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Offline Anonymous

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a letter to john
« on: November 20, 2005, 10:11:00 PM »
(I THOUGHT WE SHOULD START A THREAD ON THIS AND I'M GOING TO WRITE MY OWN LETTER SO POWER TO MMS GIRLS OF THE NEW MILLENIUM!!!!!! IT WOULD BE GREAT IF WE GOT A LOT OF THEM HERE SO CAN EVERYONE SPREAD THE WORD TO ALL THE MMS GIRLS?  THIS IS FOR BLAIR)J2

Hey guys - it's Liz cermak from 01-03 of MMS. I just sent this letter to John. I promise to post his response.

John,
I need to express some things to you about my experience at MMS, and I need you to respect me and not write me off. First of all - I'm doing really well. I just celebrated four years of sobriety on Aug. 30 of this year, and I've now been with my boyfriend for 2 years next month. Life is beyond what I ever thought it could be. So don't write me off as one of the "bad" alumni.
Blaire's death has spurred me to really reflect on some of the methods employed at the school. I'm desperately confused because I know that I would not be where I am today if I had not been put some where, but I also am aware that some of the rules and ways that we were treated are against the law. No where, in any part of any legislation, are the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights taken away from citizens who are not convicted felons. They were taken away from us while at MMS.
The tactics used to influence psychological and social change in us were cruel. I lost all sense of who I was John. Every part of my personality that I liked got squashed because I was afraid they were bad and I'd get punished. But the truth is that I am rebellious. I am loud. I like to express my sexuality in ways that make me feel good about myself. I'm smart and sophisticated. I like to do crazy things like dance in a fountain at a party. I sponsor people. I am sponsored. I have worked the 12 steps as they are outlined in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. People describe me as being naturally high and drunk. My nick name is Granola Barbie. I am willing to get arrested for a cause I believe in, and there is nothing wrong with that. You telling me that something was wrong with elements of my personality killed me inside. Everything I knew and cherished about my spirit and soul was a "negative and old" behavior. I'm not your perfect girl. What do you get out of humiliating us? Isn't there a better way to get Lauren Trick to see that she can be apart of the group than to make her run around us in a circle, repeating some line over and over while sobbing and struggling for breath outside in -15 degree weather? Two people got severe frostbite while we were standing out there. Lauren was crying, she was completely and incomprehensibly demoralized, and not as a result of the way that she was governing her life, but because of a personality trait - defect of character - that she didn't know better than to depend on. We could have just given her hugs. We could have just held her. We could have celebrated who she was instead of telling her that she was bad. Treated her like she had cancer rather than like she had leprosy.
And as for me, I remember a particular incidence where we did a 23-24 mile bike ride up the mountain with huge rocks that symbolized our "core issues." I made it up to the top 5th, I think, and was really proud of myself for my accomplishment because I hadn't stopped to rest once since we started. I hadn't stopped moving my legs. I fell off my bike once because it hit a rock or something, but I jumped right back on and kept going. That's how I define success - getting back up when you fall. Yet when you asked those of us who had come all the way up without stopping to place our rocks toward the center of the circle (which I did), and then asked us all to share our experience, I mentioned falling and getting right back up. You stopped me. Told me to put the rock back in my lap because falling counted as stopping. I had failed. I couldn't put my rock up on the hill. Obviously, because I had fallen and gotten right back up, I wasn't ready to let go of the issue my rock represented. Right.
WAKE UP. How do you define success? I'm actually really curious. Anyway, just so you know, later on that summer we did the same bike ride without the rocks and I made it to the top without falling or stopping. I did it perfect like you wanted me to. So I went down and got my rock out of the ash where all of us who had failed last time had thrown them, and I put it up on the hill with all the people who had succeeded last time. Yet I felt guilty for doing that. Do you understand how terrible it is to feel guilty about the most central aspects of your experiences of self, basic consciousness, reality, world view, moral code, emotional control, and personality? To feel powerless while being subjected to intense and frequent actions/situations that undermine your confidence in yourself and your judgment? This intense feeling of guilt I just described is the mark of an MMS alumni. How can you be proud of that, let that continue, and meanwhile claim that you practice the 12 steps in your daily life? Love and tolerance is our code.

