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Offline linchpin

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Going Undercover at Impact House
« on: November 14, 2008, 10:43:19 AM »
Going Undercover at Impact House
Hardcore recovery
By Mark Groubert
Published on June 25, 2008 at 5:10pm

"Lift your nut sack.”

    *

(Click to enlarge)

I hope I never hear this phrase again.

Popeye, a 50-year-old, cornrowed black dude wearing white surgical gloves, is now pointing out what to look for to a concerned 20-something kid named Manny. I am their anatomical test dummy. I stand stark naked in a small shower room at Impact Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center in Pasadena. It’s the most hardcore rehab in town, they say. I am quickly finding out why.

“Now turn around, bend over, and spread ’em,” barks my anal examiner. Manny gives me two paper towels to stand on while Popeye does his examining. Manny looks on like a protégé admiring his mentor. Even I, a pretty damn good extrovert, cannot come up with any small talk.

Also read Addiction: Buying the Cure at Passages Malibu and Rehab or Bust: A Guide to L.A.'s Drug and Alcohol Treatment Centers by Mark Groubert

For the record, only Jim Stilwell, the legendary executive director of Impact, knows I am here undercover. When I first suggested the idea to Stilwell, a burly 60-ish biker type with a walrus mustache, I had to drop a bunch of names to widen his comfort zone. But to his credit, the savvy ex-junkie quickly got it. He had nothing to hide. According to Stilwell, everything would be standard operating procedure. I would be processed as a regular resident and treated as such for the duration of my stay. No employee or patient would know why I was there.

After an hour’s worth of paperwork, I am led into the main yard of the 130-bed facility. I have never been a patient in a rehab, and it’s like walking into another world. Some really hard-looking men (and women) chain-smoke on the outside patio. There is no swimming pool here, no equine therapy or “talking sticks.” There are carrots but no carrot juice.

I am given the 21-page Residential Client General Rules. A young gap-toothed kid named Michael takes me into a tiny, empty office to go over them page by page. It takes an hour.

There are many, many rules. Most are harsh, some are weird: No sunglasses, no tattoo paraphernalia and no haircutting articles. Portable TVs are allowed in rooms if the resident is Third Phase. Second Phase residents may have radios. No radios or TVs for First Phase residents. It all seems very foreign. Very cultish. Very prisonlike.

After the examination, I’m finally turned over to my impatient “daddy” — someone who shadows your every move for the first few days. You are his “baby.” In fact, everyone calls you baby. Not in the Sinatra way but in the infant way. It is all very humiliating. This is by design.

My daddy is a 50-year-old Latin gangbanger named Lorenzo, who did 21 years in prison for various infractions, one of them beating a man nearly to death with a pipe for refusing to pay his rent on some property Lorenzo owned. Lorenzo was a professional dope slinger. He also put in custom-made windows. He tells me he had seven years clean, when he “got busy and stopped going to N.A. meetings.”

In Impact for the past six months, he had worked his way up to Phase 3, the highest at this facility, when he was inexplicably de-phased back to square one. As he told me his crime/addiction/recovery story in the tiny cubicle that was his room, his eyes moistened. He took pride in Phase 3. He couldn’t fathom what he had done to deserve this “demotion.”

“I need to keep these in my pockets,” he mumbles, gesturing to his fists. He is a tightly wound guy. Very rarely smiles. When he does, it seems forced. Like someone is watching, and he has to do it. He is a good man. He wants it bad. I hope he makes it.

Lorenzo passes me an additional set of handwritten rules, headlined: “Getting Your Wings.” (Getting your wings is Impact-speak for shedding your Daddy.) I read the forbidden“Five F's”:

1. Fighting

2. Fucking

3. Fixing

4. Flirting

5. Fruiting

The first one, I quickly get. No fighting. Easy. The third rule, no fixing. I can see that. Numbers two and four, fucking and flirting — these are really, really frowned upon. (As we walk through the woman’s section, I am instructed to yell, “Man walking here,” which I do rather meekly. I’m so terrified that I keep my eyes averted and my head down.) But number five? Fruiting? What is fruiting? Is it like fisting but with a papaya?

