Marietta, Georgia Straight
July 10, 1989 to December 1990
I was born in Atlanta,Georgia in May 25, 1972. In 1978 my family and I moved up North to Wenham, Massachusetts. In 1980 we moved down South to Florence,South Carolina. In 1982 we moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. My Dad was a Priest at Reynolds Presbyterian Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. My dad`s cousin lived in Jackson,Mississippi and she had put her son in one of the Straight locations sometime during the 1980`s. However, I don`t know which exact Straight facility he was incarcerated in, how long he was in there or the exact years that he was there.
Several years later both my parents spoke very negatively about me with an Episcopal Priest they both knew. I believe my folks were constantly casting me in a very poor light by saying negative things about me such as I was always choosing the wrong path, associating with the wrong crowd of people and that I was constantly attracted to dark things that are bad for me like drugs and they said that I was a total and complete “Hellion.” Keep in mind that this Episcopal Priest had never met me at all and yet after only one conversation with my parents he tells them both that I am this hopeless drug addict in dire need of long term Treatment and he strongly suggested this place called “Straight Incorporated.” At some point, unbeknownst to me, it was decided that I was going to be put in the Marietta, Georgia Straight. I suspect one reason for this was because my mother`s parents lived in Atlanta,Georgia. My out of town parents would always have a place to stay every month on the specific dates when they were required to be present at the Straight in Marietta,Georgia.
I was a daily weed smoker for six months before I arrived at Straight. It was always very easy for me to obtain marijuana through boyfriends and other friends.
One Summer night in July 1989 I was at a friends house in Winston-Salem,North Carolina. I was smoking a lot of pot with a group of eight mutual friends. I knew these friends from my own neighborhood and also from surrounding neighborhoods over in my neck of the woods. We were hitting the sweet leaf really hard so by the end of the evening I was really super high. When it was time for me to leave, I was so high that I couldn`t figure out how to put my seatbelt on so my friends had to physically strap me into my car seat. At that time, I drove this 1978 black, Oldsmobile Cutlass. That dark night I was really wasted out of my mind and I had no business being behind the wheel of a car. Somehow I managed to drive one of my friends home without incident. I dropped her off at her house and then I drove myself home. While driving home I blacked out. However, I remember arriving home and pulling into my drive way. I lived with my family in an area called “New Sherwood Forest” at this point in time. I arrived home safely and without attracting any attention. I went inside the house. I went into the kitchen and made myself something to eat. I had the munchies bigtime. I poured myself a plastic cup of ice cold milk and then I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwhich. However I never got to enjoy my evening meal. What happened was I went into the dining room where I instantly collapsed and fell down on the floor right along with the food and drink. Both my parents came running into the room. They were both very concerned. I told them I did some pot and someone put something in it. This was the first time I ever told my parents anything about my drug use. I told them I had not eaten any food all day long and that`s the reason why I had collapsed. After that I passed out or blacked out. I was out like a light. I was out cold. Dead out.
The very next day I woke up around 10:00am or 11:00am in the morning. I had this very uneasy feeling. I didn`t want to go downstairs because I strongly suspected I was in very hot water with my parents from what happened the night before. I stayed upstairs and asked my older sister if she knew if anything was up with my parents with regards to me. My sister confirmed that yes both my parents were very upset with me and they had been on the phone all morning talking with various people about me. I`m pretty sure that my older sister was also upset with me as well. She didn`t understand me at all because we were always complete opposites.
I assumed that I was grounded but I really didn`t know for sure exactly what my negative fate was going to be. I sincerely believed I was in very big trouble with my parents and I didn`t want to wait around to find out exactly what kind of unpleasant punishment awaited me. Whatever it was it wasn`t going to be good. So I called up a friend of mine and asked her to come get me. I quietly went outside my house and was chain-smoking my Camel Lights cigarettes. I was trying to act normal outside while my mom was inside in the house and watching me like a hawk. So I waited outside for about twenty minutes. My friend arrived and when she pulled up in her car I got inside. I told her to floor it out of there and that`s exactly what she did.
I was now officially a runaway under North Carolina State Law and this was the very first time in my life that I had ever run away from home. She drove me to a local friend`s condominium which was just down the road from my house in Winston-Salem,North Carolina. I spent that entire week smoking tons of pot at a male friend`s condominium.
