Author Topic: Mountain Homes and Beyond...  (Read 13126 times)

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Offline Halflinger

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Re: Mountain Homes and Beyond...
« Reply #45 on: January 23, 2012, 04:11:25 PM »
Thanks for the informative reply. That's clarified a couple of questions I had, but brings up some others.

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This includes addressing points of concern such as run threats or conspiracy.

How common was it for a student to run, or attempt to run? What would constitute a run threat, in the opinion of the treatment team? and what is meant by conspiracy?

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Student are responsible to finish all required work to complete week on their own. Staff keeps track of points (students must earn a certain amount of points throughout day to pass a day)
What activities/assignments/behaviors earn points? Can points be lost? How many points are needed to pass a day, and how often would a typical student fail to pass? What are the consequences of not completing a week or passing a day?  

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After dinner there is group this is the only time which starts with questions, comments or concerns, this is a safe time where students and staff alike talk about changes they want or things the like. After that there is a group exercise this is the only time, other than individual therapy, that students may talk about drugs or drug related behaviors.
What could a student expect if they brought up an issue or concern outside of these "safe" times? Are safety/health related concerns (i.e. equipment, skills, injury, nutrition) exempt from this?  What is the rationale behind the prohibition on discussion of the issue that is being treated outside of allotted times?
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Offline xii.anon

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Re: Mountain Homes and Beyond...
« Reply #46 on: January 25, 2012, 02:09:47 AM »
Runs weren't to common unless, which brings me two the second part of your question, students were conspiring or there was a lot of talk about runs.  Students and staff alike were not allowed to talk about run  incidents, distances to highway, ect. as it may perpetuate a negative thought.

Point were earned by doing everything required to do throughout the day from waking up, participating in camp maintenance, hygiene, group participation, ect..
- 525 point are earned throughout the day
- During the first 6 weeks you pass 450 points were requires to pass a day, and you may fail one day.
- After passing 6 weeks students move on to ranch phase which means more responsibilities and require 475 points to pass a day
- points can be lost for any rules not followed, and disrespecting other student and staff.
- Average student fails 2-3 weeks (in adult camps), some never pass, but that's rare
- Failing a week means a repeated week, if you fail early in the week there is nothing really to hold you accountable until the next week

Regarding talking drugs or drug related behaviors, health and treatment options were OK to talk about anytime however story's about drugs and talking about positive things about drugs were not allowed.  This is because, mind you I'm only answering questions not debating efficacy, this particular model is designed to be stressful in the work is as hard as maybe a survival model, or adventure therapy model.  You are out of your comfort zone, your out of your expertise, basically in over your head your are often going to turn to what ever coping mechanism you have developed.  If that is drugs that is something we want to change.  Studies have shown that brain activity in the brain of an addict changes before the drug is consumed the things that cause this are called trigger mechanisms; looking at a needle, looking at a pipe, or even talking about drugs.  So when your in the wilderness drugs aren't available all you got left is to talk about it.  Sooo the idea is to replace the old trigger with something positive and therapeutic.  Unless you are in a guided exercise or in a therapeutic session.
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Offline Halflinger

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Re: Mountain Homes and Beyond...
« Reply #47 on: January 26, 2012, 11:43:23 PM »
Thanks again, xii.anon. I'd be grateful to hear your personal opinion on the efficacy of the program. How would you respond to the opinion of the two former students, linked to earlier in this thread?  

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issues to be wary of concerning staff usually a sign that staff may not be with the company much longer.
What sort of issues? Was there a high turnover rate for staff?

Apart from drug issues, MHYR/AVW represents itself as capable of effectively treating a very wide range of other issues, clinical and behavioral.  I, personally, don't quite see how something like depression or a learning disorder would be best served through a system that is intentionally stressful, or a milieu designed with substance abuse in mind. How were these, as isolated or co-occurring issues, dealt with?
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Offline xii.anon

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Re: Mountain Homes and Beyond...
« Reply #48 on: January 27, 2012, 01:57:53 AM »
Any job where you spent more that half of your life without a phone and under the amount of stress that comes with will have high turnover.  Moreover if your performance was not up to standards you would be let go pretty quick this includes behavior off the mountain.

