Original artwork by Wes Fager

1401 Cattelman Road, Sarasota, Florida. cir. `80 `82

This is the address of the Program; proper name Straight Incorporated, Sarasota. And this page is about what went on inside that old red warehouse from November of `80 through October of `82. If you happened to work at the lumber-yard next door during that time, you've probably wondered.

This is not about the 7 steps, the Serenity Prayer, or any of the other publicly acknowledged elements that proponents of the Program will point to when describing how it works. This is about the practices and rules (both written and unwritten) designed and implimented to regress individuals to a suggestible, infantile state and then "re-educate" them according to the beliefs of the Program. This is about how to make Stepford children and the ireparable harm done to individuals and families in the process.

Most of all, this is about the history and belief systems of these people, many of whom currently occupy positions of authority and respect in our public and private sectors. (see http://fornits.com/anonanon/ for details)

This is also my personal story based on first-hand observation. I've chosen to pass on my right to privacy in this matter for one very important reason. There is power in a name. It is my hope that I will be able to tell the story with sufficient detail and clarity so that people who have been (or are now being) subjected to the Program under the pretense of drug rehabilitation, behavior modification for troubled teens or in any other venue will be able to recognize just what maner of beast it is. If you can name it, then you can deal with it more appropriately.

As this is my story and my web site, I will first indulge a long held dream. Those of you who were Straight Group members will remember Rules Rap. For those of you who were not there, Rules Rap was a ritual where group members would be called on one at a time to recite a rule and then offer an interprative definition, example and reason for each rule. It went something like this.
    Staff: Alright! Who wants to do the first rule?!
    Group: Everyone starts 'motivating' (flailing an arm or both for all they're worth to demonstrate an entheustic desire to be called on).
    Staff: Ok, Virginia.
    Virginia: (stands up) Honesty, the first and most important rule. Honesty, to me, means every day faceing the fact that I'm a druggie, I'll always be a druggie but that I don't have to act like a druggie any more. If I'm not honest about myself all the time, then I'll just screw up. Honesty is all about taking charge of my life and not letting my past druggie ways dictate what kind of person I'm going to be.
    Staff: Good! Someone else? John, tell the Group what Honesty means to you.

    And so it would go till each rule had been recited and defined a few times by various Group members. There was a certain tension about rules rap. When called on, you never knew if staff or your newcomer/oldcomer or another group member might take the oportunity to confront you for breaking said rule. And that could turn ugly.

Now, I don't know what anyone else was thinking, but I always wished I could, just once, even if it meant getting started over or sent to TR, say what the hell I meant. So, here's a start. This is how my Rules Rap would go:

Honesty, the first and most impotent rule
Right now, honesty means saying exactly what you want me to say, thinking exactly as you want me to think and believing every stinking helping of this horse shit with all of my heart, mind and soul. If I'm not honest[sic] I know you'll kick my ass and I'll never get the hell away from you crazy people. And, since that is my sole objective in life at this point, I will just continue to regurgitate everything you cram down my throat until I achieve that objective.

No talking out in Group
For 12 solid hours each day, you will hear only what Staff wants you to hear, say only what you are expected to say when called upon and have no other communication with anyone, period. You may not give a smile or knowing look to a friend, ask for a tissue to blow your nose or attempt to communicate in any way except by motivating (as defined above) or politely, timidly, carefully raising your hand about half-way to get the attention of one of the fifth phasers standing around the outside of the group. And it had better be important, too!

No talking behind people's back
You would think that an innoculous rule like this would mean following Grandmother's sound advice about the destructive nature of gossip. But you'd be mistaken. That sort of logic and reason only apply in the more commonly accepted reality on the other side of that door. In here, there's another reality. I can't tell my father what went on here today. Not only that, but I can't discuss it with my foster sister on the way home or while we're locked in for the night. This is like the Clockwork Orange, for Christ's sake! No matter how insane any argument or proposal, I can not challenge it, and neither can you. So we'd be well advised to just accept it and go along asif this all makes perfect sense. Merry Unbirthday to you!

(Here's the official Code of Confidentiality) I'd like to note a couple of things about the practical application of this rule.

  • This agreement seems to go out the window as far as staff is concerned in the event you try to sue them in civil court or bring criminal charges. You can count on their using anything and everything, true or not, against you in a very public way.
  • I don't recall ever having freely given my consent to Group or Staff to discuss anything about me whether I was present or not.
  • I have to agree with one point of that document; the program is most definitely not like the outside world!
  • I sure wish I'd known at the time that breaking the confidentiality rule was a sure ticket out!