I would later learn from John Albert, who spent 18 months in Impact and ended up working on its staff from 1985 to 1987, that “it all started with [Epitaph Records founder and Bad Religion guitarist] Brett Gurewitz. He would get his dealer to throw oranges loaded with dope in there, then he would sit up at night and do speedballs.”
Linch~~This goes on for 4 pages heres the link
http://www.laweekly.com/2008-06-26/news ... -recovery/
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Offline psy

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Re: Going Undercover at Impact House
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2008, 11:55:14 AM »
Page 2

At the store, I’m given a “fish kit” as the new“fish” on the yard. It’s a sealed bag containing shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, a toothbrush, a comb and a plastic razor. The brand name for these generic products? Maximum Security. How appropriate. While this is clearly not a Level 4facility, the vibe of prison permeates everything, from lingo and body language to food distribution.

    *

There’s a reason for this. The bulk of Impact residents are here because of Proposition 36, a 2001 measure that dedicated $120 million annually for five years to providing rehab rather than imprisonment for drug-related offenses. Los Angeles County mandated four- to six-month stays for nonviolent first- and second-time drug offenders diverted to facilities such as Impact. Almost 40,000 Californians enter treatment each year through Prop. 36, which, according to advocates, has saved taxpayers $1.3 billion over five years. Private-pay or “blue cluster” clients, who pay about $7000* a month, are supposedly treated a little better and live in “Beverly Hills,” a newer housing unit up above the main yard. I claimed I was private pay for simplicity’s sake, but I will apparently live in the “ghetto cluster,” where everyone starts out.

I am already exhausted when I am finally processed into my sliver of a room, a two-bunk rectangle for four, which is about 125 square feet with a small bathroom serving two units. This is considered the “ghetto” of the Impact housing plan. It is spotless. Residents are instructed to treat it like a military barracks and clean it around the clock.

I check my backpack, which has finally been searched and cleared. My wallet has been stripped of its cash. My credit cards are gone. Strangely, they miss my mouthwash, which has alcohol in it. I notice my medications have been taken from my bag. I am told I must report to the “med room near Beverly Hills” at 7 a.m. to get my medication dose.

When I go up there the next morning, half-asleep, a gigantic gang guy named Flores, with actual words tattooed in script across his forehead, is smirking at me. I soon realize why, as he hands me my meds. One pill each of Synthroid and Lipitor. I feel small.

My cellmates — I mean my roomies — are a 300-pound, 40-year-old Mississippi-raised cracker named Luke, a 28-year-old Romanian named Dragna and a muscular, black 50-year-old armed robber named Ronnie Z. Dragna has a swastika tattooed on his stomach and is not a fan of Gypsies and Jews. We discuss the reign of Romanian president Ceausescu, and I quickly nickname him Borat. It immediately sticks.

Everyone in here tells you his or her story. It takes hours. But these guys are used to doing time, so they take their time in the telling. Ronnie Z. tells me the details of the armed robbery in Pasadena, which sent him to prison in 1976, causing him to miss both the 1980s and the 1990s. I learn how heroin is smuggled into Folsom. Don’t ask. I learn about “diesel therapy,” the feds’ treatment of convicts who have info they want. Okay, you asked: They are shackled aboard a Con Air–like plane and flown all around the country for months on end. Dumped in local jails sometimes for just a few hours and then placed on another flight, all under the guise of being “transferred” to another federal pen. The transfer is never completed, and they are held incommunicado in the air and on the ground, sometimes for years, until they tell the feds what they want to hear.

I learn a lot in a very short time.

The bunk beds are so tightly spaced I stay up all night, fearing that the massive Luke up above will crush me to death when he rolls over, which he does like clockwork every 15 minutes. Oddly enough, despite the overabundance of ex-cons, I do not feel particularly threatened.

In the afternoon, men and women assemble in the cafeteria for God Box. When your name is called, you go up to this small wooden box and pull out a “fortune” that has some saying on it. These include things like: Who am I today? Am I here for me or someone else? Do I believe in myself? And other esoteric questions. If the rebellious audience does not consider the answer to be righteous, there are loud catcalls and heckles, which force the resident to stay and dig deeper. I pray my name isn’t called.