I had met this guy through mutual friends and through an ex-boyfriend of mine. This same ex-boyfriend of mine later on ended up getting sent to the Marietta, Georgia Straight most likely because of both my parents. His father was a Truck Driver who gave his son free pot to smoke on a regular basis. I don`t know if the mom smoked weed or not but for some reason she was totally cool about her kids smoking weed. The father wasn`t home during the one week that I stayed there.
I remember during that week I babysat his sisters kids and in return she paid me with pot instead of with money. That was our agreement. The sister worked as a bartender at a local bar plus she sold marijuana for a living. I also spent that week wearing his sisters clothes and I got real tired of that after awhile. Those clothes of hers that I wore were so weird looking to me and they weren`t the kinds of clothes that I normally wore anyway. So I had her brother drive over to my parents home on a Sunday morning when they were all at Reynolds Presbyterian Church. I didn`t go with him because I didn`t want to run the risk of getting caught. He went alone. He was fifteen years old and blind in one eye which both meant he wasn`t legally eligible or allowed to drive. Nevertheless his mom still let him drive her car anyway knowing all along that it was illegal. The reason he was blind in one eyes was because he got stabbed in the eye with a pair of scissors by some kid back when he was in kindergarten or the first grade.
This was the plan. I told him (in advance) that if my parents weren`t home for him to go inside the house, go to my room and gather up as much of my clothes as he could carry and bring them back to his condo. I gave him a key in advance or told him where on my property where he could find a hidden key. After he arrived he knocked on the door and he discovered to his surprise that my mom was home. She had stayed home instead of going on to Church with the family because she suspected I might come back to the house. My friend asked if I was at home. My mom said no and he quickly got in his car and left. My mom instantly concluded correctly that I was staying at his house. The whole plan backfired. Later that night I dropped acid with my friend and his cousin. I remember tripping for hours. I also remember that night we were all talking about going down to Florida the very next day and living there permanently. We were all very serious about doing this.
The very next morning I got a rude awakening when my parents unexpectedly showed up at 6:30am Monday morning at my friend’s condo, where I had run away to, with two uniformed police officers. They were banging loudly on the front door. I opened the door and immediately I was asked to “step outside.” They didn`t have a search warrant or any other legal right to enter the condo. Still, I was seventeen years old and I didn`t know at the time what my legal rights were. I didn`t want to upset the people I was staying with at the condo. I didn`t want them getting weird,angry or nervous about the Police being there. I know they were the kind of people who didn`t want any Cops around. They didn`t want any trouble of any kind. So I went outside and then once I stepped outside, I noticed my Dad and his off duty police officer friend were off to the left. My dad forcefully grabbed me by my left arm and told me I needed to come with them. My father made it very clear that they were taking me with them. His off duty police officer friend regularly attended my father`s Church and he was there to help wrangle me into the car if I gave any of them any problems. Once I got into the white Sedan car I noticed that my mom was there. They told me they were taking me away to a place that could help me. My parents made me sit in the back seat with that police officer for the whole six hour ride down to Atlanta. He threatened to hogtie me in the back seat if I tried to run at any point during the trip. I was pissed! I was pretty quiet during the trip. I had thoughts of trying to escape but at the same time I knew better then to try to run off because I`ve never been known for being fast. That six hour trip ended up being spent mostly in complete silence by all of us in that car. It was a very unpleasant trip. The car radio was there but never used during the trip. At some point we stopped off at a gas station. It was then when I really thought hard about running. I remember thinking if I want to get away from this that right now is the right time to try but I didn`t. Had I known then where I was going and that I was going to spent the next eighteen months of my life there I would have took off running for sure. I never got to go to Florida with my friends on that dark day. My parents and this Police Office had intercepted me with perfect timing. On that day I was taken against my will to one of the worst possible places on Earth. I was taken to Straight Incorporated in Marietta, Georgia.
I didn`t want to be at Straight and I was rebellious. I got stood up in a lot of raps. I got stood up and confronted a lot. The kids in group would yell at me and say things like “You are so full of shit. Be real. Be genuine. We know you don`t look and act like this when you`re out and about and raising hell with your friends.” I was a regular in “Reviews” each week. I earned “Nothing” a lot. During those first months of First Phase I never wanted to talk to my parents. I didn`t see how earning Talk or T & R was a reward or achievement. I wanted to bypass that part.
I thought all of the beltlooping was really weird and humiliating (which it was.)
