too drunk to drive, and you re under arrest. I had never been arrested before and I was scared. How was I going to tell my parents about this? I was taken to the Post and given a Breathalyzer test. I blew below legal drunk but was charged with reckless operation. I didn t have a choice but to eventually tell my parents what had happened. They were very upset and disappointed in me. I felt ashamed. I lost my driver s license for 3 months and had to pay a $ fine. Once I returned to work, the State Trooper would stop by work and check on me. I hated that. One night my parents wanted me to go to a movie with them and my sister. I didn t want to go. I had an opportunity to buy more pot and so I faked being sick. After my family left, I got in my car and went to Penny s house and bought a bag of marijuana. I smoke some of it and returned home. A few hours later my parents came home. I could tell they were upset. They insisted on searching my room. They knew exactly what they were looking for. I had hidden the bag of pot in an old box that my grandfathers use to own. My parents found the box and told me to open it. At first I resisted and said no. But after a while I knew my parents weren t in the mood for any back talk. I finally consented and opened the box. They took the bag of pot and the pipe I had recently bought. My parents were very upset, especially my mom. I wasn t sure what they were going to do. My parents called of friend of theirs that was a retired police officer and was currently working as a police officer at a local college. When they got off the phone with him, they took me over to his house. I was scared that he would arrest me and have me prosecuted for possession. But when I got there, he took me into his basement and started lecturing me. I despise being lectured to. He got out this pad of paper and started taking notes on what I was saying. I got angry because I thought he was trying to act like some kind of psychologist. That really irritated me even more. It reminded me of the times I was taken to counselors before. I hated it. I met Denise in October She was only fifteen and also attended Anderson Heights. She had brown hair, brown eyes and a beautiful smile. We got along real well. My parents seemed to like her too. She and I got high and drunk together often. She was a rebel of a child and had conflicts with her parents. It was rough for a while. I was fired from the body shop and my supply of drugs stopped. I resorted to drinking since it was readily available. I drank daily from that day on. I would wake up at 6:30am, go to the store, buy two six packs of beer, place them in the cooler and would be drunk by 7:30am. I drank until 2:00pm. I would pick up Denise from high school and hung out with her drinking more beer and smoked pot if she was able to get some at school. I dropped her off at home at 5:00pm. Most of the time I would buy more beer and drink until I got home at 10pm. The next day I would do it all over again. On the weekends, Denise and I would go out together. One night we went to see a movie in a nearby village. We got drunk on the way to the theater. After the movie we resumed our drinking. I was taking her home when I ran a stop sign. Suddenly I saw flashing blue lights in my rearview mirror. I stashed the bottles of beer under the seat. Denise was terrified! I tried to pretend like everything was okay. But inside I was scared. How was I going to explain this to her parents if I got arrested for DUI? How was I going to explain this to MY parents? The Police Officer told me why I was being pulled over and asked for my license. I gave it to him, and he returned to his cruiser. Denise and I tried to calm each other down. I was getting ready to be given a roadside sobriety test. About five minutes later the Officer returned, gave me my license back and told me to be more careful. I was shocked! I got away clean, not even a warning ticket. I was sure he could smell the alcohol in the car. But I wasn t going to argue with him. We got out of that village quick.
9 Another night Denise wanted to run away to Tennessee. I knew that my taking her over state lines could get me in a lot of trouble. She and I went to the local park, smoked pot, drank beer, and made out. When the park closed, I took her to another spot where we continued to make out. I got an idea to call a friend and see if we could stay in his trailer he had parked in his back yard. Denise and I wanted to have sex. I drove to a convenient store and tried to call him. I got a busy signal several times. I got back in the car and was planning on waiting for a while. About five minutes later, my dad pulled up along side me in the parking lot. I was mad. Denise got pissed and was convinced that I had called my parents and told them where we were. Her parents were called and they met us at my house. Her parents, while upset because they didn t know where she was, were nonetheless relieved that she was okay and that I had taken care of her. One night, my mom called me into her bedroom. She was watching a television special. It was about a drug rehab in St. Petersburg, Florida called Straight, Inc. The camera cut to a shot of the front row. There was Cathie, a girl I had gone to church with for years. I was a little disturbed by the content and didn t stay in there long enough to see the rest of the program. A few nights later, while smoking in the garage, I saw my mom talking in the car with Cathie s mom. They were in the car for well over an hour that night. I didn t think anything of it. Perhaps I should have.
