Below is my copout story. I’ve also attached the story of how I came to be at Straight (underneath) which I submitted to a different website.
If this story is received and published online, please reply and let me know.
I’d like to know it might help someone else down the line.
Thank you for all you are doing to support Straight survivors.
Also, you may use my real first name on the website, which is Jeannie.
Jeannie’s Copout St. Petersburg 1985-1986
I was kidnapped in a midwest state and flown to Florida, where I was forced to enter Straight around 1985. I’ve submitted the story of how I came to be at straight in the first place at http://survivingstraightinc.com/. However, I’m not sure if the site is still being updated. For this reason I’ve copied that story (underneath my copout story below) for anyone who’d like to read it.
First of all I’d like to say, there were so many awful and traumatic events in/around/during my time in Straight. I’ll try to stick to the highlights for easier reading. I’ve recounted to the best of my ability.
But, there are large chunks of time and events that are missing due to PTSD. For instance I might remember a certain incident, but have no memory of what phase I was on or any other details for that matter.
Also, I was one of the rare people forced into Straight who’s family did not live anywhere NEAR the Straight facility. My parents were going through a very ugly divorce. We lived near the mid-west at the time I was kidnapped. My mom was moving to the Cocoa Beach side of Florida. So, this meant I was doomed so spend my ENTIRE “RECOVERY” living in foster/host homes. There was NO “going home” for people like me, and there never would be. It was especially traumatic. Even a weekend visit would be foreign because my mom had up and moved where we used to live while I was in Straight. The bedroom I visited on my one (and only) “home” visit was totally unfamiliar to me.
Talk about a mindscrew.
Also, in the 60’s/70’s I was born into one of the world’s largest secular cults. It was right up there with Jim Jones and David Koresh-land. My parents exited that cult when I was around 8 years old, I think. This cult did not allow birthdays, holidays, medical care of ANY kind, it held 8-12 hour marathon church sermons. Kids died from lack of medical care. The church members were abusive. You get the idea. So, I guess in my mom’s eyes, Straight was seemed like a pretty good place to “re-program” her unruly teenager.
Anyway, I’ll focus mainly on the copout here. And by the way, this website is correct. It took MAJOR BALLS to copout. I was becoming very brainwashed by Straight at the time I did it. I was absolutely terrified!!!! But somehow, someway, my brain went into survival-mode and I very methodically pulled off running for my life.
After reaching 2nd phase and being set back to 1st phase (which you can read all about below), something in me snapped. Being “set back” resulted in my being forced to endure violent public humiliations/shaming Rap sessions. I was so broken, so alone. Somewhere along the line, something in me snapped…..
And I decided I would FAKE MY WAY to 3rd phase, and fake it good. I would achieve a “home visit”, where we’d visit my mom 4 hours away for a weekend.. And that is when I would run for my life. I realized if I stayed where I was, I might never get out, or die before I could. I saw phasers who were 20 years old. All I saw was the rest of my formative years being spent sitting in a blue chair 12 hours a day, flapping my arms like a lunatic………..
So I make 3rd phase. Yay. It’s announced one night “Jeannie!! GOING HOME!!!!” WOO HOO!!! Yay go me. Everyone celebrates. Nobody’s holding my belt loop. It felt very weird.
Straight Staff decide it’s high risk for me to go home alone since my mom lives so far away (hey Straight–that was a valid fear by the way haha!!!). So, they sent another 3rd-phaser to accompany me for the weekend. I forget her name. But after I was caught & they tried to “recruit” me back to Straight, one of the things they told me was how “devastated and traumatized my good friend so-and-so was that I’d copped out. And didn’t I care about her after she’d traveled all that way to be by my side on my first home visit?”
Nah, sorry whoever you were. I didn’t care one bit. I hope she got out though. She was a sweet girl who didn’t deserve to be in that brainwashing pit anymore than I did.
Keep in mind when I copped out, I had no idea when or where I would do it on my home trip. I only knew that I WOULD do it.
Fast forward and we make it to the house my mom’s rented during the divorce. Crappy bedroom. I don’t recognize anything but she tried to make it nice. We did spend the first night there. The 2nd night after dinner, my mom went to lay down in a back room because she had a migraine. The other 3rd-phaser who had come with me went to take a shower. As we all know those who showered while in Straight were quick about it. The goal with showers, whether watched or not, was to get in and get out so you could get right back to the business of constantly watching, spying on and judging whoever you were around. Parents, Straightlings, all of it. Had to be on your game 24/7.