As to the review by Alex I remember him, I think the biggest issue there is there is a gap between marketing and what goes on in camp.  A lot of my former students have been really successful and a lot of good work is done there.  But when the company is marketing an adventure model when much of that has been stripped away over the years and been steered more to the therapy model I can understand why some people don't agree with the program.  I think coming into a situation like this with the wrong expectations will lead to disappointment.  Its not fun its repetitive, as repetition is common with most any therapeutic model.  I really think when somebody enters the program with no expectation other than its going to be hard but they need to change and want to, its a great program.  As to the question that I've been avoiding of why I left it because of the marketing I went from having great productive supportive groups to having groups that have half the students not wanting to change and not wanting anyone else to either.  I think that's what brings allot of these places down, the selection process for these camps is supposed to build a team of students who can build each other up, we used to turn down many applicants, but then we were taking anybody for a while and it made it impossible to manage.  Since I have left the have returned to the old model and hear things are back to like they were.  I will say the group Alex was with was one of the better ones we had a staff that was running the group when he got there who was one of those we had to let go not that she was doing any of the terrible things that I've read about here but, she was just in-congruent with the goals of the program and didn't build the most supportive and therapeutic environment.
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Offline Halflinger

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Re: Mountain Homes and Beyond...
« Reply #49 on: January 29, 2012, 11:31:34 PM »
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Any job where you spent more that half of your life without a phone and under the amount of stress that comes with will have high turnover. Moreover if your performance was not up to standards you would be let go pretty quick this includes behavior off the mountain.
I can see how stress is an issue, and I can certainly understand the necessity to keep a close reign on the staff.  

But on the other hand, and I don't intend this derisively, it seems as though there's a bit of a discrepancy in your logic...
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I really think when somebody enters the program with no expectation other than its going to be hard but they need to change and want to, its a great program.
An employee that performs poorly in this environment can be attributed to stress, but a student that performs poorly in the same environment has an attitude problem? That's certainly an oversimplification on my part, but at first glance, that's how it reads to me. To clarify my position, I'd hazard a guess that the basic situation of staff and student is more similar than it is different, under the wilderness conditions. So why is there a difference in explanation of cause (environment vs. disposition) and a correlating difference in remedial action (removal from the wilderness vs. extending the stay in the wilderness)?

Not that a double standard isn't to some degree advisable and necessary, as staff and students are there for wholly different reasons. There are plenty of folks on this forum that could tell you the results that follow from taking the equality of staff and students to the unfortunate extremes of turning students into staff, or hiring ex-felons and ex-addicts to counsel kids with problems that are nowhere near approaching that level.  But that doesn't mean turning a blind eye to the possible negative effects of the wilderness experience, in and of itself, regardless of any preexisting issues.
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Offline xii.anon

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Re: Mountain Homes and Beyond...
« Reply #50 on: January 30, 2012, 03:26:12 AM »
I will first mention I'm not here to debate just trying to inform.  If it appears there was judgment in my comment I apologize.  The only point I was trying to make before is there is an apparent gap between what is marketed and what is sold.  My comment about the students was not a measure of other students attitudes but relating, in my experience, what gives the best chance of success.  I think if the students coming in were made more aware of the reality of the program rather than being marketed an adventure product they would feel less cheated (and rightly so) and more committed going in, if the still chose to enroll.
I don't think comparing the stress level of students to staff is a fair comparison.  One person is in treatment, while the staff is needs to be vigilant about safety concerns 24 hrs a day.  Some staff just weren't willing to perform at the level needed.  You expect the staff arrive with the ability to perform.  The course is 15 weeks long, I did several years of 8 on 6 off, each scenario has its own responsibilities and expectations.  I think we are comparing apples and oranges.
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Offline Halflinger

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Re: Mountain Homes and Beyond...
« Reply #51 on: January 30, 2012, 03:41:44 PM »
I appreciate that you're taking the time to answer these questions, and I'm not out to grind any axes against you, or any other staff. No apology needed, and I applaud the fact that you left the place when things were going downhill. I don't want to give the impression that I'm trying to debate, but I do believe that the Ideology of a program of this sort is just as important as the methodology. It isn't a personal thing, but the more I know about the sort of mindset that staff at all levels are encouraged to bring in, the better.