Pg. 96 of the Big Book-
"Do not be discouraged if your prospect does not respond at once. Search out another alcoholic and try again. You are sure to find someone desperate enough to accept with eagerness what you offer. We find it a waste of time to keep chasing a man who cannot or will not work with you. If you leaves such a person alone, he may soon recover by himself. To spend too much time on any one situation is to deny some other alcoholic an opportunity to live and be happy."

Why did you keep chasing Blaire? Chasing someone and driving them down until they question every single thought and feeling is not helping them. I had to get to the point where I accepted help on my own terms, John. I was just lucky because I had that bottom before I came to MMS. Most of the girls there were and are not ready. Provide them with the opportunity to say whatever they want. People need to discuss their anger and hatred, even towards you and/or the school. If you prohibit that than you're really just doing the same thing as the dictators of the world on a small scale. It's George Orwell's 1984 in the middle of Montana. I had my sponsor on my resentment list just because as my sponsor she had authority over me. The resentment doesn't make sense, but I feel it and therefore it is my reality. Read Foucault - he's a genius French philosopher. Not everyone fits into and agrees with your paradigm. I'm glad it works for you, seriously, and I'd like to think you have good intentions. I just wanted to tell you that the methods you are using are counterproductive and currently blowing up in your face. If you want to help people you need to take some inventory of your methods.
So thank you for your time. I hope change starts to happen, and I do intend to become active in pursuing regulation and reforms for institutions like MMS. Respect and reflect on my opinions John - I'm not a drugged out little kid any more, and I deserve to be treated like the adult I'm becoming.

- Liz Cermak
[email protected]
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Offline Anonymous

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a letter to john
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2006, 02:33:00 PM »
So...It's been a long time since I sent this to John and I still haven't received a response.  It's irritating and goes right back to the core of what I was talking about in the letter.  He straight denied my request for acknowledgement as a human being.  Which is fine, I don't need everyone in the world to give me that kind of recognition nor do I want everyone to, but when it's denied by someone who used to claim that they cared deeply for you, that kind of denial results in more feelings of shame and deep, deep betrayal.  It's horribly f*cked up.  So...now I'm pretty pissed.  Should I try one more time and send him the letter by land mail?
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Offline katfish

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a letter to john
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2006, 12:19:00 AM »
you know what's really crazy Liz, it's the understanding that SO MANY things we're totally unaccepptable about MMS and John and yet how strong the need for validation and approval is.  That is, the inability to recognize John for who he has consistently been.  How different his actions were from his words.
Systematic domination, oppression and obliteration of our selves (our minds/personalities) was not love, but he called it that... he called it safety...perhaps this is what makes it so difficult for people to name what went on.  Perhaps that is why you still seek answers from him.  Why I, not too long ago continued to seek answers, an apology, to make sense of it all...But they never came and, unless John changes, he won't have an answer sufficient enough to quench your need for...an apology for all the harm he has caused.

This is no joke...this isn't a game- I guess we all know that...but sometimes I sense people prefer the silence w/o acknoledging the very real consequences of MMS on all of our souls.  We needed somewhere to go, most of us our immediate environment was harmful to us- but we didn't need much of what MMS did.  
This is destruction of real kids and their hearts and minds. Hearing about Blaire and knowing the damage that has come to so many other dear friends of mine... to blow it off as a 'blame game' is enfuritating. The few disgruntled alumni, right? MMS bashers?  If someone spends 2 years being tormented rather than helped when they have serious issues...it is not blame to say that things likely would have been different had they not ended up at MMS, that is responsibility and we need some accountability.

John is hailed by the industry- does that make sense to anybody?  I mean, how don't people see through his arrogance?  I understand why we fell for it, we were kids-- but adults?