When I was in Straight I remember being very,very upset because I had been planning on buying tickets for The Rolling Stones Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle Concert Tour. I am a very big fan of this band and I was really looking forward to seeing them in concert in the months leading up to my ending up in Straight. Now that I was being held against my will at Straight Incorporated the grim reality finally sunk in that I wasn`t going to be able to see The Rolling Stones when their concert Tour came to Raleigh, North Carolina in September 1989. To make matters worse there were some staff members at the Marietta, Georgia Straight talking and bragging openly in group about how they were getting tickets for the Stones Steel Wheels Tour. I was furious and I had steam coming out of my ears. I`m still upset about it to this day.
I never once put into to withdraw myself because I knew my parents wouldn`t ever take me out of Straight.
I thought those Friday Night Open Meetings were so weird. They had all of the parents on one side of the room facing all of the kids on the other side of the room. The parents would stand up with the big microphone and my family took full advantage of the microphone opportunities.
My older sister was enrolled in Bell Haven College on 1500 Peachtree Street in Jacksonville,Mississippi at the time I was in Straight. However she would attend the Friday Night Open meetings with my parents whenever she could. She yelled at me loudly one time with the microphone. Strangely enough my older sister met her future husband at Atlanta Straight. He was a sibling at the time he had a brother in Straight. They got married in May 1991 and they are still married to this day. They have four kids together.
There was this nasty outbreak of head lice in the girls side. It sucked and it was the only time we got a break from the regular dismissal line. We still stood in line. Our oldcomers would get in line with us but not heel to heel and toe to toe like we always did before.
We watched the movies “Less Than Zero” and ” Cocoon” in the main room.
From July 1989 to mid December 1989 I was on first phase for four and a half months. From December 1989 to April 1990 I was on second and third phase.
It was April 1990. I was on third phase for about two to four weeks at that time. I was a Senior at Osbourne High School located at 2451 Favor Road,Marietta Georgia. I was seventeen years old. There were other Straightlings who were attending that High School at that point in time. The morning when I copped out I remember my hostmom dropped me off at School. I waited till she left the school property and drove off in the distance and then I just walked right off the High School campus.
I didn`t waste any time. I copped out right away. I didn`t even bother going to my first class of the day. I just kept walking to get as far away from that school as I could go. I was finally free for the very first time since July 1989. I started hitchhiking and I soon caught a ride with a nice man in his forties who picked me up in a small car. It was a four door car that was beat up. It looked old.
I told him I had just escaped from a drug rehab. He was semi shocked and intrigued. He was out running various errands at the time when he picked me up. He had two or three bottles of hard liquor with him. He offered me some free pot and alcohol. I asked him to please take me to a Truck Stop. He said he would but that he had to stop by his house first to pick something up. So we went over to his house. I didn`t go inside but from the outside it looked to me like an older,Cottage type of house. He got whatever it was that he needed to get and then off we went.
He dropped me off at this interesting Truck stop in Acworth,Georgia. I didn`t know it was Acworth until later on. I stood around for a little while. I saw there were some were some shady characters who were out and about. I noticed that every Truck Driver had their wives or girlfriend with them (not both.) This pickup truck with three guys pulled up and they started talking to me. One of those really boxy trucks.
I didn`t even know who any of these strange people were. We started talking and one of them invited me to come hang out with them so I did. The two dudes in the truck drove off and I walked across the street with this one guy. We all met up together in the thick woods near the Trailor Park and the four of us all got stoned together. So the nice guy and I walked back to this Trailer that his parents rented or owned somewhere in Acworth,Georgia. I spent the night there. Me and the nice guy slept in his sisters bedroom in her bed. The nice guy`s parents had a daughter who was fourteen or fifteen years old who was a runaway at that time and I think his parents were to nervous about having a teenage runaway staying at their Trailer. Unbeknownst to me at some point during the night or sometime during the next morning one of the nice guy`s parents called the local Police on me and told them that this runaway (me) was there.