As to your comments on marketing concerns, they are disconcerting to hear, and I'm sure difficult to work with. Why, then, didn't the marketing and reality of the program line up? Were they knowingly selling an inappropriate service to customers that would not benefit from it? What prevented them from offering the program as advertised? On viewing the marketing materials posted earlier and the website, the actualities of the program as presented are left quite vague and, I assume, not by accident. Would this be leaving room for the description of the program to conform to a potential customer, or providing room for the program-in-fact to be modified to suit the needs of the client? I'd guess the former, but hope for the latter. How much leeway is given to staff in the field or the treatment team to modify the program, or an individual's treatment plan after it has been established?
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Offline xii.anon

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Re: Mountain Homes and Beyond...
« Reply #52 on: January 31, 2012, 02:31:16 AM »
The treatment plans are unique for each individual the individual therapist goes over a treatment plan at the beginning of the week and the head staff can make minor changes in the field when the therapist visits mid-week the treatment plan is reviewed as to its effectiveness and the therapist is updated on each student.  There are several therapist who conference after each debriefing period along with the resident teachers and other members of the treatment team.  There is a sat phone available for any updates deemed pertinent by the head staff for immediate  consult as well as three call-ins per day for status updates and welfare checks.  The packets required to be completed are the same for every student and only occasionally modified for the individual.  General camp chores and upkeep are part of everyone's respectability.  The individual treatment  plans consist of specific ways to respond to a student, specific things that should be addresses in essay sections of packet, a set of weekly, daily and long term goals and coaching techniques to be used on one on one basis with students.  There's much more but as unique as each case is its impossible for me to outline the full breadth of an individual treatment plan.

As far as the marketing goes I was not involved directly with that so I can't speak as to how the process goes.  What I do know is that often times the students coming in had expectations that were different from what was reality.  What from students were saying was there was lot of talk about element such as the fishing trip which was a midway reward for completing half the program and little talk about the nature of everything else.  I think for these programs to be effective they should only be accepting people who want to do something hard to push the boundaries of there potential and grow as an individual.  Not those who want a vacation there is much cheaper vacations to take.  However I do know know the gap in information often came from the sponsors usually the parents who would say anything to get their kids to go to the program.  Some of the best students I had had footed the bill themselves and would push you as a staff to push them harder or hold them accountable because they really valued the experience and the goal of the program.
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Offline vagrant

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Re: Mountain Homes and Beyond...
« Reply #53 on: March 02, 2012, 01:53:04 PM »
I uh.... I was placed here from feb 2008 to july 2008. I stayed 19 weeks I think and was considered one of MHYR's most "successful" students...

I kind of blocked this whole experience out mentally until recently it's crept back up on me... I'm still in the process of trying to figure out how to mentally sort out and feel about this program....

If any of you have questions for students of this program I can answer them to the best of my recollection and ability... Alot of it is still coming back to me
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Offline Halflinger

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Re: Mountain Homes and Beyond...
« Reply #54 on: March 02, 2012, 10:44:53 PM »
Hi, Vagrant. I'd appreciate hearing anything you'd be willing to share. How'd you end up there? How did you leave? What made you a "success"?  Any standout experiences that really stuck with you, or have come back at you hard?

As far as getting a handle on the time you spent there, there's a lot of good folks and info to be found on here, if you can tune out the trolling and flamewars and other assorted local color.
Thanks!
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Offline vagrant

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Re: Mountain Homes and Beyond...
« Reply #55 on: March 03, 2012, 01:06:13 AM »
I was a pretty rebellious teen.... I would ditch school frequently, While I wouldn't call myself addicted I used drugs a little more than casualy (Pot, Cocaine and Alcohol), The real issue was my homelife. My folks and I could not get along, I was the oldest kid by 8 years and naturally my folks tried a variety of different parenting techiques in an effort to see what worked and what didn't... They couldn't get along with each other to save their lives and I couldn't get along with them... Screaming matches would ensue on an almost daily basis at one point.... It was an emotional nightmare for a 16 year old and for my folks I'm sure.

It was around 4 in the morning... I awoke to my dad and 2 men I'd never seen before.. My dad told me I needed to go with them and that they were going to take me some place I could get some help... I was disoriented and kind of not with it, as I was still waking up.. I saw handcuffs on each of their hips and knew I didn't have a chance to make a break for it... I got dressed we walked down the stairs my Mom told me she loved me, I was confused, angry, scared, and felt betrayed and with all of these emotions running through my mind at once I couldn't muster a reply to her. We got in the car, I sat in the back next to the bigger of the two escourts, doors locked, we drove into Chicago (I'm about 40 min out) they offered to stop at McDonalds for me but I was the furthest thing from hungry... We got on a plane to some other airport then flew from that one to Salt Lake City. Once there we got into another car and drove to Vernal UT (Never in my life have I ever seen a stranger town, and I play in a touring band...) They fed me, we went into the office, the doctor gave me a physical, had me give him a urine sample, and without warning jabbed my finger with some needle thing for some sort of reading... They then drove me from the office to Colorado where I was greeted by maintenence staff and taken into the mountains...

Get into the mountains, change out of my clothes, into the MHYR student uniform. (Yellow shirt/sweater, camo pants) Was given my mountain supplies and given a student mentor (you get one on your first week to kind of tell you how the program works)

19 Weeks later I left. You're supposed to pass 12 or 15 weeks to graduate from the program (Many students don't and stay there until the parents run out of money) I passed 15 weeks, I also acheived my GED there..

Yeah I'd say some things stick out... Watching a kid fail every week because he didn't want to eat the food, couldn't physically complete the hikes, and was really just miserable, the other students in the group would constantly get upset with him because he would slow the group down, The week before he left I awoke to him wimpering in his sleeping bag, lips chapped, he had defacated himself, Looking back on it now I realize just how wrong that was....They did call him a faker.....After reading Aarons tragic story.... There was a pretty legitimate similarity between the two.. (But he was pretty damn far from a skeleton) His parents pulled him later that day... I'd like to think the mountain called them and told them of his deteriorating physical state and advised they come get him.... But I doubt it... They told us that more than likely Matt was being transfered to a more punitive program..... My god that is so fucked.... And the students nodded and we were never allowed to speak of him again.... JESUS CHRIST HOW DID I NOT REALIZE HOW BAD THAT WAS AT THE TIME!?

I've never seen paler faces then when a counselor came back into camp with a student who was on Solo.... A Mountain Lion had apparently passed by the students solo camp site... The student was sent right back out on solo that night... Why?... Why the hell does that make any sense at all? An extremely dangerous animal passes by this kids site and you send him back out there to spend 3 days alone....

The impact letters.... Your parents wrote you a letter about how much you've hurt them, all the pain you've caused your family, and why they sent you.... The students then were to read this aloud during group in the evening... Staff would read the letters before group to make sure you didn't leave anything out when you read it. There's recognizing that your actions have had negative effects on people, and taking accountability.... And then theres self degredation and humiliation... I guess it's a matter of opinion but I think MHYR's "Impact letters" were leaning towards the latter...

Come clean letter: Self explanatory... They even had a formula you would plug in to confess how many times you've used profanity in your life.... We read these aloud infront everyone as well... Again... Very humiliating... I believe the emphasis on these letters is also self degredation... You write all of these things down, to the last ludicrous detail and you think "My god I am such a fucking piece of shit", I should be dead,which then turns to "I'm so lucky I came to this program"" Really manipulating shit man.... I think thats what bothers me the most now.... Is all the subtle ways of manipulation

Runaways came in waves.... Typically if you had a bunch of new kids there at once and a problem student or two, you could expect a runaway. Staff DID NOT restrain students who ran, they followed them until they wished to come back, (realized there was nowhere to go)....I actually thought this was prett metaphorical and cool.... But now I can't help but think it was yet another way of manipulation.. A student told me when he ran he somehow got closer to the road and staff then threatened to "restrain" him if he proceeded...  I never ran..