Anyway- I also came here to ask you all to visit
cafety.org and share!!!  I hope this will help!!

kat

ps- Liz, I say give it on last shot via snail mail and then be done with it.  Or maybe try Colleen.  I must admit, I say this a bit b/c I'm curious, but also b/c I found it a great relief to write John- almost therapeutic.  Of all the people out there in the world- he is the only person who I feared with great intesity...and Colleen as well. It helped a lot to find my voice. :wink:[ This Message was edited by: katfish on 2006-02-14 22:12 ]
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Offline Anonymous

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a letter to john
« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2006, 07:45:00 PM »
As a new alumni from MMS, I graduated December of 2005, I would like to make a response to this letter.  In the first two years of my 2 1/2 year stay was spent with no true knowledge of who John was.  I still don't really know who he was.  He drove up in his truck, sat in his office, and disappeared.  I was informed that it was because he had gotten his feelings hurt at Elk Meadows or evacuation, something I arrived shortly after.  He invited me into his office one evening with another Alumni, and encouraged me to tell him why I was here.  I was supposed to tell this man I knew for moments my deepest secrets?  I guess the way everyone treated him I saw him as a God, something I think he often put himself in the position of.  I will not deny John is smart, you must be to run that school successfully.  After leaving MMS I have constantly felt crazed, unsure of what I was doing and having nightmeres about being brought back, being told I was failing.  Thinking about the school gives me a stomach ache and sometimes makes me vomit.  I can't talk to my parents about it because they are so grateful for the school, they were not there for the terrors of being a student, something I am frankly grateful to no longer be.  I probably don't know most of you, but I would be grateful to hear what you have done to help yourselves.  [email protected] is my email.  Thanks for reading.  
Lexi
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Offline katfish

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a letter to john
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2006, 08:10:00 PM »
Quote
On 2006-02-15 16:45:00, Anonymous wrote:

"  After leaving MMS I have constantly felt crazed, unsure of what I was doing and having nightmeres about being brought back, being told I was failing.  Thinking about the school gives me a stomach ache and sometimes makes me vomit.  I can't talk to my parents about it because they are so grateful for the school, they were not there for the terrors of being a student, something I am frankly grateful to no longer be.  I probably don't know most of you, but I would be grateful to hear what you have done to help yourselves.  http://www.cafety.org
I hope that for you and others it will serve the dual purpose of finding solutions at a personal level- we hope to soon set up a doctor, trauma specialist- q & a, acquire a sense of empowerment and draw attention to the harmful impact many these facilities have had on people.

feel free to e-mail me if you'd like
kat @cafety.org

talk to you soon- kat
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Offline katfish

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a letter to john
« Reply #5 on: February 18, 2006, 01:42:00 PM »
OMG, Liz-

I have to apologize to you for extending my animosity toward John and his forceful use of the 12 steps to AA in general...AA certainly has some problem, but you pointed to the fact that you can't force the program on anyone and, as I read 'Help at Any Cost' and re-read your e-mail it's true!  John took AA and made it into a tool of force...

I also wrote this on CAFETY, but thought it important to put this post here as well
----

Has anyone picked up this book- Help at Any Cost: How the Trouble Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids?

I'm about 1/4 through. The first hundered pages honestly brought me to tears, not that this is anything new, but Maia points out how coercive psychology produces devout, committed individuals to the program, often regardless of whether or not the program had actually worked on them, and often when there is evidence to the contrary.  How often people become supporters of their own mistreatment.  

I remember when my life was in shambles after I left the program I attended and I continued saying, and even wrote a long heartfelt letter to the headmaster and his wife about how much I had learned, how grateful I was and how the program saved me.  That was around the time when things were at one of the lowest points in my life and the reality was my life was far worse.

It's difficult to explain to people what happens when your mind is raped, myself and other girls that attended Mission Mountain School often say that it would have been so much easier if we had actually been raped or physically brutalized in the sense that there would be evidence, some physical action- not the insidious coercive psychology used.  Our minds, being brutalized, carried lasting, but difficult to identify, consequences esp- while your living amidsy it's contradictions and confused by it.  When reason and your own internal voice (if they haven't successfully and completely squashed it!) tells you one thing and everything you are told that 'saved' you contradicts that...then you have to go through the depression and anxiety of finally finding your own voice again, of making sense of the nonsensical... it's hard to realign yourself- at least it was for me.  