So this was my moment. I very, very quietly opened the front door of the house. I remember the sun was setting and the weather was nice. I did not have one thing on me except the clothes on my back and the shoes on my feet. No money, nada. It didn’t matter, I just had to RUN.
And run I did. I ran for my life. I ran, ran, ran as fast as I could. I had no clue where I was, or where I was going. I wasn’t from Florida much less this town I was in. Somehow I acquired some cigarettes and smoked a few asap. I don’t remember how I got them but do recall smoking them. It’s interesting to see …. I read these cop-out stories and the first thing most of us did was smoke a cigarette. It felt so good! God, I’d been so stressed out in Straight!! LOL!!
This is where things get really hazy because I do not remember how long I was free, or exactly where, or how, I was picked up. I do know I was gone only one night, and they found be before the sun came up.
I recall wandering around a strange apartment complex and running into a man. I asked him if I could use his phone. He said yes and I remember going into his well-kept apartment and trying to call my dad who’d moved to Tennessee. There was no answer. :((((
I think I got my dad’s voicemail and left a frantic message about being kidnapped and forced into a cult in Florida by my mom.
I remember being outside in the dark a long time, and darting around buildings. Then, a police car driving around very slowly which eventually picked me up. They took me to my mom’s house. The only thing I remember about this part is saying I had to use the bathroom. (A lie). I remember knowing without a doubt I would rather die right there. I would rather be dead forever than be sent back to Straight, and deal with days of relentless abuse and verbal blastings in one rap session after another. I’d seen what they did to “cop-outs” and wanted no part of it.
So I went into the bathroom and swallowed every single pill in the cabinet. It was a lot of pills. I’d locked the door before the 3rd-phaser had a chance to grab my belt loop in the house. LOL!!!!!! I guess they broke the door down and called an ambulance, I don’t know.
Next thing I remember is being in ICU with tubes up my nose and vomiting charcoal they made me swallow to pump my stomach.
I remember telling the Dr. on staff (and a police officer) I would NOT, not not not return to Straight. I think I mentioned they’d have to take me to a blue chair in restraints and a gurney because I would fight them to the death if I had to.
It was all pretty dramatic.
Once I’d recovered from trying to kill myself, somehow my mom agreed to place me in a program closer to her called “Horizons”. It was pretty normal for a rehab and at a hospital. I shared a real room with 2 other girls. They didn’t watch me take showers. 😀 And, I got to eat and pee on a normal schedule. I was out and graduated from the Horizons program in about 3 months.
While I was in the Horizons program the group went to an external AA meeting in the hospital bus. While there I ran into a previous Straightling. He’d been a 5th phaser when I copped out. His name was Chris. He was in a different hospital program as well at this point. We talked outside for a bit. He’d seemed so serious and “into” the Straight program, I couldn’t believe he was there!!
He told me he’d hated Straight and faked his way all the way to 5th phase. Said he ran like hell the minute he thought the time was right. And, was then placed in a different rehab for which he was very grateful. I remember he said something about Straight like “ya that place was crazy! They’re brainwashing everyone all they want is the money……”
I remember while I was talking to this ex-5th phaser outside I had an awful creeping feeling I was going to get in trouble in group for “talking behind backs.” I was so brainwashed, I was still scared even though I was out of that place………….
After my copout while I was at Horizons drug rehab, somehow one of the Directors at Straight was allowed to visit me. I was horrified!! I have no memory of how this came to be. But she sat with me in a sitting area. I remember I knew her from my Straight intake. She had reddish blonde hair, was fat and wore a lot of blue eyeshadow.
She tried to make me feel terrible. Told me I’d “deserted” my “friends” at Straight, who were all “horribly grief-stricken and crying since I’d copped out.” She told me they loved me and wanted me to come back. I remember she asked me “so you have no feelings at all about the damage you have done?”
I was wearing makeup, and she said “How does it feel to look like a druggie again? you look like you could prostitute for drugs now.”
Somehow, I ended the meeting quickly and she left.
My twin sister told me later when Straight mailed my clothes to my mom’s house from the “host home”, they put my stuff in cardboard boxes and wrote “COPPOUT” in huge black magic marker. ALL OVER THE BOXES. LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! UGH!! ;o))
Between the 2 cults I survived, I have severe PTSD as an adult. I was in therapy for about 20 years off and on. Despite extreme efforts on my part to heal and move on, unfortunately my psyche has not healed as I’d hoped. I’ve held a career all these years and do work, but am on a low dose
antidepressant probably for the rest of my life.