It was 6:00am when I was suddenly awakened by three cops with all these flashlights shining in my face. It was like a dream. I didn`t have any Identification. I told them my real name. They put me in the back seat of the Police car and then they drove me over to the Acworth Police Station. It was a twenty minute ride to the police station. It was located on 4440 Acworth Industrial Drive NW, Acworth, GA 30101. After we arrived there they put me in this small interrogation room where I stayed all by myself for 35 minutes. This Private Investigator eventually showed up who my parents had hired to find me. He asked me all kinds of questions about my running away and also about Straight Incorporated. He interviewed me for like thirty minutes or more. The Private Investigator called up my mom and told her that he had found me. He also told my mom that he would bring me back to her but only if my mom promised to not ever put me back in Straight Incorporated again. My mother said to him that she would not put me back in Straight and that she would explore other options for me. So sometime later that day I left the Police Station. I don`t have any memory of who it was who drove me from the Police Station in Acworth over to my Grandmothers home in Marietta,Georgia.
Some time after I arrived at my Grandmothers home I had a long talk with my mom. I made it crystal clear to my mom that I didn`t want to ever go back to Straight Incorporated ever again. My mom gave me her word that she wouldn`t put me back in Straight. My father was somewhere out in California at the time on a business trip. My mom called him up on the phone long distance and she gave him the latest update and she explained everything to him and telling him everything that had been going on with me. My mom told my dad that she gave me her word that she wouldn`t put me back in Straight. I think that my father`s thinking at that time was since he was 3,000 miles away in California that he didn`t have the time to research other Georgia drug programs to put me in plus he (mistakenly) thought that I had been just fine being in Straight all this time so he thought let`s put Gwen right back in Straight. My father then took control of the conversation and the situation and he told my mom that she was going to have to go back against her word and that I was going back to Straight. Then my mom dropped the bomb on me when she told me that she was going to have to go back against her word. She said that yes I would be going back to Straight after all. I was livid and furious. I just completely lost it. I went off. I flipped out to the extreme. I went into a rage. I went nuts. I started yelling,cussing and screaming. Lots of obscenities. I went ballistic. I had a meltdown. I was storming around the house and packing up my stuff. I was very loud and I stayed that way for quite awhile. My mom was silent during my meltdown. This was the angriest I had ever been towards my mom. I had never behaved that way towards her before. She had never seen me that mad before under any circumstances. It took a very long time for me to cool off.
My mom made some phone calls and arranged for some Straight parents to come pick me up at my Grandmothers house and then drive me to Marietta, Georgia Straight. I had been at my Grandmother`s house for about four to six hours that day.
So this Straight mom and Straight dad finally arrived to pick me up. They were driving this four door Sedan. They started asking me questions about my copout from Straight. I told them both if they let me smoke a cigarette I would tell them whatever they wanted to know. So they let me smoke my Camel Lights cigarette and then they peppered me with all these unoriginal questions about my escape from Straight that most all copouts are asked. Where did I go? Did I do drugs? Did I drink alcohol? Did I commit any crimes? Who was I with? Why did I leave Straight? Other questions they asked me. They were very nice people who were unfortunately brainwashed by Straight. They had a daughter who had copped out from Marietta, Georgia Straight and successfully stayed on the run for nine months or longer. She was still copped out when both her parents picked me up and drove me back to Straight on that dark day. While the daughter was copped out both her parents stayed actively involved in Straight the entire time. I remember the day when their daughter was forced back to Straight and after those 9+ months. She was ripped to shreds when she was reintroduced back into group.
It was a twenty to forty minute ride to Straight. I didn`t want to go back to Straight at all. On the other hand I took comfort in the fact that I knew I would only have to endure another six weeks of Straight before I turned eighteen. Once I was eighteen I could legally withdraw myself from Marietta, Georgia Straight and there was nothing that anybody could do about it to stop me. I would be free as a bird. Unfortunately what happened was during those six weeks they brainwashed me all over again. As a result of this I ended up staying another seven months.
On May 25, 1990 I turned eighteen which meant I was legally an adult in the State of Georgia. Another positive thing in my favor was that I was not Court Ordered to Straight. These two things meant that I could now officially withdraw myself from Straight but I never did. One reason I never officially withdrew myself is because I had been brainwashed by Straight for seven months. One other reason I didn`t withdraw myself was because I want to go through the painful process of being endlessly hassled and pressured by the staff members and the group members to change my mind. I didn`t want to meet with any staff members and I didn`t want to be stood up in group in the raps and go through the agony of people trying to forcefully break me down and talk me out of it. During my year and a half at Marietta, Georgia Straight I had seen so many people put in withdraws and then go through Hell because of it. I wasn`t going to put myself through any of that garbage. At some point later on down the road I decided to go with a different, better option to get out of that place.
….To Be Continued in Gwen Robinson Part 2.