Pay Attention
Again, my Dad was always telling me to pay attention. But I don't think he meant it quite like this. See, not only are we not permitted to discuss anything among ourselves, we're not really allowed to think about it either. If I get caught thinking or dreaming under my own direction instead of devoting my full attention to whoever's been authorized to speak, why I might find that I rather disagree with it. And that is not permitted.

Don't turn your back on your newcomer
Litterally. Don't take your eyes off of them no matter what. They must remain convinced that they cannot be trusted not to harm you or themselves even for a moment. And, of course, you must be completely occupied with the Program, mind, body and soul, every minute. You must never have a moment to think critically about anything. This means you will never have an oportunity to talk to your mother during the 3 or 6 minutes of potential sleep time you might decide it's worthwhile to sacrifice in order to discuss something personal and private or just to be alone. Privacy in any form is not allowed.

Ok, ok. Enough of that for now. I don't remember all of the rules. Maybe someone can lend a little assistance. Please send suggestions to [email protected]

How I landed at Straight

I really don't know much about how our family became involved in this. In around 1971 or `72, my older brothers and a few of their friends were in The Seed in Ft. Lauderdale. I was around 6 or 7 then. From that point forward The Seed was a big part of my life. Art Barker and Seed Staff were revered and quoted at least as much (if not more) than the pastor or Christ himself. During the times that my older siblings were oldcomers in the program, we'd make the half-hour drive each way to drop them off and pick them up on 3 or 4 times a week. When they had newcomers, it was every day. Every Friday night, even if none of my family were actively involved (having graduated or not been put in yet), my mother would take me to Open Meeting.

These have been described as being something like an old-time Bible revival, except that Art was decidedly anti-Bible... so I guess it could be more accurately described as a Mass of the Travesty. At any rate, The Seed was very like a religion in our house. I was taught from a very early age certain premises of Art's philosophy:
  • If you smoke pot or drink beer, it's only a matter of time until you become a junkie.
  • If you associate with people who use drugs or have druggie attitudes (especially members of the opposite sex), it's only a matter of time until you become a junkie.
  • Likewise for listening to druggie rock music, wearing fashionable clothes or any behavior that could not be described as enthusiastice compliance with parental wishes. (note that, to the best of my recollection, there was only ever 1 Seedling who was actually addicted to heroin)
  • Druggies are mean, spiteful, deceitful, violent, dispicable people who cannot be trusted for a moment and who deserve no consideration until they get straight.
  • Druggies can't stand for anyone else to be straight so they're out to getchya!
  • 90% of teenagers are druggies (the rest will be eventually).
  • Psychiatry is quackery.
  • Once a kid sets his foot on the enexorable path to junkiedome The Seed is the only way to save their life.
  • 90% of Seedlings get straight and remain so for life.

I grew up daring not utter a word that I could not prove to be true because anything I said would likely be questioned. I was not permitted to wear make-up, high heels or anything that might be considered stylish (that might lead to acceptance from my peers, 90% of whom were druggies, according to the mythology). Every move I made was scrutinized.

By the time I was 15 years old, I was just about the most nurotic case you can imagine. I had no druggiefriends. The only friend I had was the kid across the street who was also a Seed sibling. When I tried to make druggiefriends (according to Art, all I had to do was to act like one of them; do drugs, steal, lie, skip school; and I'd be surrounded by them!) for some strange reason, it didn't work. Severely depressed, isolated and confused, I decided one day to just walk away. I packed a back-pack and headed for the highway. I was going to have a great adventure and become a hippie!

After a couple of weeks of aimless wandering and finding nothing of interest in the dark belly of the runnaway world, I decided to go visit my sister in Massechusettes. Soon after, I agreed to go home and, within a week or so, woke up one day expecting to go to school. But I found, instead, that all of my clothes except for one outfit (selected by my mother) had been removed from my room and my father and older brother were there to prevent my escape. Much to my surprise, they didn't take me to The Seed. Instead, my parents took me to Straight in Sarasota. I'd never even heard of the place, but assumed it was just like The Seed. And so I resigned myself to making it through whatever it had been that my older brothers and sister had gone through. Maybe then they'd let me into the club. Mean time, at least I'd be a member of Group. And they had to like me. It was a rule.

In all fairness to Art, I must mention that he refused to accept me into The Seed. From what my mother said, he cited the long-standing policy of not accepting people who had been in other rehabs and the fact that I had had so much contact with the Program that it was asif I had been through it myself. I have often wondered whether it was because he knew that The Seed had been a major contributing factor to my ill mental state or if it was just a "Heaven don't want me and Hell's afraid I'll take over" sort of thing.

More later....

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