Also, about 10 years ago I was diagnosed with a rare and permanent disease of the bladder. It is very, very painful and hurts everyday. The specialists (doctors) told me it is a result of having to hold my urine for so many hours while in the cult, Straight Inc. As you know by now, we were not allowed to use the bathroom when we needed. I remember being allowed to pee maybe 2-3 times per day.
The holding of the pee went on for about a full year when I was age 15. My bladder’s lining is torn up from holding urine so long/so often. Urine is very acidic and this was how my body responded.
Also, soon as I was out of Straight I noticed my back hurt all the time. Sitting in those blue chairs, not allowed to lean back EVER did damage to my spine. When I entered Straight I’d had Scoliosis as a kid, and had gone through a back surgery about a year before being in Straight. Straight knew about my medical condition, but since we were denied medical care, it just got worse. Those blue chairs did quite a number on my back, for life.
If I’d had my wits about me in the early 90’s, I would have sued Straight for damages. But, I was so consumed with just trying to survive and forget the screams of tortured kids, and hold a job etc., that it never crossed my mind.
My family was totally and completely shattered due to Straight. (See the beginnings story below)/
Two years ago I went through a horrible depression and developed Major Depressive Episodes/extreme PTSD. I very calmly drew up a will, packed up a few things then swallowed 90 Lortabs. I lived obviously. It’s really quite the miracle I am still here to tell my story.
Thank you for allowing me to tell my story. I know this was long, but it’s a purging process for me.
And, if it helps even one person avoid the mind-controlling tortures of a cult, then it was worth it.
I’ve buried a lot of this for many years. It is good to be able to read other survivor’s stories. One Straight survivor in particular wrote something that has resonated with me. She wrote “Whenever I get PTSD and feel the panic, I remind myself ‘You are safe now. They cannot hurt you anymore’. “
That brings a lot of comfort to me. I hope it does others as well.
Cheers to hoping the founders of Straight rot in hell.
Jeannie/Straight, Inc. Survivor
My original story:
My story is very similar to a lot of the other stories, but with a twist.
I was born into one of the world’s largest secular cults in Texas during the 60’s/70’s. My parents didn’t get out of that cult until I was around 9 years old. So, I’d already had a pretty rough start in the world. In a cult.
There are so many events and details I could write, but I’ll try to condense everything for easier reading and just hit the high points. (no pun intended…haha!)
Caveat: Due to trauma there are many events I simply don’t remember. Some events I can remember one thing, but the other parts are totally blacked out. I’ll do my best to recall.
At the age of 15 my parents were going through a very ugly, combative divorce after 20 years of marriage. Me, my twin sister and older brother were all having a hard time with what was going on. Plus, my mom is an abusive narcissist. My twin had already been hospitalized and treated for severe Anorexia Nervosa. My brother was actively using drugs and drinking. I was definitely using drugs and drinking. I ran away from home several times, but only stayed gone overnight. The last time, my boyfriend’s mother agreed to take me in. My mom agreed to this. I was almost 16, and things were very bad at home. We all agreed a break was necessary.
About a month later, my mom calls me and says she wants to take me to lunch to talk things over. My boyfriend dropped me off at the meeting place. Soon as he drove off, police officers descended on me and put me in handcuffs! They took me to Juvenile Detention where I stayed for several nights. (A terrifying experience, by the way) Long story long…my mom picks me up from there and authorities put me on a flight. I had no clue where I was going.
It turned out my mom had decided to sell our house and go live in Merritt Island, FL. She’d discovered Straight, INC in St Petersburg and that is where I was going. We landed, we got there and went right into intake-mode. All jewelry off, makeup off, they interrogated me for hours. They grabbed me by my beltloop (I was like “WTH?”) and marched me to my first group. It happened to be one of those big Friday night rallies where the parents attended. Parents were standing up confronting their kids. The kid would reply across the room, then the parents would yell “Love ya Kimberly (or whoever…) !!!!”, and the kid would yell back “Love ya mom! Love ya dad!” I immediately recognized this place as a mind-control thing, from my past cult exposure.
I was assigned an “oldcomer” and went to their house that night. Their car didn’t have doors that locked where you could not escape, so she sat on me with her legs twisted into my legs the whole way home. So I couldn’t “cop-out”, she said.