I failed 4 weeks... One a staff member handed me my laundry past the fire circle (where you need to have gloves on) I grabbed it and he failed my week...

The other week I failed was during my "2 in one" where you get ONE oppurtunity to do two weeks in one week  to make up for failing a week. (Again you only get this oppurtunity once) A female staff, who was on for 2 shifts and we never saw her again after that had told me to speak up when helping another student with her book report, "I've been speaking up I thought you could hear me... Ugh.. Gettin Pissed" She had thought I said "Fucking Bitch" Now guys.... 3 years later... I swear on my sons life I never called her a fucking bitch. My words were "Getting pissed"  which was ok to say.. I had absolutely no track record of disrespecting staff or using profanity whatsoever in the 10 weeks I'd been there to that point. I begged and pleaded with her to see I hadn't called her that. To no avail. The head staff sympathized for me and asked my "Therapist" if we could pass one of my weeks for the "two in one" instead of failing both of them (This had been done before for students)..... Now because I still claimed I had not said that, He refused, stating I was refusing to take accountability.

The third one, my parents and I had bickered back and forth a bit on a phone call, no name calling or cussing or anything just not agreeing on the rules for me when I come home, my Mother told me she was going to put my little brother and Sister on the phone to say hi but Now she wasn't going to because of the conversation we had.... I replied with "Oh great cause you know I don't want to talk to my little  sister or anything" In obvious sarcasm. My therapist then suddenly got upset and hung up the phone call and told me that I had failed my week because of the phone call.

Now each of these were a little suspicious, but when put together... I honestly believe, because of the amount of money my folks had, and the rate i was progressing through the program, they wanted to keep me longer.... Longer stay = more $ and my folks had more money than alot of the other kids... You can put two and two together...   I really hope I don't sound like some bitter child about this.... I'm not. I would absolutely love to believe that when I failed my weeks, it was to help me progress as a person and about personal accountability... But It wasn't.. It was about money.. and the inconsistency in treatment of students proves that to me..

Food was Oats, Germade, Rice, Lentiles, Spam, and ...ashcakes.... I actually puked the first time I tried to eat rice and lentiles, the first month I would go to bed feeling hungry at times..If you moved up to the ranch phase you got to cook on a kerosene stove with eggs, noodles, sauce and some other not "shit" tasting food..  We had to drink a quart of water with each meal and half a quart in between.... When you first got there, every 10 minutes youd have to pee....  

Speaking of peeing...

I don't give a damn what anyone says.... There is something disturbing to me and degrading... About having to piss and shit in a hole in the dirt filled with other peoples piss and shit while you call out your number every 5 to 10 seconds.... The mental image of me yelling out "4" while flies swarm around me and I try to block out the stench of everyone elses waste and not fall in...

Thats not therapeutic... It's fucking wrong....

But again.. Thats my opinion, not the legal systems.

Before I go there are a few things I want to clarify.

The escorts were in no why violent, degrading, or cruel. They were nice guys, offered to feed me a bunch, we listened to Howard Stern in the car, cracked jokes, and they wished me well. The traumatic experience of being yanked from your bed, forced to travel across the country, and allowed no contact with anyone you know the whole way.... That was the cruel part...

MHYR did not help me... But I benifited from my stay there.....I survived the most mentally and emotionally grueling experience I've ever been through... I learned to better myself in spite of the actions of others, I learned how to survive in the wilderness, I learned how to motivate emotionally distraught kids, and I learned about one of the most impressive scams I've ever seen.... MHYR didn't help me.... I helped me..Some really awesome individuals that worked there helped me..... MHYR just cashed the check...

Field Staff is a mixed bag... Some genuinely care and want to help, Others are there for a pay check, a few are in between. I still keep in contact with past staff members there who I DO consider my friends.... Please do not make the false assumption that anyone who works at this place is a bad person...

I do not seek any sort of compensation from MHYR or to press charges on them...  I can't even begin to handle that whole ordeal... Theres so many "what ifs" and "Yeah but technnicallys" and.... It just feels wrong to me to do that.