To keep the residents in line, Impactcounselors, themselves former residents, keep order through a series of reprimands that result in “extra duties.” A single reprimand equals one hour of extra duty. Residents who continue to accumulate reprimands may be subject to an “object lesson or special treatment plan as an alternative to discharge.”

Additional house chores and verbal gag orders are the most common “object lessons” today, but that wasn’t always the case. Stories abound of residents being ordered to dig their own graves with a spoon, or wear oven mittens for stealing. When the program was more “shame-based,” two fighting residents might be roped together — a technique referred to as “The Defiant Ones.” One former resident describes seeing someone wearing around his neck a sign that read “I know everything,” while carrying a mirror reflecting his face.
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Offline psy

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Re: Going Undercover at Impact House
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2008, 11:56:20 AM »
Page 3:

“There was this big, fat peckerwood dude claiming to be a hard-ass,” John Albert tells me, “so when the staff takes him to court, they find out his mom has been supporting him and his dope habit. So they shaved his head, put a pacifier in his mouth and made him wear a sign that said ‘Momma’s Boy.’ You couldn’t laugh, because it was against the rules, so people ran into buildings and you’d hear howling from within.” When I had mentioned this to Stilwell, he insisted those days are over, but several sources dispute that.

    *

Stephen Levy-Mazin, a former resident (2001) and counselor (2003), recalls, “on Black Tuesday, all the counselors met and we discussed who we were throwing out. Then their names were called over the P.A. and they had to go to the porch. It was like a public shaming, and they had to sit there silently while the other residents looked on. Then someone gathered their stuff in a garbage bag, and we took them to the corner bus stop. It’s horrible.”

The constant confrontations, coupled with the conditions here, are beginning to have an effect on me. I try to concentrate on the task at hand.


There is a sense of sensory deprivation here at Impact. Not isolation, as you are never alone, but deprivation. There are no newspapers, no television; no music is heard and sleep is interrupted or truncated. It is not accidental. Sometimes brains do need washing. Impact washes brains.

Based mostly on Narcotics Anonymous with a little Synanon thrown in, the private nonprofit has been treating the hard cases since 1969, when one of the original founders stole the name from the back of a Panorama City bus bench that read: Impact Advertising Company.

“WhenImpactopened, if you were an addict and you went to an N.A. meeting and you were on parole, you could catch a parole violation for going where addicts congregate,” explains Stilwell, a Vietnam vet who has been clean for 34 years. “So meetings were clandestine; you had to enter the backdoor. Parole agents would sit out front with binoculars.”

This Catch-22 led to a need for a place to go. A safe place. A place where it wasn’t so easy for the cops to pin you.

Enter Impact, which began in Panorama City and moved several times before settling on this shady 3.5-acre site in Pasadena on July 4, 1973.

“That’s when I came in. And then I left and then I came back in and then I got kicked out, and then I came back,” says Stilwell, chuckling. “I’ve been back for 34 years. I didn’t come in to be the director, I just didn’t have anyplace else to go.”

We’re in Stilwell’s dark, rustically furnished office, which overlooks Impact’s parking lot and main yard, and from which he reflexively keeps an eye trained on the comings and goings of his campus.

“Everybody, from me on down, has been through Impact, including our doctors,” he tells me. “We only hire graduates. This way, no one can say, ‘You don’t know what I’m going through.’”

Stilwell tells me how Impact was also instrumental in helping to launch the Los Angeles Drug Court program — one of the first of its kind in the United States — in the early ’90s. “The City Attorney’s Office basically culled the [drug-related, nonviolent] arrests for a specific area and [sent them] to a specific court. We would do an assessment and say this guy’s been clean, he wants it, let’s put him in a very structured outpatient program — but he gets to see the judge every week to 10 days. Then if he gets loaded, screw it, bring him into residential. It’s pretty tightly monitored.”

Today, drug courts are working in all 50 states and number nearly 2,000.

