Michael S

Springfield, Virginia Straight
Fall of 1986 to Summer of 1987

Whatever you want to call it – escaping, running away, or copping out, my decision and actually following through with my decision to cop out was more of a break out of a mental and psychological entrapment that I, along with my family, was in more than it was an escape from a physical bondage.

I had been at Straight for over 8 months when I copped out from Straight Inc. I was on 2nd phase at the time. Since day one I had started working on a plan in my head to get out of that place and once I did get away how to stay out. I never had the nerve to actually run while people were watching. I thought I would not actually make it free and only suffer harsh punishment as a result. Even one time I was walking from the house I was staying at to the car and I actually reminded my “oldcomer” that I was not “belt-looped.” I asked myself why I did not just run instead. The answer to my own question was that I really had nowhere to go and I also had a deep respect and sincere friendship with this person. My plan was not to just “get away” my plan was to stay away. After I was in for several months something happened that made me delay my plan. My probation officer showed up to the building.

My probation officer shows up to the building and I meet with her in a room near the front office accompanied by a staff member. Exactly like every time I talked with my parents, staff was present the few times I met with my probation officer. What eventually happened is that I went to Court and decision was made by the Judge that I remain in Straight, inc. during the remainder of the time I had to serve on probation. I had to delay plans of getting out because running away would only mean more legal trouble in addition prolonged agony of being warehoused on 5515 Backlick Road. This condition was put on me after I had been in the program around five months. I never stopped thinking about escape and the conversation I would have to have with my parents that would have to effectively result in me leaving this Hell hole and human Zoo for good.

Close to eight months on being on first phase, I finally made it to second phase. Being on second phase meant that I can sleep at home and no longer need to be belt-loped. I also am now an “oldcomer” and would be the person “belt-looping” the “newcomers” that stayed at my home. I had time alone with my parents. I did not talk to them about taking me out of Straight. I was supposed to have another oldcomer stay with me when I first went home. I did not. It was made real clear to me that other people were more important than I was. Another person could only take one newcomer home with him and had to have a host brother. So the person that was supposed to be staying with me was told not to because he had to go with another oldcomer and help with their single newcomer. I was on first phase for over 200 days when it was only supposed to be fourteen days. They decided that it was not important for me to have any support for the first time in all these months I would be back at home and also the first time I would be home while in the “program.” My mom wanted to take me out to eat at Denny’s and I said no because it was against the rules. I played it by the rules and wanted to demonstrate that I was doing my part. Then, after a few weeks on second phase, I went back to Court.

I spent about 30 seconds in front of the Judge and I was let off of probation. That moment I knew I was going to run away that night. My plan was the same – get out and convince my parents not to have our family have anything to do with that place. I knew so very well that my parents will be told that I will use strong manipulative “druggie behavior” to convince them to take me out. I knew that the main focus of Straight, inc., would not be my wellbeing. I knew with absolute certainty that people of Straight, inc. would do everything possible to make sure I was returned to the building and remained in the program. I believed in my heart that I was ready. I was ready to leave. I was ready to make my case to my parents. I was ready for whatever tactics the people who ran Straight, inc would use to get me to remain in that place. I was ready because I had a plan!

I did not want to stay in Straight, inc one moment longer than I had to. That same day I was let off of probation, releasing my obligation to stay in the Straight, inc. program was also the same day as the weekly Friday night “Open Meeting.” I had kitchen duty this night along with another 2nd phaser. We both drank cups and cups of the remaining leftover coffee. I was drinking it so I could keep awake after my newcomers fell asleep after this longer than usual night in the warehouse. We both drank cups and cups of coffee. I was doing it so I could stay awake after everyone in my bedroom was asleep and I am sure the other person was drinking it because he saw how much fun I was I remember feeling so wired from all of the coffee. We were both having a good time in the kitchen in our caffeinated state.

That night when I was “alarmed in” my bedroom along with my newcomers, I started reading from the A.A. Big Book after going over each newcomer’s Moral Inventory or MI that each Straighling was required to write each and every night. I kept everyone up as long as I could. I was certain everyone else in the room and my parents were sound asleep before I left my room. This was close to 3 am. I left my room and made my way downstairs. I started looking for anything I might need. I don’t remember grabbing much of anything. I remember having a tough time opening up the front screen door. I pushed it open and it made a loud noise. I yelled out something like “YEAH!” and took off running. I learned that my father heard me yelling and he thought I might of yelled “I’m Free!” I am willing to bet they called Straight. I don`t know if he called the Police or not. I did not make the smooth getaway that I had in mind. My adrenaline was already up so this loud exit I made did not make me feel any more nervous. I remember running. I knew I had some time to get out of sight before cars looking for me, including police cars, would be driving around. I was now a 15 year old runaway. I entered into a condominium building. I slept under the bottom stairwell. It was difficult getting to sleep and it was difficult staying asleep. I left when it seem like a normal time to be out in public. I could hear rock music being played from the condo unit next to the stairs. It was great! I stayed under the stairs for the rest of that night and that morning went outside. I really had to take some time to adjust to being a regular person just walking around in public. I was not used to it. I had to take some time to comprehend the fact that the world I lived in was much different than the world everyone else lives in. I saw some friends and tried to find a way to get to the Route 1 section of Woodbridge and out of Lake Ridge where I was. I went to the reservoir to get out of sight from anyone who was certainly looking for me.