10 Amer ica s Most Controversia l Drug Re hab. I Was Tricked Denise and I got engaged. Although I didn t have a job, I gave her no engagement ring and we never set a date. She had said yes and that was good enough for me. I wasn t sure how her parents were going to take it. I was relived to learn that they were thrilled. My parents on the other hand, weren t sure. They wanted to know how I was going to support her. I didn t have an answer. In the mean time Denise went away to Iowa with her parents for one final family vacation. She would be gone for two weeks. Denise gave me her house key and told me to write letters to her while she was gone and put them on her desk in her room. I promised I would write her everyday. On the fourth day, I drove my car up to the front of Denise s house. I unlocked the front door and let myself in. The house was quiet. I walked up stairs and made my way to her room. Her room was immaculately clean. There on her desk were the other three letters I had left before. I took the letter I had written out of my pocket and left it on top of the others. Then, I took the house key out of my pocket and placed it on top of the letters. I walked back downstairs and made my way across the living room to the piano. I sat down and played One day we ll make it to the top a song I had written to Denise earlier that month. After I finished playing, I got up from the piano and walked toward the front door. I walked in front of a mirror that was hanging in the middle of the living room. I saw my own reflection. I was pale, skinny, and my eyes were glazed over. I was scared of what I saw in the mirror. I got to the front door and opened it, made sure it was locked before shutting it behind me. I got back to my car and turned around. I took one final look at the house. Dozens of memories flashed in my mind or her and I together and the only real happiness I felt being with her. I really missed her and couldn t wait to see her again. I got in my car and drove away. Never knowing exactly why I had left the house key in her room, when she was going to be gone for at least another week. I had spent the day drinking as usual. I drove home later than evening. I arrived and went inside. My dad approached me and asked if I would like to take a trip to Florida with them. Without hesitation, I excitedly accepted my parent s invitation. Finally, a break from the mundane life I was living, I thought. The next morning my parents and I were getting ready to leave for the airport. My sister wanted to give me a hug good-bye. I really didn t want to, but I went ahead and hugged her good-bye anyway. Our flight to St. Petersburg was uneventful. We landed and got a rental car. On the way to the hotel I had a thought. Denise was not in Iowa; I was convinced she was here in Florida. My parents and her parents had gotten together and decided to surprise us with a party celebrating our engagement. I didn t say anything to my parents. I didn t want to ruin the surprise. I approached the door to the hotel room and opened it certain that Denise and her parents were inside just waiting. Words cannot describe how my heart absolutely sank when I opened the door to an empty hotel room. I turned around and asked my mother Alright, what s going on? We re taking you to Straight she said.
11 I couldn t believe what I heard. I begged them not to do this. I tried in vain to convince them that I could get off drugs on my own. But my parents stood firm. We were at least going to attend an Open Meeting. If I still thought I could do this on my own we would discuss it then. I was mad at my parents because they tricked me into coming down here. Ashamed that my lifestyle had brought me to this place in life and scared about what would happen over the next twenty- four hours, I cried myself to sleep that night.