When I raise the subject of the luxury rehabs, Stilwell pauses before elaborating. “I’ve been to a lot of [A.A./N.A.] meetings, man,” he says finally, “and I have yet to be in a meeting where someone stood up and took a six-month chip and said, ‘Thank God for Promises.’ I’ve heard it said about Clare. I’ve heard it about Cri-Help. I’ve heard it about Impact. But you just don’t see that [in the luxury rehabs] because they’re 30-day, wash-and-dry, fluff-n-fold. It’s a chalk talk.”

As for those questionable success rates claimed by certain luxury rehabs, Stilwell adds, “Hey, aversion therapy used to claim a 100 percent success rate!”

Impact doesn’t claim any numerical success rate since it opened in 1969, yet “in that time we have treated 30,000 men and women for addiction,” explains Arlene Philpott, the gregarious director of development, herself a recoveringjunkie and Impact grad. “The majority of our clients come through with no resources. Through state, county and federal funding we are able to accept them for treatment. The truth is that by helping one addict, we impact the lives of at least 20 people.”
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Offline psy

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Re: Going Undercover at Impact House
« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2008, 11:57:02 AM »
Page 4

One of those addicts is Chris, a 28-year-old rich white kid from Encino, who is here to kick heroin. He had been to every rehab in town and could write a Zagat review for each of them. Chris tells me that he has been in and out of N.A. for years and even attended the N.A. World Convention last year. He confides that he is depressed by the fact that all of his friends are either successful in the real world or successful in the sober world. He is neither, and is approaching 30 years of age all too fast.

    *

I am starting to feel guilty listening to the residents’ deep secrets and realizing that I will not be with them at the end of the line. Strangely enough, the fact that I am not detoxing from anything makes me feel like an outsider among outsiders. I am asked constantly what I am kicking. After a while, I simply say alcohol and coke. This seems to satisfy most. Some snicker and keep walking.

The thrill and the adventure of this secret operation are starting to wear off. Maybe I am too soft. Maybe I am too old. Maybe my brain has already been washed. I had planned to stay a week, but after just three days, I find myself climbing the walls. Psychically, at first, but then physically seems like a good idea too. Suddenly, I want out in the worst way. The place and the people are closing in on me.

By late Sunday night, I am done. My nerves are shot. I am spaced-out. I need a newspaper, my TiVo, a queen-size bed and yes, I’ll admit it, lactose-free milk. I head into the counselor’s office to request a roll-up, or discharge. Quietly, I try to explain my situation to the elderly, Superfly-looking guy named Maurice, who is holding down the fort on this night. He looks at me like I am crazy. Well, why wouldn’t he? I am whispering and trying to explain that I am undercover doing a story on rehabs, and that only Jim Stilwell knows I am in here.

“It’s Sunday night. He ain’t around, man,” Maurice barks.

I am desperately trying to avoid making a scene here. But it is only attracting more attention. I get into my crazy-white-guy-means-business voice, not loud but firm.

“Call Stilwell now,” I insist.

The guy looks at me and realizes I’m being real about all this jazz. He makes the call, and when he gets off, he just nods like, “It’s okay now, bro,” and begins to process me out of there. After numerous signatures, I sign the final one: “Receipt of Locked Property.” As Maurice reads off the paper, he simultaneously hands me the following: one Gold MasterCard credit card, one Coffee Bean card, one Blockbuster card, one HomeDepot card, one AAA card, one T-Mobilecell phone, one set of keys. They seem like long-lost friends.

Maurice calls for an escort. It is Flores, the guy with the words tattooed across his forehead, who dispensed my morning meds. He glares at me with a look that says, “What a loser.”

I am forced to walk a gauntlet of gazes while being physically escorted out of Impact. Everyone in the place is watching me. In those looks, I sense both disdain and envy. For some inexplicable reason, I feel shame, as if I am letting my newfound friends down. I see Chris looking at me sadly. I try to go over to talk with him, maybe to explain, but Flores says, “Let’s keep going here, man. You can’t talk to nobody.”