I will refer to this place as “a reservoir or I could say an Occoquan reservoir.” I had to think about how I will approach my parents. How will I communicate to them just how bad Straight, inc. is and why I need to get out of there for good. I knew I would have one shot. I also knew that just as hard, the people from Straight, inc will be instilling the sales pitch to my parents. I knew that Straight, inc staff would be working to counter any attempt to remove me from that place. I know that I would have to go beyond any typical manipulative behavior. That was going to be expected of me and easily countered by Straight, inc. staff. I had to present a clear path out of Straight, inc. to my parents that they would agree upon and that could not be argued against. I had all sorts of ideas of things to say when I was in the building, warehoused in 5515 Backlick Road. I had to now put all of these ideas into a working plan. Sitting there in the woods looking over the reservoir was a perfect location for me to ponder. I knew what I would approach my parents now. I knew exactly what to say and how to present it.

I met two guys who were hanging out by the water swimming and drinking beer. Bottled beer and I think it was Michelobe. I could be wrong. They were pretty cool. One of them offered me a beer. I declined. I was really nervous about someone offering me a beer and the fact that I was watching two people drinking a beer. I had to remind myself that people having a couple beers and going swimming is “normal”. I left the protection of the woods and went out to visit with some friends. It was nice to see my friends and talk with them. This was late afternoon. My parents drove to my friends house and saw me standing outside. I didn’t want to run from my parents, although I had plenty of time to run when I first saw them as well as directions to go to get away. I was not trying to get away from my parents. I wanted to get away from that crazy Straight, inc. I had been preparing for this moment for over 9 months and I was ready. I demonstrated that I would follow that rules and the program. I showed the sincerity in my willingness to do what it takes to make my life better. I knew my parents had been convinced, or at least a very strong effort was made to convince my parents that unless I complete the Straight, inc. program, I will end up dead or spend my life in prison. I knew that my parents were sold on the idea that I am a drug addict and an alcoholic. I knew I had one chance and that I had to make it work. I also knew I had one thing that would help end the living nightmare and constant agony of life in Straight, inc. The one thing I had is THE TRUTH! The truth was on my side and I knew it. It was not until many years later exactly how strong the truth was on my side at this time. I was only 15 and the criminal, unethical, immoral, cult behavior, and greed filled abusive nature of Straight, inc. was beyond my understanding at this time.

I convinced my parents to look into places other than Straight, inc and I agreed to cooperate to the fullest with any other place they decide to choose. I had my parents sign an agreement that I would go back to Straight and that they agreed to look into another place for me to go and once they found a place, to take me out and put me in there. I had this agreement signed and in writing. I never ever had any agreement like this with my parents before or since. I needed to have this tangible clear agreement on paper, it was that important to me. It was my only hope. I did not want to go back to Straight, even though I knew I had to. Our next door neighbor, an FBI agent, as well as other parents of children who were also in Straight, inc were at my house. They were there to make sure I went back to Straight. I went back. That FBI neighbor never handcuffed me. We did talk and he offered to drive me around DC to show me what drug addicts look like. He was at my parents house to help make sure I went back to Straight. I never mentioned any of this agreement to anyone there. I was put on a “No Phase” which meant I had no status whatsoever. I guessed it was because I had been on 1st phase for so long they did not want to start me over. I would be evaluated and then, if I was good, get put back on 2nd phase without having to start the entire program over, again. I did not care. I was so sick of that place. I knew how wrong the place was and that only the worst for me was in store if I remained there for another year or more. I did not sign myself back in and they said I did not have to because I was not gone for more than 24 hours. I was routinely taken out of group to either be talked to or yelled at. Usually yelled at. After I was back for about 2 weeks, as I was being restrained by several other teenagers, an executive staff member motioned for me. This happened in the “Carpet Room.” I wasn’t that bad. I just did not give a shit about anything at this point and being in that “hyper-sensitive” environment. I went from being restrained on the floor to walking out of group BEHIND an executive staff member, out of the room, through the main room, and into an office where I saw my parents and a senior staff member. My parents said they were there to pick me up and take me out of Straight, inc for good. I was happy and relieved. The senior staff member started to console me saying that stuff like this just happens and there is nothing you can do.. I looked at him like he is the craziest person I ever laid my eyes upon. Even a complete idiot would realize that this is a joyous occasion. Not sure if this was a “Termination” per se. I had copped out. Put on “no-phase” my parents took me out and the split was amicable. They told my parents that they only way they would take me back is if I myself wanted to go back there. It baffled me and still baffles me. Why the hell would I want to go back there. My mom still did some volunteer work for the place for a bout a month or so after I left.

Around 8:30 PM one of my previous “oldcomers” and current Straight, inc. staff at the time, Fred Herring come over to my house. He sat and talked with me and my mother. Then we went out for coffee and to hang. Fred was a true friend to me at a time in my life when I needed a friend. He also was also the only person that knew me and understood what I went through and what I was going through at the time. There was so much evil and inhumane treatment. There was also pockets of sincere kindness from people who did care and understood that the place did not have the best interests of the people warehoused inside.

I am still very close with my parents and family. I have been married for almost 10 years with three children. Parents, NEVER allow your child to be in any situation where you can not contact them 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Never allow anything to come in between you and your children ever! For close to a year I could not talk to any member of my family alone. Make certain that you can always talk alone with your children. If there is one thing Straight, inc knew how to do very well, it was to manipulate the love a child has for their parent and the love a parent has for their child. The were able to instill the belief into families that ONLY Straight, inc could save them from their problems. Because my parents agreed to look into other places and agreed to put me somewhere else, I was able to leave that place for good.

Parents, NEVER allow your child to be in any situation where you can not contact them 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Never allow anything to come in between you and your children ever!

Parents, NEVER allow your child to be in any situation where you can not contact them 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Never allow anything to come in between you and your children ever!