This isn't a cry for attention man... I just started dealing with this and really just need to write about it so thank you to anyone who read this, thank you to this site and thread, apologies to anyone I may have offended.

That's all I'm gonna write for now feel free to ask more questions, I'll write more later.. Theres so much more about the maniulative genius that is MHYR I plan to eventually write a book on what I went through and my thoughts on it.
« Last Edit: March 05, 2012, 12:16:33 PM by vagrant »

Offline Halflinger

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Re: Mountain Homes and Beyond...
« Reply #56 on: March 04, 2012, 11:19:26 PM »
Thanks for your story. You have my sympathies, even looking from the outside, this place seems pretty bizarre. The overall impression that I've gotten from you, staff (current and former), and my friend's family isn't a very positive one. Most concerning to me has been the too common statements amounting to the idea that success in the program is dependent on the students willingness, attitude, effort, or whatever you feel like calling it. If we were talking about a pill, that made  claims at treating a broad range of unrelated conditions, cost this much, had no verifiable clinical trials to support it, and only worked if you believed in it... that would be at best a placebo, at worst an outright fraud, and probably both.

Some questions for you, if you'd care to answer.

What brought this back for you, or changed your feelings on it years after? (You ask why you didn't see how bad it was at the time, and that's one hell of a question. Had read a book on it, actually, a few years ago. The Lucifer Effect, by Phillip Zimbardo. I recommend it highly.)

How were your parents, and your relationship with them, affected? what did they think of the program?

Do you still have any materials (coursework, contracts, handbooks etc.)?

What were interactions between students like?
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Offline vagrant

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Re: Mountain Homes and Beyond...
« Reply #57 on: March 05, 2012, 10:47:11 AM »
Thanks for the tip on the book actually man I'll have to check it out.

What brought this back for me was a couple week ago i stumbled onto one of my journals from the program and read through a few entries... Most was just me filling pages with what I had done that day (A journal entry was required each day) Then i stumbled onto an entry that i wrote after my Therapist had failed me and it immediately took me back to being there.

last week I google'd the place and read this

http://just-another-hike.blogspot.com/2 ... chive.html

That kind of lead to "Man was it really that bad?" and I started to try to remember....

I think it was a real kick to the stomach when I read that HEAL suspected the place of being abusive, and watching the short film "Aaron Bacon" and relating to alot of that shit..... Thats when I put it together that "Man I think something was wrong with that place"


My Parents and I... well.... It's complicated. I knew they'd spent alot of money, time, stress, and more money to put me through the program. I didn't want them to feel like they'd wasted it all... So i kept alot of shit from them... I wanted them to feel like it was worth it... And I think the other thing the program banks on is, If you take someone away from people they love for an extended period of time, when you finally give them those people back your going to get a very enthusiastic short term response... I told them it had worked wonders, as not to disappoint them,  A month later the fights had resumed but to alot lesser of an extremity. Our relationship really got better last June shortly after I turned 20 and I learned to accept myself, and other people for who they are.

Yes I still have course materials... Some packets and journals somewhere in the basement along with my backpack, bowdrill set, and some other stuff. I think I may be due for a bonfire pretty soon....

Interactions between students were mixed...There were never really any feuds between students, none of that "Man I'm gonna fuck this kid up"  Looking back actually student interaction was probably one of the factors in us staying sane, the fact that someone else was going through the same shit you were (well more or less) was comforting, and you felt like you had something in common with these kids. We weren't allowed to talk to each other outside of earshot, we weren't allowed to touch each other at all, We weren't allowed to really tell each other much about our history. Really it was just the students trying to get through as quickly as possible and help others do the same, and the ones who didn't give a fuck.. I tried to always help other kids get their tasks for their week done, and try to counter the constant self criticism of MHYR by constantly encouraging them...


I heard three kids ran from here, broke into a home, and stole a firearm...... That tells you a bit about the level of mental and emotional desperation these kids are put through in the program..

When I first got to the program, the only thing I kept thinking was, "If I jump into that fire, you think I'd burn alive before one of the staff tried to pull me out?"

It really really puts you in a dark place man.... A dark fucking place......
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