I see Dragna waving mockingly to me from the cafeteria doorway. As I near the patio area, I notice enormous Luke looking at me through the window of our room. He seems confused. When I cross through the massive steel gates out into the leafy world of northern Pasadena, I am suddenly filled with immense gratitude for my own personal freedom from the bondage of self.

The bottom line is that Impact is harsh, strict, humiliating and confrontational. Yet for many people, it works. It is in your face, in your shit and in your head. In the end it is sincere, no bullshit and one of the best programs in the country for hardcore addicts. I just pray I don’t ever have to come here for real.

Also read Addiction: Buying the Cure at Passages Malibu and Rehab or Bust: A Guide to L.A.'s Drug and Alcohol Treatment Centers by Mark Groubert

* Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly statedthat private-pay clients  pay about $500 a month. That number should have been $7000 a month.
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Offline psy

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Re: Going Undercover at Impact House
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2008, 12:05:08 PM »
The guy claims it works.  I wonder if there is any independent evidence to support that.


Frankly, i'm disgusted.  Instead of learning something, the reporter got sucked in and came away spouting "some brains need washing".  Oi vey.

verdict: CULT
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »
Benchmark Young Adult School - bad place [archive.org link]
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"Our services are free; we do not make a profit. Parents of troubled teens ourselves, PURE strives to create a safe haven of truth and reality." - Sue Scheff - August 13th, 2007 (fukkin surreal)

Offline Ursus

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Re: Going undercover at Impact House
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2008, 12:07:35 PM »
Hahaha!! I had to laugh about the orange story. If Mark Groubert had bothered to spend more than three days there, I have no doubt that the inmates would have been a little more forthright as to what "fruiting" really entailed.

But here's the thing: drug addiction is hell, and he just didn't get it. As interesting as the story is to read, the bottom line is Groubert is a bit of a poser. He isn't coming from the same place as the rest of the inmates are, and some of them rightfully sniffed him out on it, even if they couldn't intellectually put it into words. Maybe he thought enduring the anal search during entry to the program was price enough to pay, but it wasn't. Unfortunately, Groubert didn't put in the time and the effort and yes, the respect for what others are going through, to get the whole story.
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Offline psy

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Re: Going Undercover at Impact House
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2008, 12:12:58 PM »
Most of the comments on the article seems to be from former "patients" and staff.  The one exception:

Quote
#
The three pieces on "recovery" by Mr.Groubert are frighteningly real examples of the aa/recovery industry's hold on the public and the press. Mr. Groubert uses Passages Malibu as the "straw man" in a contrived dialectic designed, ultimately, only to prove the veracity of the aa/na/twelve step programs. There are other options, besides the recovery cult, and Passages, that help individuals overcome bouts of mental illness that involve self medicating with drugs, alcohol, etc. Labeling people as addicts is only defining them by their symptoms, and ignoring the deepseeded mental health issues with which they are struggling. Mr. Groubert has swallowed whole the twelve step ficiton; this can be seen by his use of aa catchphrases, such as " some brains need washing", his obsession with Passages statistics and acceptance of anectodal, unscientific endorsements of Impact, and by extension, the twelve step movement. When Mr. Groubert casually mentions Synanon -a dangerous cult whose founders and leaders were jailed for conspiracy and attempted murdrer- as an influence on Impact, his journalistic skills certainly are to be questioned. Mr. Groubert should know that aa/na et.al have been classified as, at best a religion (federal courts), and at worst, a dangerous cult (Dr. Jeffrey Schaler, Ph.D., and others.) Any simple search of the internet could have revealed this, and much more damning information, to Mr. Groubert. Most importantly, he could have learned that the twelve step movement "cures" no one, harms many people, and measures "success" only in the number of self righteous fanatics it converts.

please do not publish my name; when confronted, the twelve steppers often become irrational and confrontational, thereby proving that they are indeed, members of a cult, and unable to rationally discuss their so called "recovery",
Comment by john tonkovich on Jun 29th, 2008, 11:45 am

Of course, the author of the article (allegedly a 12 step member) refuses to answer the man's questions, while another program supporter calls him crazy, alludes to a drug/alcohol problem, and ends up threatening to identify and out him proving once and for all that some 12 steppers are very selective in their devotion to anonymity.  Of course, this behavior only supports what he predicted in the last paragraph of his comment.
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Offline Ursus

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Re: Going undercover at Impact House
« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2008, 12:23:34 PM »
Quote
Based mostly on Narcotics Anonymous with a little Synanon thrown in, the private nonprofit has been treating the hard cases since 1969, when one of the original founders stole the name from the back of a Panorama City bus bench that read: Impact Advertising Company.

