I was 15 yrs old when a psychologically abusive cult called Straight, Inc. imprisoned me from my family, friends, school, and society...
They kept me imprisoned for over 4 months. They denied me contact with my parents, medical professionals, education, sunlight, and nutrition; They belt-looped me everywhere I needed to go, did not let me outside except to transfer me from building to car - car to host home - host home to car - and car to building; They watched me shower, use the toilet, and I had to ask permission to use the bathroom, for over 100 days of my imprisonment.
Photo: Wearing a "Motivate This" T-Shirt designed by Kelly Matthews who is making a documentary about Straight, Inc. Check it out: Surviving Straight - The Movie.
During this time, I was locked into a room at night where windows were nailed shut or alarmed [after Florida HRS was notified] to prevent escape . We were not allowed to talk, read, look, make eye contact with other victims or speak to our parents but for 10 minutes a week - IF we 'earned it' and even then, we were strictly supervised lest we speak of the unspeakable that went on. No private contact with parents allowed while you were on 1st phase. And I was on 1st phase for over 100 days.
Straight Inc.'s 'schedule' for Phase 1 was 14 days, but gosh darn it, my brainwashing wasn't taking. I wouldn't confess to the lies they wanted me to confess to. I would not believe their illusions that I was bad. I wouldn't share under confrontation with tears streaming down my face. I wouldn't break like this and make no mistake this was their goal. Of course, I did break, psychologically speaking. I cracked wide open. [An episode of ripping my hair from its roots, preferring that pain over this lie of a place. Once I let out a scream in group that I still don't know where it came from and then began the hyperventilating.] But I wouldn't Spiritually break for them. Psychologically, they had me by the balls. I was a mess. I had no defense.
The Blue Chairs
I had to sit in a blue chair for 12 hrs or more a day where other kids would yell at me, point at me or otherwise intentionally humiliate me (with adult permission and encouragement as this was the design and entire point of Straight, Inc.). And when you were called on for your confrontation, you better stand. And be quiet unless asked a question. You may or may not have an idea of why you are in trouble. It will not matter. You will not sit until you have been given permission. You will not obtain permission until you have given them the answers they are seeking. The same kids who just violently screamed at you and called you a worthless piece of shit will then, along with the others who threatened to, will sing-songily chant, "Love ya Digits!" Wow.
And for this thrill of torture we had to motivate!
Motivating was the spastic flailing about every kid had to do everyday while in the unholier than hell blue chairs. Why did we have to do it? I don't know. But if we did not do it we were in trouble. Trouble meant restraint. Trouble meant round robin yelling of how worthless you were. How you're a liar and how society or your parents does/do not care about you. Or if you're a girl, how you're a slut, a whore... How you're lazy or you're a snob or you think you're better than everyone else who is motivating. "What's wrong with you, Digits? You think you're better than all of us? Group, Digits thinks she is better than you. How do you feel about that?" [Mad motivating not unlike the sound of a stampede reverberates the otherwise cold & sterile, windowless, carpetless, multipurpose room.] "You better get with the program, druggie!"
As I write this I am irritated at how words cannot possibly convey how insane this was. I am even more frustrated I cannot get it right at sharing how scary and torturous this place really was. Words like humiliating, demeaning, embarrassing, insulting, torture, abusive seem to have lost their swag in 2011 where every kid seems to think if their parents put them in time out it's 'abusive'... So when I say 'abusive' or 'torture' I mean like North Koreans have captured you and are using psychological operations on you designed to break people trained for it. And I was not trained for this! I was a scared, introverted 15 year old girl who loved the beach, learning, animals, reading and writing. I did not make friends easily because I was often scared people would not like me. So here I am, facing every nightmare I thought my fear and INFP would protect me from. Let's play the game: "How fast til she breaks?"
Confrontations were an hourly funfest
Motivating was at the core of Straight, Inc. brainwashing. We'd been brainwashed into knowing precisely when it was time to motivate the loudest and hardest and with most fury. We could smell it. And you had to do it. EVEN if you were the one about to get tortured you had to do it. You had three choices: Play the Game, Buy the Game, or Don't Any of the Above.
I eventually would go into what Straight called 'act out' and that meant I was always in trouble and stayed restrained. Kids flanking both sides of me in chairs would wrap their leg closest to me around my leg closest to them and hold my legs to my leg chairs so I couldn't run. [I never tried running so I guess it was to be demeaning. At that point, I didn't care.] The higher phasers who stood at the end of the row at least would finally give up on making me sit up straight. [Yeah, you had to sit up straight or get knuckles in your spine and depending on whether the girl hate you, it could be harder or softer. It hurts and I have scoliosis.] But when my back could no longer take the straight one day - I decided to slouch and let my lumbar rest. It felt so good that when I got knuckled I said "Fuck you." That was it. I was in act out.
I was confronted so often I got numb. I still stood when I was called on but I didn't motivate. I shut down everything they said. I went into my own world. This is the time - while slouching in the blue chair - I would begin ripping hair from my head and watch it fall in clumps to the floor.
The great news is that after my last break [what I call 'The Scream'], I removed power from my brain and put it into my Spirit. It was obvious my brain couldn't take it anymore. Spirit is what saved me; Gave me the idea to 'fake it til ya make it.' So I did. This was when 'play the game' came into my understanding.
This is how I would get to 2nd phase when I would have the opportunity to finally write my Mom a letter about what really went on and then jump out the window to 'cop out.' Yes, 2nd phase allowed you to finally return home. You still were not allowed school. You still had to get locked in your room. Still could not talk to people, go outside, read, watch TV and so forth but I was back home and there was comfort in that; Great comfort.