Also, b/c the program was 12 steps based I was became an AA fanatic and it was difficult for me to not become the self-important prostelitizer that I had been taught to be at MMS, only later to be turned off from AA forever.  

I also learned/realized that AA does not endore force- you can't force someone into sobriety...not to mention, you can't label people addicts w/o thouroughly analyzing their history and being an expert- not the, "I'm an expert b/c I'm an addict to" kind either- and that history can't come by coercive methods which have been proven to induce false confessions...I lied so frequently at this facility...the truth became meaningless....

Anyway- I was just happy to see Maia address this point and to see it in print finally....
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
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Offline BarnardlyB

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a letter to john
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2006, 12:39:00 AM »
"It's difficult to explain to people what happens when your mind is raped, myself and other girls that attended Mission Mountain School often say that it would have been so much easier if we had actually been raped or physically brutalized in the sense that there would be evidence, some physical action- not the insidious coercive psychology used. Our minds, being brutalized, carried lasting, but difficult to identify."

Okay, Okay, girls.....seems your getting out of hand.
How is it that  us girls who agree with the school, can take a step back and agree with those of you who obviously HATE the school yet NONE of you can take a step back and understand where we  (girls who agree with the school) stand???

Kat, your starting to get my blood boiling. My mom has treated me and talked to me worse than the school ever did. Maybe if you opened up your mind and looked at it in a different light it may be different.
Quit living your life in the past....MMS has changed since weve been there.
Ask any of the girls who just left of they ever did  3-6 hr exercise......a girl never met john till after being there for 2 years.....
Doesn't that give you a hint??? a clue???

I undestand your fight but why is it that you don't care who you hurt while your at it....if you truly believe that MMS is that bad than your leveling yourself with them.......why do that?? Why focus on your pain and not MOVE ON!!!!!!!
Im not the only one that sees it this way....im just the only one who says it. Why is it that you can't  find or get ahold of most of the girls you and I went to MMS with together??? Cause they agree with me.............


I know im gonna get a ton disagreeing and attacking responses.........im ready.
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Offline Anonymous

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a letter to john
« Reply #7 on: February 22, 2006, 01:31:00 AM »
Quote


Okay, Okay, girls.....seems your getting out of hand.

1.How is it that  us girls who agree with the school, can take a step back and agree with those of you who obviously HATE the school yet NONE of you can take a step back and understand where we  (girls who agree with the school) stand???



2.Kat, your starting to get my blood boiling. My mom has treated me and talked to me worse than the school ever did. Maybe if you opened up your mind and looked at it in a different light it may be different.

.

3.Ask any of the girls who just left of they ever did  3-6 hr exercise......a girl never met john till after being there for 2 years.....




4.I undestand your fight but why is it that you don't care who you hurt while your at it....if you truly believe that MMS is that bad than your leveling yourself with them.......why do that?? Why focus on your pain and not MOVE ON!!!!!!!

5. Im not the only one that sees it this way....im just the only one who says it. Why is it that you can't  find or get ahold of most of the girls you and I went to MMS with together??? Cause they agree with me.............


"


1. i think some girls state it helped, but most disagree with methods but ally themselves fully with the program due to ...oddly, as Maia explains it, human nature.  when you're told repeatedly that you are being helped, even if you're being harmed you tend to go along with it- see maia's book for more on that sort of 'quirk' in humans.  people often become complicit in their own mistreatment, and defend it with great self-importance and loyalty...sound familiar?
2. i don't know what that means, parentental extra mistreatment doesn't jsutify mms mistreament, does it?
3. yea, i hear john is not around much anymore- that's good as far as I'm concerned. Still, i've also heard some strange issues coming out of mms too- perhaps none reflect the same trauma I felt subjected to, but certainly still enough to cause concern
4. i'm wondering who you're referring to b/c I have maintained contact with a number of people who have explicity stated otherwise- although that's quite irrelevant in any case, this is not a popularity conference.  Efficacy is not about numbers, per se- ---I 'd be willing to bet that a rather large number of people who went to MMS have gone on to 'fuck up' afterwards (or never needed to be there to begin with and didnt')  Many I speak to got worse though, but still say MMS helped- go figure...again, human quirk- also recommend you pcik up Maia's book- MMS alumni have shared their stories with Congress and the press...