She was a very weird girl. Her parents had adopted her, and she simply had a crazy look in her eye all the time. She told me awful stories of her “druggie days” where she prostituted for drugs. Which, looking back, I’m not so sure was true. I now know kids made up all kinds of stories to fit in and move up in the program.
She made me take a shower while she watched every second of it. There were permanent locks on her bedroom windows, and the bedroom door had an alarm on it which sat on the outside of the door. To exit, she’d open the door, then quickly turn the alarm off. Looking back, it was kind of stupid, because anyone could turn it off like that…….but anyway……
So I learned all about “motivating”; flapping my arms like a maniac to show how enthusiastic I was about getting Straight. Woo hoo!
We were denied medical care, and I saw many, many kids violently restrained. I saw public humiliations over and over again. It seemed the whole system was set up that no matter what a person did, they were going to FAIL. I pretty much went along with the program. I hated it, but was stuck there. If I slouched in my chair, they knuckled me in the back. If I had to pee, too bad. I had to hold it. And hold it. And hold it. Actually I think I peed around 7am everyday and maybe 7pm at night, that’s it. I saw kids have accidents on themselves. I saw punishments for such accidents. Some kids were punished by having food withheld. I think the most disturbing was watching other kids tackle and beat up the kids who were running for their lives………
I also think some of those kids ran for the doors during group out of sheer boredom.
It certainly did serve as some entertainment. You knew they’d never get out, but they barrelled head-first towards those doors regardless…..
I honestly have no idea how long I was on 1st phase, but it was a while. I finally made it to 2nd phase. From the minute I walked into that place, I knew the moment I made 3rd phase and “went home”, I was going to run for it. Now….keep in mind…my mom lived THREE HOURS AWAY from St. Petersburg. So, I was doomed to live in foster “host homes” for the entire duration of my recovery. Talk about a stupid set-up! There was no way I could “integrate” back into my family…much less attend school until I finally graduated that hell-hole.
We were denied medical care, food, sometimes beverages, our dignity, abused, we were NOT allowed to see family or friends much less talk to them, or go to school. At least SOME kids did eventually go sleep in their own beds. But the bedroom I’d knows was far away in another state, and my new bedroom was some room I had never seen much less would sleep in every night on 3rd phase. It was so stupid. I’m convinced Straight, INC realized this but talked my mom into it for the money they’d gain from another client.
12 to 14 hour days were completely inundated with group sessions, run by kids or graduates of Straight, 7 days per week. I never once saw a professional counselor or therapist of any kind.
But this is what happens when you let the inmates run the asylum…………..
Straight told my mom to destroy ALL pictures of me, me with friends, and school yearbooks with pictures when I was a “druggie.” She did. As a result, I’m 45 years old now and have exactly ONE picture of myself as a teenager. I have no pictures with my family, brother or sister. Definitely none of friends from back then. It’s like I didn’t even exist from ages 14-18.
At one point I was assigned a “newcomer.” I’ll never forget the look on her face…I think she was in complete shock for about the first 3 weeks. Me and the other “oldcomer” did the twister-leg thing with her in the car each day. We told her if she tried to run, we’d “get her” and she’d be sorry. I was never intentionally cruel to her, but looking back it seemed natural, like that was what I had to do so I did it. I had to play along with the rest of this pack, if I were ever going to get out.
One night while on 2nd phase, I woke up in the middle of the night at my “host home.” Everyone was sleeping, out cold. I got up, opened that bedroom door and flipped the alarm. I was in the hallway! Alone! I went into the living room and ….. gasp!! READ A MAGAZINE. (Reading was NOT allowed) I may have been out for all of 10 minutes, but it was insane how free I felt!!!!! I crept back into the bedroom. Nobody woke up and I got away with it……. (insert cheers here!!!!)
However, I was convinced the rest of my duration in Straight that I was going to burn in hell for keeping this secret escapade to myself….the brainwashing was starting to sink in…..
At one point, I was authorized a weekend visit with my mom, outside the Straight walls. She drove all the way from Cocoa Beach area, paid for a hotel suite she couldn’t afford, and had all kinds of food for me. I/we were so excited. I had been at the hotel maybe an hour…when Straight called my mom. She was to bring me back to Straight immediately, and we were not told why. My mom said she’d wait in the lobby until we could go back to the hotel……..
I was sat in a group rap session. The person leading the rap was a female who’d graduated already. She kept walking by me, back and forth, back and forth, wagging her finger and singing “somebody’s in trouuuuuuuuble”, “shame, shame, for shame on someboooooooody who’s been a very bad girrrrrrlll…”. I was just shocked and had no idea what was going on….
The next thing I know, this girl who’d ran away (“copped out”) a month prior was standing up screaming at me. I’d taken her to the bathroom by her beltloop a week before. While in the bathroom, she started talking and saying how great it was to see her boyfriend while she was free. I had let her talk for a minute, but then did the “shhhh” sign with my hand to mouth because as we know, “newcomers” were not allowed to talk unsupervised, inside the building if not in group.
She had turned me in for “inappropriate behavior of an oldcomer.” She was yelling at me, crying and saying “I’d just returned from copping out!!!! I was NEW!! You should have known better than to let me talk about my boyfriend!!! You’ve been faking your recovery this whole time!!!!”
The whole group started devouring me like ravage animals. I was immediately set back to Phase1.
I was denied my weekend with my mom, and that night led to a new “host home” by my belt loop. I stayed in many host homes actually, but this one was punishment.
Right after this happened, one day we were getting ready in the host home’s bathroom. I used one of my old dry toothbrushes as a grooming tool on my eyelashes. You know, just brushed them upwards.
In a girl’s-only group that day, I was blasted for two hours straight for “vanity”. Told I was on my way to being a slut again. And, that I was a druggie who was displaying “druggie behavior” by grooming my eyelashes. They shoved a full-length mirror in front of me, grabbed my head by the hair and screamed “Look at yourself!! Look at yourself!! How pretty are you now druggie?!?!” as they slammed my face right into the mirror.
Then, they took me to another group, a big one with both boys and girls. The boys stood up and made fun of me. They told me I was ugly, a whore, and when then were on the outside wouldn’t have had anything to do with me even when they were “druggies” because I was so ugly.
It was a very hard month.
Fast forward. I make it to 3rd phase. I get a weekend visit home to my mom’s 3 hours away. Provided, another “3rd phaser” goes with me. The first night we spent the night and just visited.
The next day after dinner, my mom lay down on the couch in a back room because she had a migraine. The other “3rd phaser” went to take a shower.
This was my only chance.
I very, very quietly opened the front door. The sun was setting and I had no idea where I was, or where I was going. I had nothing, and I mean nothing, but the shoes on my feet and the clothes on my back.
And I ran like hell for my life.
Now, I was picked up later, but did not return to Straight, INC.
After all this was said and done, I went to live with my dad at the age of 16 in another state.
In my early 30’s, I was diagnosed with a severe and incurable bladder disease.
The specialists (doctors) say my bladder disease is a direct result of being forced to hold my urine for so many hours, so often, for a year while in Straight, INC.
In the 90’s, I had no idea someone could sue Straight for damages, or I would have. I have severe PTSD, have had Major Depressive Episodes off and on my whole life, wound up with more than one very abusive man. I’ve had problems relating to other people. I’m terrified of people in uniform…police, military, fireman etc., it brings on PTSD symptoms really bad. I don’t like being told what to do. I went through a phase where I was very wild in my 20’s. I’ve had more therapy than you could imagine.
Through it all, I managed to secure a career and earn a license in another field. I still work but as I age the bladder disease is becoming very difficult to live with. Two years ago, I tried to kill myself. I flat-lined but someone found me and I lived.
My family is a complete mess. Nobody in my immediate family speaks to each other. My twin was very traumatized by having her twin ripped away from her at 15, and not being allowed to see me. She even came to the Straight building once trying to save me! They tried to put HER in a room and “intake” her! She doesn’t talk to any of us. It’s a long story but she is just so traumatized by my mom kidnapping me, in addition to the cult we were born into. She walked away from the whole family 8 years ago, and rightfully so.
My brother became a severe drug addict/alcoholic, but has been sober for 9 years now.
We are all making our way in the world on our own, the best we know how.
Straight ruined my health and my family. The emotional and psychological scars just run too deep, I guess, for my family to reconcile all the trauma.
I’m on a low dose anti-depressant for the rest of my life. I don’t date lately and did not have kids. I did get married once for 7 years. But, it’s kind of hard to explain my past to anyone.
I have a huge fear of getting close to anyone.
I’m glad I ran away from Straight, INC. That place sucked and I hope the founders rot forever.
Thank you for letting me share my story. I sincerely hope it helps others recognize and avoid cults of any kind.
JC/Straight, INC Survivor