12 Amer ica s Most Controversia l Drug Re hab Pre-Intake- November 27, 1981 Since I was over the age of eighteen, I was required to attend an Open Meeting prior to signing myself into the program. My parents and I arrived at the Straight building at around 5:30PM. I am not one for large crowds, and this lobby was packed to capacity. People were hugging each other, some were crying, some were happy, and some looked exhausted. I looked for Cathie s mom who had talked to my mom in the driveway a few days ago. I couldn t find her. After a while my parents and I were led in to the main auditorium. We were seated near the rear of the room. Up front was a large group of people. Girls on the left side, guys on the right side. Between the groups were two people sitting on stools. They were singing song like You can be Straight, Oh, what a beautiful morning and Up, up with people. There must have been close to 350 people sitting up there. To my left I noticed several signs on the wall. These I later learned were the 7 steps of the program. I thought they were interesting but I really didn t understand what the words meant. The group up front sang a song called I am Straight sung to the tune of I am woman. Then, out of the corner of my eye I saw a man making his way to the front of the group. He was an older man with a gray mustache and beard. He introduced himself as Dr. Newman. He was the program Director. He welcomed everyone to the meeting. He spoke with a confidence I had seldom heard before. As he spoke, he talked about hope, and how change was possible here. He mesmerized me. He was the kind of person I could listen to for hours on end. When he was finished, he turned to the group of clients and said Love ya group. The group responded in unison Love you Dr. Newman. He handed the microphone to one of the Staff members. She welcomed everyone to the Open Meeting and then turned to the girl s side of group and asked, What girls earned Talk? Several of the girls stood up. Everyone clapped. Then the Staff member asked, What girls earned Talk and Responsibilities? Other girls stood up. Again, everyone clapped. The mic was passed to the other Staff member and the same questions were asked of the guy s side of Group. At this point the Staff Member explained that we were going to hear from the Newcomers that had been here from 3-14 days. We were asked to listen closely to what they had to say. This was an important part of their program. The mic was passed to the end of the front row. Each Newcomer introduced themselves by telling everyone their first name, age, the drugs they have done, how long they did them, if they thought they were a druggie, and how long they had been in the program. After that they started talking about the drugs they used, how their family relationships were, their druggie friends, school, and trouble with the law. The stories they told were amazing, in fact they were telling MY story. I found myself wanting to cry at times, because I knew what they were talking about. I knew the pain they felt. They talked about the drugs they did and how it affected their lives. They talked about the times they overdosed. Some talked about nearly dying because of these drugs. They talked about the loneliness they felt because of the way they were treated by their druggie friends. They talked about how they had isolated themselves from their families because they were ashamed of their drug problem and how the drugs had become more important to them then their family. T hey talked about the fear they felt when they found themselves in trouble with the law. They talked about stealing from their family and others to help support their habit. They talked about skipping school so they could go out and get high. After they talked about their past, they talked about how they felt about being in the program. Most seemed to be happy and proud of their accomplishment in staying straight, even if it was only a few days. They then set goals, things they wanted to accomplish in the next few days.
13 There must have been at least 20 or more people that introduced themselves. By the end of all the introductions, my throat was very sore from holding back the tears of sadness I felt. Next, there were two other people that had been in the program for a while that introduced themselves. They talked about their past too, but what made their introductions different was the way the talked about their present. They talked about how their family has been closer than ever before. They talked about the quality of their newfound friends. They talked about how well they were now doing in school. They talked about how good they felt because they were dealing with their drug problem honestly. It was quite inspiring to hear them talk the way they were. After their introductions some parents introduced themselves. They talked about what it was like to have a druggie child living in their home. The isolation, the lying, the stealing and how the family was torn apart because of the drug problem. They would talk about how they would have to bail their child out of jail after being arrested. The pain and anguish was sometimes unbearable. But then they talked about the closeness that the family is experiencing now that their child is off drugs. They talked about the pride they feel when they look at their child today. After they finished their introduction their child made their way out of the group and gave their parents a hug. It was emotional for me to see this. I hadn t given a genuine hug to my parents in so long. I had thought I had seen more than I wanted to see, but it wasn t over yet. One of the Staff Members announced that it was time for the parents to talk to their kids. I couldn t believe what I just heard. There were well over 600 parents in this room and I didn t want to think about how much longer we were going to be here. I started getting a little agitated. The mic was given to one of the parents on the front row and was passed from there. For the most part the parents merely said, Love you to their child. From deep within the group you could hear the response back Love ya Mom, Love ya Dad. But it wouldn t be long before a couple would stand up. A child in the group would stand and listen. The parents talked to their child about how they felt about them being here. A lot of times the parents would let them know that they were glad they were here and would give them encouragement. One message that seemed to be repeated was even though they loved their child very much, they weren t coming back home unless they were straight. Every now and then a couple would stand to talk to their child and out of nowhere a shout from the group said, Coming home! Everyone in the auditorium would applaud. It was deafening. Seconds later the child could be seen making their way out of the group and then run across the room to their parents. They would hug for a long while. I couldn t hold back. I was so overwhelmed with happiness for the family I started crying. After the child got back to where they were sitting, the parents would talk to them about how proud they were that they were finally coming home. They looked forward to starting the healing process within the family. This happened several times during the course of the night. Sometimes when a parent would tell their child Love you, the child would yell out Third Phase or Fourth Phase. Again, there was the deafening eruption of applause. The parents would take a few moments to talk to them about their progress and how proud they were of them.
14 About an hour later, someone came up to my parents and I and escorted us out of the auditorium. I was relieved. Finally, I get to leave this place. Was I ever wrong. I was taken to a very small room. It was carpeted, measure about 10 X 10, only one door, and no windows. In the corner of this room was one chair. I was asked to sit down. I complied. Two guys came in and introduced themselves. I was polite and shook their hands. They brought in two other chairs and sat down in front of the door. I felt trapped, no I was trapped. I was asked about what drugs I did. I told them everything. I held nothing back. But when I was asked if I thought I had a drug problem, I lied and told them I had it under control and could quit any time I wanted. They asked me if I had ever stolen from my family to get money for drugs. I told them I had. They asked me how I got along with my family. I told them I thought we got along okay. They asked me how I did in school. I told them I was a poor student before and after doing drugs. They asked me if I had ever been in trouble with the law. I told them about the time I was arrested for reckless operation. They asked me if I thought my friends were decent. I told them that I thought some were all right, but others weren t very good for me. They asked me if I had ever skipped school or called off from work to get high. I told them that I skipped school to get high, but I didn t call off from work. They asked me where I worked. I told them I was unemployed. I was beginning to feel embarrassed to answer the questions because I knew where this was headed. They asked me why I wasn t working. I told them I didn t want to work. They asked me if I would rather get high than find a job. I told them I would. Then I was asked again, if I thought I had a drug problem. I hesitated. Then said maybe. On a pretty consistent basis this one kid would stick his head into the room and ask if I was going to sign into the program. I don t remember what my response was, but this guy didn t give up. He must have asked me a half a dozen times if I was going to come into the program. He started getting on my nerves. He seemed almost giddy with happiness. I was a little jealous because I didn t feel happy at all. I remember at one point I wanted to go outside and smoke a cigarette. One of the guys left the room to check if I was allowed to leave. He came back and told me I couldn t leave yet. I told him that I wasn t going anywhere but outside and I would come back in after I was done. He still said no. I was pissed now. I started yelling at them and told them they couldn t stop me from going outside to smoke. I was, after all, an adult. I stood up to leave, but the two guys got up and blocked the door. Being a skinny, 135-pound guy with no fighting ability, I was intimidated by them and sat back down. I was still very mad about this situation. I was a caged animal! A different group of guys came in and sat down. They asked me the same questions that the first set of guys had asked. I told them I already answered their questions and now I wanted to leave. I was told that my parents were in a meeting with other parents and I couldn t leave until they were dismissed. I told them that was fine, I could meet them out in the parking lot. They still told me I wasn t going anywhere. I was mad. Over the course of the next several hours I was repeatedly asked about my drug problem, my family relationship, my friends, my job situation and my druggie girlfriend. That same guy constantly asked me if I was going to sign in. I repeatedly answered their questions, but let them know that I was ready to leave and would talk about this in the morning, I was exhausted. I was finally allowed to leave the room between 3:30 and 4:00AM. I met my parents in the parking, got in the car and lit up my first cigarette in nearly 12 hours. They asked me what I thought of the program. I told them that I thought it was okay but I didn t think I needed to be there. I begged my parents to reconsider and let me go home with them. I tried to convince them that I could take the steps down off the wall, take them home, and get straight on my own. But it didn t matter what I said. My parents weren t going to take me home. It was at this point that reality hit me. There were only two round trip tickets in the car and mine wasn t one of them. I went to bed depressed and scared of what tomorrow was going to have in store for me.
15 Amer ica s Most Controversia l Drug Re hab Intake-November 28, 1981 I returned to Straight, Inc. the next morning at about 9:00AM. I was still exhausted from the events of the night before and wasn t happy to be making a return trip here. As we pulled in front of the building I noticed bars on the windows. They were decorative but bars nonetheless. I was led to a room where my Intake was to take place. I wasn t in an Intake room like last night, but it looked to be a storage room. Hundreds of chairs were kept here for Open Meeting nights. For the next couple of hours I was asked about my drug use. Again, I admitted to all the drugs I ever did. But when I was asked if I thought I needed to be there, I said no. I was almost convinced that I would be leaving the building without signing in. When suddenly the door opened. There he was, Dr. Newman stuck his head inside and began yelling at me about how I had treated my family. The confrontation didn t last more than ten seconds or so and when he slammed the door closed, I was stunned. I broke down and began crying. The Oldcomers asked why I was crying. I told them that everything that he just said was absolutely true. In moments I agreed to sign myself in. The next thing I remember I was in other room and I had just signed the paperwork making me a Client in the program. The Oldcomer told me that I had made the right decision. I was scared to death of what would happen next. I got up to go with them for my strip search. An Oldcomer reached behind me and grabbed my belt loop. I went to swing at him and was sternly told to relax. It was explained to me at that point that this was the manner in which I would be led around until I made second phase. I began regretting signing my self in. I was led to the bathroom where I was told to strip. Although I understood why the strip search had to be done, it was a humiliating experience. After the strip search was over I was led out to the group. I remember walking along the wall toward the St. Petersburg group. The Staff member asked if I was from Cincinnati. I nodded yes. We continued along the wall until we came to a door on my left. We entered the room. Inside, was a smaller group set up the same way as the larger St. Pete group. Guys on one side, girls on the other. I was stopped, just inside the room. One of the Staff members allowed a person who was talking to finish what she was talking about. Afterward, the Staff member told the group to Listen Up. The person standing behind me introduced me. This is Don, he is twenty, and he s done pot, alcohol, hash, uppers, downers, cocaine, LSD, tye stick and glue. He has done these drugs over a period of five years. He says he doesn t want to be here, but knows he needs to be. The Group remained silent. At this point the Staff Member asked, Does anyone know Don? I saw a hand go up and there she was, Cathie. We didn t do drugs together, but because we knew each other, I was told that talking to her was prohibited. Next, the Staff Member asked if anyone had anything to say to me. Here it comes, I thought. I am going to get yelled at. I was going to be told that I really had a drug problem and needed to be here. Instead I heard the group yell in unison, Hi Don, Love ya Don. I was stunned. I was led to a chair on the front row. As I was walking, I made eye contact with another client sitting in the third row. His name was Dean. His eyes glared at me as though he was mad at me. I was scared. Why was he so mad at me? I thought. I sat down and tried to take it all in. I briefly glanced back at Dean again to see if there was a way I could find out why he seemed so angry with me. Again, his eyes glared at me and motioned me to turn around. I sat there, scared, confused, and thinking that perhaps I had made the biggest mistake of my life. My thoughts turned to my family. Had they abandoned me?
16 Amer ica s Most Controversia l Drug Re hab Terminology & Slang The Language of Straight In order to fully understand what happened behind the doors of Straight one must learn the slang and terminology used by the Staff and Clients. We had our own language if you will. The following are many of the terms and slang used. 5 th Phaser- an Oldcomer on the last active phase of the program. A 5 th Phaser stands on the side of Group overseeing the other clients in the Program. Takes requests from clients and passes those to a Staff Trainee. A 5 th Phaser is responsible for seating each client in the appropriate row of the Group. 7 th Step to graduate the program 7 th Stepped- The phrase used by the Director to let the person and everyone at the Open Meeting know that a client has graduated the program. Congratulations, you re 7 th Stepped. 7 th Stepper- a person who has graduated the program 7 th Step Officer- a 7 th Stepper who leads the weekly 7 th Step Raps. They are elected by majority vote by the other 7 th Steppers. They carry a 6-month term. 7 th Step Society- the group of 7 th Steppers. This organization consists of Officers who lead the weekly raps. 7 th Steppers who have been out of the program for 6 months or more and those who are still in after-care under 6 months. Awareness- Being able to tell if something isn t quite right about a client or if the client is doing okay. Seeing an opportunity to help a client out because they ve gone through a similar situation and acting on it. Be lt looping-to hold on to a Newcomer by his/her rear belt loop. Used to prevent a Newcomer from escaping. Books- these are the books that are used by Staff during the Homes Rap each Monday and Friday mornings. The reading of the Books is done just before the start of Open Meetings. The Staff in a ceremonial manner exits the Staff Offices and line up in front of the entire Group. Most Staff members have a book or folder in their hand. At this time all Phase changes and requests for Talk, and Talk and Responsibilities are revealed. If a client earns Talk or T & R, the group responds in unison with three short claps. If the client earns Home or 2 nd Phase the Group responds in applause. The same response is given if someone makes 3 rd or 4 th Phase. Promotions to 5 th Phase are held until the Program Director makes the announcement during the first part of the Open Meeting. Carving or to Carve- The intentional cutting of one s arms or other body parts. A form of selfmutilation. A client will usually carve using their fingernails and literally cut the skin. Some carvings include names, initials, symbols or pictures. It is not fully understood why a client may carve. Perhaps it is an emotional outlet. Not all clients engage in this activity. Staff would never reveal to a parent that their child is carving.
17 Chain of Command-The process by which questions & concerns are reported, requested, or answered. In most in Group cases the Chain of Command starts with a 5 th Phaser. From there the Chain of Command goes to Staff Trainee, Junior Staff, Senior Staff, Group Staff Supervisor, Program Coordinator, Assistant Director, Director. The small pieces of paper that a 5 th Phaser writes the requests on, usually from a hand held pad of paper, is also referred to as a Chain of Command. The Chain of Command is strictly enforced and severe disciplinary action can be taken against anyone who intentionally breaks the Chain of Command or who fails to pass a Chain of Command along to the next level. Clicking or to Click- a silent form of communication between two people usually Newcomers. Can be a form of flirting between a guy and a girl. Some Clicking can result in a planned massive Cop-Out attempt in Group. (1-2-3 RUN!) Confrontation- Verbal assaults from the Group of clients focused on one Client. Yelling, screaming, cursing and name-calling are all part of the confrontation. This is usually done when a client is not conforming to the rules, policies and procedures of the program. Confrontations are led and monitored by at least one Senior Staff or two Junior Staff members. Cop-Out or Copped Out- to leave the program without authorization. Some Cop-Outs are elaborate when an escape from the grasp of an Oldcomer is accomplished. Other Cop-Outs occurred from the Foster Home out of a window. Other Cop-Outs take place from cars stopped at a red light. Other Cop-outs take place from school or work on higher phases. Oldcomers have been seriously injured in some of these Cop-Outs. Another definition of Cop Out is not taking responsibility for one s actions or blaming others for their problems. Crocodile tears- pretending to cry forcing out tears to convince the Group and Staff that one was getting in touch with feelings about the past or present situation when they really aren t. Days Froze n- a disciplinary action from Staff. A client is not able to progress on his/her program. In some cases a Newcomer may be frozen on day 13 and therefore cannot put in for a request until day 14. This could take weeks before day 14 would be acknowledged. In other cases a client may be frozen in order to keep the number of days on a phase low to prevent a client from being Started Over. Druggie- the term to describe a Chemically Dependent client. Similar to someone admitting he/she is an Alcoholic. Druggie Music- Music, typically rock and roll, which promotes or encourages drug use. Any music that makes the client uncomfortable. Druggie Slang- words such as cool, dude, man, bomb, etc. Using these words was prohibited. A client was expected to learn a new set of slang in Straight. Druggie Tie- Any item or property that reminds one of their drug using past. Pictures, concert T-shirts, record or tape albums etc. is considered a Druggie Tie and must be thrown away. Dry Druggie-A person who although maybe off drugs, still has the attitude of a druggie. Displays of anger, disregard for rules or other peoples feelings, hanging out with druggie friends, going to places where alcohol is served etc.
18 Executive Rap- Raps that are led by two Executive Staff members each Monday and Friday before the Open Meeting. This is the only time Executive Staff are seen during most of a client s time in the program. Eye Games- most likely played between a client and their parents. Puppy dog eyes. Looking sad, or angry because they re in the program. Trying to make the parents feel guilty and perhaps pull them out of the program. FOS- Full of Shit. Not being honest. Foster Brother/Sister- An out of town client (Oldcomer) living with a client (Oldcomer) that lives near the treatment area is considered Foster Brothers/Sisters. Foster Home- A home where Newcomers or out of town Oldcomers live when not at the building. Foster Parents- Parents who have a child in the program that is responsible for providing a place for a Newcomer or an out of town client to live. Gamey- To flirt. Group Staff Supervisor- Full time Staff member that is responsible to supervise the Group Staff (Senior & Junior Staff) is a graduate or 7 th Stepper. Head Games- self doubt. Assuming the worst in situations. Feeling guilty for having bad thoughts. Heavies- Bad or shocking news. Parents were prohibited from mentioning these types of things to their children during Mic Talk. Examples of this are death of a family member or pet. Clients were prohibited from mentioning these type of things during their 5-minute talk. Examples would be I raped someone or I was restrained for three hours yesterday In your head- Daydreaming. Inta ke- The process by which a client is enrolled into the program. Intake Room- A small 10 X 10 room where an Intake in conducted. The room that multiple clients meet in in the morning before being escorted to the Group Room. Introduction: Performed during Open Meetings all Newcomers in the program from 3-14 days must stand up and tell the Group and Parents their first name, age, the drugs they ve done, how long they did drugs, admit they are a druggie and how long they have been straight. From there they talk about specific incidents from their past including drugs, family problems, druggie friendships, school or work issues and trouble they ve had with the law. They must then set two short-term goals (something that can be accomplished in 24 hours or less) and one long-term goal. (Something that can be accomplished in 6 months or less) Oldcomers, usually 5 th Phasers also do Oldcomer Introductions that cover the same areas but more emphasis is placed on how much better they are doing since being straight for so long. Junior Staff- A full time Staff member who leads raps for the group. Junior Staff members are graduates or 7 th Steppers of the program.
19 Laying your crap out on the Group- whining and complaining about something without setting goals to change it. Feeling sorry for one s self. Mic Ta lk- the time when parents talk to their child(ren) from across the room during Open Meeting. A microphone was past from parent to parent so the clients and everyone else in the Open Meeting could hear what was being said. The client is expected to stand and listen. A client cannot say anything until the parent is finished and only then can the client say, I love you. Misbehaving- To fight with other clients in Group. Refusing to motivate during raps or disobeying the program rules. Misbe havior- A client who fights with other clients in Group or who refuses to get involved in raps or follow program rules. Mot ivate or Motivat ing- to flail ones arms rapidly up and down in order to get called on during a rap session. Clients could get so motivated that they would bounce up and down in their chairs. 5 th Phasers would flail their arms and jump up and down at the same time. Ne wcomer- A client on the first phase of the program. No- No s- Items that a Newcomer is not allowed to have. For example, deodorant with S D alcohol, belts, shirts with pictures or writing, boots, jewelry, books, magazines, anything else Staff deems off limits to a Newcomer. Oldcomer- A client on 2 nd Phase or higher. Open Meeting- Meetings held on each Monday and Friday night. Allowing Newcomers to do Introductions & parents to talk with their children. Phase changes and graduations take place during these meetings. Open Meeting Review- The time immediately following the Open Meeting. Staff and Group members critique newcomer introductions. Other confrontations take place during this session. The most confrontive sessions held at Straight. Pat- to relate in group but without specifics or not sharing feelings. Generalized talking. Phaser- a client in the program. Phoner- a 4 th or 5 th Phase client that answers the phone in the front lobby. Is responsible for writing messages down and passing them onto the Runner. Pull myself- a client 18 years of age or older withdraws from the program.
20 Rap- a session usually lasting 2 hours. 1 or 2 Staff members lead the raps. Raps usually consist of three parts. Past, Present and Future. These raps are designed to help clients talk about their drug problem and get help in overcoming it. There are several different type of Raps. Basic Rap discuss the Steps, 3 Signs, 5 Criteria, or Serenity Prayer in great detail to help the client understand what it means and how it can be applied to their individual lives. Homes Rap is conducted on each Monday and Friday morning. Newcomers can request Talk, Talk and Responsibilities or Home. Oldcomers can put in for promotion to 3 rd, 4 th or 5 th Phase. Morning Rap deals primarily with a clients past. Afternoon Rap deals primarily with a clients Present. The most confrontive rap of the day. Evening Rap deals primarily with the client s future. The least confrontive of raps in a day. Rules Rap deals with specific rules of the program. 4 th & 5 th Phase Raps discuss issues that are prevalent to the phase. Refresher- a disciplinary action given to 7 th Steppers. They are placed back in Group for a period of time to deal with a situation that may have cause a client to nearly relapse. Some 7 th Steppers are placed on Behind Group Refreshers, which require a 7 th Stepper to attend a set number of evening raps. They stand behind the Group and are expected to talk about the situation that caused them to be placed on the refresher. Re late- To talk about a specific incident during a Rap. To talk to another client in Group to let them know they understand what they are feeling or experiencing. (I can relate to that) Respons ibilit ies- Various chores that are done by Oldcomers throughout the day. Mopping, sweeping the carpets, cleaning the bathrooms, Runner, standing at a door, taking out the trash, Kitchen duty, etc. Rocking Out- To play a chair or anything else like a drum. To play the air-guitar. It also meant to listen to music in your head like the song from a favorite rock band. This was a distraction for anyone around. Runner- is a client who takes messages throughout the building to Staff members. A 2nd or 3rd Phaser usually does this task. Is the only person that can go directly to another Staff Member without following the Chain of Command. They can leave the Group room without Staff approval. Senior Staff- a full time Staff member who leads raps, and supervises the Junior Staff. Senior Staff are more involved in dealing with the parents and disciplines the client when deemed necessary. Set Back- when a client is moved back from one phase to another. For example a 3 rd Phaser may be set back to second phase allowing them to be taken out of school. Sponge- to take from the Group without giving back. It is believed that one should give back to the Group in the form of helping one another. Not doing so is thought of as selfish. Staff Trainee-full time Staff member in training. Can be a 5 th Phaser or 7 th Stepper. Oversees the 5 th Phasers and is learning skills necessary to become a Junior Staff member after they 7 th Step the program. Start Over or Started Over- Client is put back to day one and starts his/her program all over again. This can be done from any phase. Most reasons for Start Over s are copping out or relapse.