Betsy, I'm sorry you don't understand and feel angered by what I've chosen to focus on in my life...but I'm not- call it social conscience.  I understand that criticisms of the school make you angry, but I'm guessing that perhaps it is time for you to move on from that b/c I assure you that my work won't be heading in any other direction very soon.

Oddly, I'm not sure what it is you want me to stop exactly...please explain... But as far as having this same dialogue w/ you, I'm done.  It's just rehash of same old shpeel- you not getting it, and me trying to explain and you still not getting it...that's ok, though.  read Maia's book, maybe read something about psychology- perhaps the mistreatment will become clrearer to you and the lack of efficacy of such 'treatment' at MMS will also become clearer... This goes beyond MMS, it's what has been proven...MMS like tactics, like in our day, simply have been dubunked- period.  it's science, but not rocket science.      :wink:
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Offline BarnardlyB

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a letter to john
« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2006, 11:35:00 PM »
Kat,
Its not that I don't understand your fight, Ive told you that many times.
Its not that I don't understand where you stand, that I have also, told you many times.
I saw what happened to many of the 'older students' after MMS. I saw what happened to Blair and  Liz, who I spent my whole time at MMS with.

I know your fight won't stop and neither will my desire for you to step back and take a look at the new stucture and new methods that are taking place yet 10-12 years after you have been associated with MMS........
Just take a look Kat....thats all im asking.


One thing im truly greatful for MMS is, that either though those of us who have gone there may have different opionions we are all still friends.

love ya
B
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Offline Anonymous

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a letter to john
« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2006, 05:07:00 PM »
Quote
On 2006-02-22 20:35:00, BarnardlyB wrote:



I know your fight won't stop and neither will my desire for you to step back and take a look at the new stucture and new methods that are taking place yet 10-12 years after you have been associated with MMS........

Just take a look Kat....thats all im asking.





One thing im truly greatful for MMS is, that either though those of us who have gone there may have different opionions we are all still friends.



love ya

B
"


well, even if there are some structural changes, teh output still is of concern.  On top of that, there exists no data to suggest that MMS is effective...that is also problematic.  If we begin to introduce human rights or even ehtical princples of mental health community and systemes of care into the mix, the idea that young people deserve the least restrictive setting possible, esp when other methods have been proven effective we run into problems in terms of MMS and the industry in general poses.  Its an efficacy problem as well as an ethical problem...  So, while you suggest I move on, I believe this issue to be not only MMS issue but a far larger issue.  It's cultural, its misinformation, but at it's root is in ethics, as I see it, and not so much a scientific problem.  MHP know what works, they KNOW, the data is there, but implementation is the problem.  Oh, and what works is not the type of things MMS practices, and certainly not refelcted in the imprisonment of youth for years.


Kids simply, mostly do not need to be sent away.  If they are, there saftey needs to be insured and the care provided should be proven to work through independent research.  Young people should have the ability to contest placement and access advocates to ensure their well being.  These are the principles of the mental health field- which includes behavrioal, emotional problems , but private industry has taken a diverging turn and locked up so many kids uneccesarily (and of course, used techniques which, when I speak, is appaling to professionals) and decided that making money off desperation of parents is ...well, more profitable and 'better' than going ahead and using what works.  Community, family, holistic... So, while you also say that MMS was great for you, and yet mis treatment occured, well, dont' you have trouble reconciling those points?  Does that even make any sense when you start to consider what 'therapy' and care acutally look like?  And start to consider the extent that John has harmed young girls who were deserving of real therapy?

In anycase, as I mentioned, John's history and what people continually say about him is enough to cause concern as well- I find it doubtful that it is possible for him to work with kids w/o harming them.  I know that he's not too hands on anymore, which is great, but whose to say that will always be the case.  Whose to say his questionabl ethical code is not repeatedly being imposed upon staff...and, most importantly, how can we be sure no young girls will leave MMs years from now traumatized and seeking therapy for an experience that was supposed to be therapeutic??
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Offline Anonymous

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a letter to john
« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2006, 05:08:00 PM »
above was me, kat
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