2nd phase was when Straight Inc felt confident that you were so inculcated and successfully brainwashed that they could trust you to go home and not run away. How I got to 2nd phase was a whole lot of lying, false stories, false emotions, false tears over my false stories that provoked false emotions, and admitting I was the drug addicted mess of a kid they told me I was.
Straight Inc. versus The Truth
The truth is and was that I was not a drug addict. I was not a mess - until Straight, Inc. The truth is I was an alcoholic at 15 years old and could have benefited from real help. But what Straight did was add trauma to my already outwardly manifesting disease. So that when I escaped, I tried to not drink so badly, I reached for not eating and marking my pain on my body in blood. But alcoholism is not my character defect. It's an illness. And that means, for me, that when the trauma and fear got too much to handle, I went back to drinking... DESPITE the terror Straight Inc., had inflicted upon me.
I knew my drinking concerned my parents. I did not know I was an alcoholic. Knowing how my Little 15 year old Digits was, all it would have taken would have been someone - without bullshit or platitudes - explaining to me why it was I needed to drink, what an alcoholic is, and then giving me the tools to use instead of the drinking. You know, kinda like AA has enabled millions into sobriety. To my knowledge AA has never kidnapped, imprisoned, or psychologically tortured one person. As the Big Book of AA says, "No lectures to be endured..." But Straight was no AA, no matter how they loved to spin it.
I am No Longer 15 years old or Indelibly Traumatized
This is the letter to Straight, Inc. Little Digits would write to them had she had Adult Digits as an Advocate...
My sobriety date is January 04, 2003, so Motivate That Straight Inc, Kids Helping Kids, Seed, or whatever the hell you keep morphing your name to. Up yours and screw you, here I stand. Despite your badly run, unholy idea that Lord of the Flies could ever play out differently, FUCK you.
I want to offer up a big slice of FUCK YOU pie to Straight Inc. This FUCK YOU pie does not go to the Kids who were also brainwashed OR to the girl who hit me in my boob when she went into 'acting out'. (Laura, you were desperate and I understand.) This pie cannot be had by my parents, either, who thought they were helping me. And fuck you, Straight, for trying to put this on them you slugstains upon humanity. Sorry, Staff Member Kids, who were brainwashed too... You can't have any either. :)
But I do want to also give you some ice cold Thank You Milk to wash down with your Fuck You Pie.
I got sober despite your torture. I did. I happened to survive my suicide attempts where others did not [and on behalf of them I just have to offer you another slice of Fuck You pie]. I never did turn to drugs to overcome your trauma onto me. I never turned to psychiatry. I never turned into a fellow kid hater or hated my parents. No, you asshole kid haters. I turned to my Self! I turned to the Highest Authority of my Spirit and I healed. And THIS is who I call God. I turned to recognizing needing a healing does not mean needing a psychological beating.
I realized there was something to the 12 Steps that you bastardized and I would find sobriety and the value of myself. I realized that when my brain breaks, my Spirit can catch me. I learned that kids are a wonderful & precious gift and that so-called 'bad kids ' are just the target patients of either real dis-ease, turmoil, or pain or just the scapegoats that parental ineptitude produces.
I learned that I was never 'bad' needing to get 'good', you sick twisted tards of turds. I was sick needing to get healed.
You enabled me to spot bullshit with my eyes closed standing on my head. You enabled me to get into Codependent recovery and forgive the seemingly unforgivable. YOU seem to be the perfect cliche of "What doesn't kill you will make you stronger." But at the risk of the ones you DID kill? I'm not sure that's so awesome cause sometimes what doesn't kill you, keeps you alive and tortures you slowly. There are some former kids still trying to heal but they keep fighting the good fight despite your best efforts you sick twisted control freaks.
And for those kids who chose suicide rather than contend with their painful memories? OH how I love them. I love them fiercely and today I make it my primary mission to affect kids and adults AGAINST this or any other kind of bullying and psychological trauma. For the ones who bullycided because of you, they affect me for the good more than any pain you caused me. The God of my understanding will have Her way with me despite your hateful efforts. So this is for them, for the ones who've yet gotten a voice or lost theirs... I am here standing. Doing my part. Others are with me and we are numerous.
So with all that said, middle fingers right at ya...
"Motivate this, Straight Inc."
© 2011, Digits. Disclaimer Please forgive any factual inaccuracies in my portrayal. I am writing from my memories which did not resurface until a few years ago. For my original and 1st accounting of Straight Inc., please see Cult-Control, Kids, and Straight, Inc. (January 26, 2007) and for a multi-sourced advocacy article - and some powerful photos and images, see Tortured Kids Surviving Straight (March 15, 2011). Check out the video below for an 8 minute visual summary of Straight Inc.
Thanks for this video Kris Flannery: "Straight, Inc. (1976-1993) publicly claimed to rehabilitate teenage drug users by using tough love and Alcoholics Anonymous principles. Trying to survive Straight, Inc. devastated many of us. Some former clients have committed suicide. Others have serious disorders as a result of their time in Straight, Inc. For example, some of us suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, panic disorders and severe depression. In addition, many of us have experienced other long-term detrimental effects such as inability to function normally in relationships, fear of therapists or any form of counseling, severe distrust of people, paranoia, nightmares, etc. This is certainly not a complete list but does give one an inkling of the serious long-term adverse effects on survivors caused by Straight Inc." See Surviving Straight, Inc for more information.