This did pique my interest a little... wish the author had expanded on the history a little more. Obviously, Impact is one of the old, therapeutic community styled programs. The fact that it is also in California (as Synanon was), makes me wonder re. potential connections. Clearly Groubert is too young to know a lot about Synanon, and I wonder whether Stillwell is the one who filled him in on that observation (mostly NA with a little Syn sprinkled on top). What is Impact's executive director Jim Stillwell's history?
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Offline linchpin

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Re: Going Undercover at Impact House
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2008, 02:17:37 PM »
oddly I found this by googling (forget guys name) "is a scam artist" after seeing a commercial for some books he was peddling on recovery on tv this morning..I thought to myself this guys fucked..and then stumbled upon the above article and Ive never heard of "Impact house" . Some of it reminded me of straight but for court ordered adults..which is a sick twist.
 San quentin or complete this place ...hmmm.
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Offline linchpin

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Re: Going Undercover at Impact House
« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2008, 02:44:11 PM »
Chris Prentiss is the guys name. With the book hes hawking in television..touted as the be all end all guaranteed secret cure to addiction,I immediately thought hes a scam artist and sure enough I got alot of google hits with~ Chris Prentiss is a scam artist~
Turns out hes got a 67,000 a month bed rehab in malibu...shit.
 You oughtta read about the place ~chainsmoking  in front of a plasma screen TV while detox meds kick in ..while Model looking men/women bring you smoothies and shit.
 Sure doesnt sound like any of the rehabs I landed my sorry ass in...but I digress
 By the way PSI ~Grats on your court victory! Was worried for ya
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Offline psy

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Re: Going Undercover at Impact House
« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2008, 03:36:29 PM »
Quote from: "linchpin"
San quentin or complete this place ...hmmm.

At least in prison, when they smash your head open, it's literal.
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Offline seamus

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Re: Going Undercover at Impact House
« Reply #11 on: November 14, 2008, 11:58:41 PM »
I was in detox(my last time) in 87 with a federal agent (dont ask) who's brother went thru Impact ,got his balls broke 3 ways from tomarrow but was ok at my last contact (91) back in the day I was crazy desparate to clean up,Impact was my next consideration,but I have managed to stay out o my arm since.Part of it is I am oh so sick of dopesick.
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Offline Anonymous

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Re: Going Undercover at Impact House
« Reply #12 on: November 15, 2008, 03:33:25 PM »
i couldn't read through that. it made me sick. Pretty nice i was going through the same thing as a kid who'd never kissed, gone out more then a handful of times without my parents, let alone smoked or commited any crimes. Sick, evil, shitty parents.

Yeah, what an idiotic, incompetant reporter to not conect some dots, or have  compassion enough to understand what that treatment will do to you.

asshole
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »

Offline wdtony

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Re: Going Undercover at Impact House
« Reply #13 on: November 16, 2008, 04:42:28 AM »
Did the writer explain why he decided to go "undercover"?

Interesting read though. Too bad his ending was contradictory to his findings. Let him go back in for a week and see the new ending of his article become vastly different.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »
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Offline Anonymous

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Re: Going Undercover at Impact House
« Reply #14 on: January 06, 2009, 01:40:06 AM »
I an the guy who pointed out the idiocy and evil of mr,groubert and the "recovery industry". I inadvertently "outed" myself; no big deal.
I quit the uh "vikes and vodka" diet in march of 2007 and am still "clean", as "they" say, without "benefit" of the 12 steps.
I had the help of nontraditional therapist and a medical doctor - not a bunch of weasels and their slogan laden cult.
I have seen "recovery" destroy many people, either by making them worse physically and/or psychologically.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »