Melissa Johnson

CopOut Attempt Stories from the former Melissa Johnson – Springfield Virginia August 21, 1986 to February 27, 1988 (555 days)

It took almost 30 years for Melissa to face the horrors of Straight, Incorporated and when it all came crashing down, she began to write so that she could heal. After an attempted suicide at age 44 she documented her trauma so that one day she could offer it to the community of Survivors. She believes that facing the trauma through her writing was the first step in a long road to recovery. The following paragraphs are from her blog that will be accessible in the future:

I didn’t start out Misbehaving. The whole reason my mother put me in Straight in particular wasn’t because I was doing drugs but because I was a runner. Ever since I was very small if I didn’t like a situation I was fucking outta there. My parents`shitshow of a marriage was reason enough to try to run away at any given opportunity. In the summer of 1986 all my father had to do was tell me he didn’t love my mother anymore. I stole my mother’s credit card and bought a plane ticket to Florida to see that boy with the fast red car I’d met a month before when I was staying with my grandmother. The next thing I knew I was On Front Row, having the fingers of hands snapped in my face, then the pointer extending toward the person who was speaking, the hand behind me shoved between my back and the Blue Chair, and if I just sat there minding my own business the four sets of hands surrounding me would grab mine and shove them in the air to make me Motivate.

My very first Sunday Night LoveRap (still can’t believe they had the balls to call them that) my Oldcomer had put my hair in high pigtails. I felt like a moron, but I didn’t have much choice because despite the truth – which no one knew: that my parents had very little money – I was regularly mocked from Day One as if I were a snotty rich kid. So, we’re all sitting on the cold linoleum floor listening to the Executive Shark who, at the time was a Head Shark – with an 8th grade education, mind you – playing guitar. We were even allowed to sing along. He played songs like American Pie – I knew the words to that one! – but when I sang “whiskey and rye” everyone around me hissed“SHHHHHHHH”. It took shutting up to hear them chant “water and ice” instead. Me and my pigtails were losing patience with this place, but that guy over in the corner was kinda cute. Like any teenage girl with daddy issues who’s just been put into a coed drug treatment facility I position myself to look teen alluring. Just like Madonna taught me. I can’t remember exactly where I got this next bright idea, but I’m fairly sure someone hissed or snapped or pointed at something I didn’t want to do and I decided I’d head for the double doors I knew led out to the parking lot.

I moved like fucking lightning. Busted through the double doors like John Fucking Mayer. But they were chasing me!!! I could hear them closing in on the gravel. There were a lot of them, too. Why would anyone care if I ran away? Didn’t they really hate that crazy fucking place, too???

Just before the far end of the parking lot I got slammed into the gravel. The one who’d been licking her fingers and grooming my eyebrows was on top of me. They all pick me up and carry me back inside where people are rattling their entire bodies – foot stomping and all – to get a piece of me. I’m kicking myself for not taking a hard left and laughing on the inside because they all look exceptionally ridiculous Motivating on the floor. They call on the Eyebrow Shark and she doesn’t get in my face but starts mocking me. She’s imitating how I fluff my eyebrows and how I was acting all sexy right before I took off. She’s even mocking my pigtails which weren’t even my fucking idea. And now everyone is laughing at me.
That wasn’t the last time I’d run.

When I went into Straight I still had braces on my bottom teeth and about three months to go. The protocol for a First Phase Doctor Run is that two Oldcomers and a HostMom escort you. Three escorts are to intimidate me because it would have been too much for Straight to explain having kids out in public being gripped by the back of their pants. Perfect. Nobody holding onto me? For me this was like throwing Brer Rabbit in the briar patch. I was going back to my hood. But I was smart enough to wait till after the appointment. As soon as I hit the outside door I took the fastest left ever. Flying down the street with two Sharks and a Mom booking after me. I pass a white Chevy Blazer and hear them yell to the driver, “Stop her! She’s a CopOut from a Drug Rehab!” His tires squeal behind me and he whips his truck around to face me, jumps out and grabs me. I go to kick him in the balls and he throws me on the hood of his truck. An off-duty cop. Luck of the Irish my ass. He confiscates me a from the Straight People and brings me to the City Jail which is a block away. My luck just turned to shit. I’m in my hood, sure. This means my parents are just up the fucking street. I was back in Group in a few hours.

When I was paraded in the Back Of Group just like the day I arrived I got the Scream Squad in my face. The weirdest screamer was the HostMom’s son because I ran on his mother? And he was a First Phaser. Why did he care? It’s not like I even touched her. These people are crazy.

I ran one more time after that. Another trip to the orthodontist. Years later my mother told me she tried to warn them. Suckers.

By this time I’d learned some things. The prime lesson was that Phasers weren’t allowed to so much as look at a CopOut. Instead of wasting my breath running down the street from the outside door I simply turned left and kept walking. As soon as one of the Sharks touched me in my bravest voice I proclaimed,“You can’t touch me. I’m a CopOut.”

Every time since 1986 that I’ve thought about that part of the story it’s made me laugh. This time is no exception.

I was shaking. They’re both grabbing at me. “You can’t touch me. I’m a CopOut.” They’re crying. Begging me to stop. I know good and fucking well it’s not because they’re afraid for my sobriety. They don’t want to get fried for letting me go. “You can’t touch me. I’m a

CopOut.” I hear one of them yell for “Mom” to call The Building. I know this time they’re the ones who look crazy to strangers. More crying.“You can’t touch me. I’m a CopOut.”And they finally walk back to the car. Sobbing.

Better them than me.

I borrowed a quarter at a 7-11 to call one of my Druggie Friends who came to pick me up. Somebody ratted me out because I was only just falling asleep in the spot he found for me in the woods before I heard my name. It was my parents. But they didn’t want to hear my story. I was only gone for the one night because my parents were Sharks now, too.

After that time the humiliation tactics began. I was given a Humbling Clothes Consequence.

The last time I tried to get away and got brought back I lost faith in my one coping tool and found another: Misbehaving.

The worst part about ever having been a Misbehaver wasn’t kicking, punching or biting. It wasn’t being retrained. The worst part about having been a Misbehaver is now. As an adult. Knowing that out of pure frustration there were times you kicked or punched or bit someone. Or tried to kill them.

Okay. It’s been six months. I think I got this. I’ve earned the right to carry Sharks around by the pants inside The Building. My Oldcomer loves me. I might actually be able to see my wonderful parents who thankfully saved my life (whew!) by putting me in this drug rehab.

“Melissuh JAHNsen!?!?! You’re moving HostHomes!”


And this part gets really hazy. I honestly don’t remember what night of the week it was. I just remember that I’d been earning TandR for what I’d thought was long enough – being longer than the minimum but not longer than a month – to PutInForHome. I’d been with the same Oldcomer for most of the time. I earned TandR in her house. I don’t even remember who she was but I remember her being kind and being on a higher Phase. Those two things often went together because Fourth And Fifth Phasers were softer because they were no longer in The Building for all 12+ hours. All I can tell you is that outside of that her identity was dwarfed by what was to come.

The HostHomeSharks sent me home with two HostSisters. I do remember that we all went Out Of Town that night because the ride to TheBuilding was over an hour long. Also pretty sure they were both Second Phasers, which means they hadn’t been Out In Society yet. The worst part about my new situation is that I was outnumbered.

The ride home was fine. I’d nervously talked with my new Oldcomers about my changes because they were to write a Progress Report on what they’d seen. I was nervous because I was new to them, so they had only seen me in Group. I vaguely remember smiling a lot because I felt intimidated as hell for some reason. I now know why. We all went to bed peacefully.

I now remember that it was Thursday night because I asked for Home.

Reliving this is my greatest nightmare, but here goes:

The next morning it was bright in the house, which is what keeps confusing me about the day of the week. I forget things like they were on SecondPhase so we didn’t have to report till 9. I kept thinking it was Sunday because we were Out Of Town, but again, they were Second Phasers. I vaguely remember there being a Semi Out Of Town and that might have been the case for us.

After we’d all gotten ready to go to The Building both HostSisters very smugly shoved their Progress Report in my face with a big, fat ZERO written at the bottom of the page which meant they weren’t voting to send me Home. They were voting NOTHING.

My heard sank into the center of the earth.

Then the screaming began and I blocked every syllable out. I was more fucking terrified than I’d ever been in my life. These two were about to end me and I had to sit there and take it.

I’d stolen the hornets that made the blood print on the concrete wall. Nothing made sense. My head was a Category Five Hurricane. They were screeching at me about how FullOfShit I was and they both knew it.

You cunts don’t know shit. I know you don’t know shit. I haven’t done a fucking thing wrong. Fuck off, hornets. I know they’re fucking lying. I don’t give a shit what they say. I’m not going back to That Place and getting feasted on. Fuck that. Fuck them. Fuck the hornets. I’d rather rot in prison. I’ve been paying attention. There are people who are court ordered to choose between Straight and jail. People choose jail over That Place and that’s exactly what I’m gonna do. My parents won’t take me back, so I’m on my own. I’ll do anything not to go back there. Anything.

As soon as we got in the car I started plotting. I knew I didn’t have time and I was scared – literally – out of my fucking mind. That isn’t just an expression. I was scared out of my fucking mind. But I wasn’t going back to That Place to get StartedOver because these two Sharks decided to have it out for me. No fucking way.

I somewhat know where we are. I can see the highway signs. We were in Maryland and TheBuilding was in Virginia. I don’t have much time. There’s only one Shark in the back seat with me. I can take her.

Nothing in my life has ever happened so fast.

Here comes the exit! FUCK.

I take my left hand and grab the throat of the Shark next to me. Not her neck, but her voice box and I grab so hard her eyes start to pop out. I’m gonna pull out her throat so that I can go to jail because fuck That Place. Everyone’s screaming. I’m screaming too. I’m screaming for the HostMom to pull the fucking car over and her Shark daughter is screaming for her to keep driving. And she keeps driving. I can’t fucking believe it. Both Sharks are trying to restrain me and I’m mashed against the car door. I can feel my fingers digging into her throat and all of a sudden there’s a small part of me that understands what I’m doing. Despite the power I have I cannot bring myself to use it. They’re all bringing me back to certain doom and I still cannot make good on my threat. I hold on anyway. Her eyes are popping and she can’t speak. Her cheeks are puffed out and she’s gritting her teeth. The Shark in the front seat has not stopped screaming. I can barely move, but I’ve still got a vice grip on her trachea. Even though there’s something inside me that no longer wants her dead I’m not letting go until they pry me off her. Then I’ll go to jail because fuck That Place.

Straight must not have had my sanity because I didn’t kill her. This is why I put a noose around my neck. Because I know what I’m capable of when I feel trapped by people who try to twist how things really are.

Straight must not have had my sanity because I didn’t kill her. This is why I put a noose around my neck. Because I know what I’m capable of when I feel trapped by people who try to twist how things really are.

A mad rush of bodies yanks me out of the car and I’m hoisted in the air by countless Sharks who take me into the first IntakeRoom.

My mother told me years later – not that she knew what happened but – apparently some HostMom told her that she saw two tears run down my cheeks and that I looked utterly defeated. MOTHER!!! Why didn’t you take me out of That Place??? What’s the matter with you???

I was restrained in the air while Sharks lined up outside to feast on me. Remember the one who had it out for me? The one who’s dead now? I tried to kick him in the balls. We locked eyes and he laughed at me.

I don’t remember much after that except for the front seat Shark screaming at me in Group. I also remember that my dream of going to jail for attempted murder never panned out. Because while the FirstAndMostImportantRule is Honesty the Second is CONFIDENTIALITY. Nobody knew what happened in that car. There may have been some HeadSharks who questioned the two Sharks but no police report. I really was defeated.

Straight stole my sanity. I never had a chance. For whatever reason, Straight was above the law. I could do nothing. There was no judge. No jury. Just my peers. And my peers were Sharks.

All I remember was screaming and spitting and being trapped in a room not much bigger than a bathroom with paneling on the walls and the cold floor under my legs. I couldn’t move. Two over my legs, one on each arm, and one at my back with a pillow between us so I wouldn’t butt her head. If I so much as coughed a hand went over my mouth. Out in the hall the Sharks circled, waiting to be let in the small holding tank. They couldn’t wait to get a piece of me. In they come. The team of Sharks restraining me stand me up for the next shift. I was in that intake room for the rest of the day. Sharks filed outside the door, blood dripping from their sharpened fangs. Teams of Sharks replaced teams of screamers and spitters. When I’d try to turn away from the spit someone would hold my face in place. This went on for hours. I don’t remember eating. Eventually night came and the UpperPhasers started filing in from school and work. The Shark Tank was filling up with predators who had no idea how well they were gonna feast tonight.

Some HeadShark came in and announced to the Restrainers that I’m going into Group. Those two Sharks got me thrown back into the tank and they got their piece of the chum in the water just like they wanted, but not before I got a piece of them. Melissa Johnson? It’s over for her. Melissa Johnson is done. Nothing will ever be the same. She cannot escape, so I’m gonna bury her deep inside me and give her a sledgehammer just in case any Sharks ever attack again.

And Melissa Johnson the Misbehaver was born.