St. Petersburg,Florida Straight
March 1988 to September 1989
It was pretty much the same story getting out of the Straight building as it was the very first time that I copped out. I waited for a chaotic scene to ensue and then I RAN! I don’t know how many other newcomers tried copping out right along with me but I know some did. None that made it past the door except for me. People were being restrained all over the place. I was chased by four phasers from the Straight building all the way to the woods. They chased me to the woods but the brush in the woods is very thick. When your adrenalin is pumping like there`s no tomorrow and you are fighting for your life, you tend to go harder than when you are not as invested in it. I had more to gain than they had to lose. I heard the phasers call my name a few times off in the distance.
This time I stayed in the woods ALL day. I waited in the woods for 7 hours hanging out with the pine trees and Florida Palmetto bushes while intently watching the building from a safe distance. It was hot and humid. It was July in Florida and the weather was brutal. I went deeper into the woods and just waited and watched the building. I wasn’t taking any chances. I had been in Straight for several more months at this point and was so scared someone would catch me. They probably called the cops, they always call the cops every time someone under age copped out. I stayed pretty far out there for a long time and waited in the until every single car had left the parking lot. I waited and watched all of the parents come and collect the Straightlings. Oldcomers methodically beltlooped their newcomers to the waiting cars. It was surreal watching my oldcomer and host dad drive away.
Once I was sure every car was gone, I went down Gandy Boulevard a little farther this time not wanting to dodge the 50 mile an hour traffic again. Once everyone was gone, I could get to a safer spot to cross the road. I made it across into that same neighborhood immediately found myself face to face with a yellow car that pulled up to a stop sign just as I was crossing the road. Holy crap, I recognize this guy how is this possible? I am 3 hours away from home and I don’t know a soul around here accept for Straightlings. My mind was racing when he rolled down the car window and asked “Did you just cop out from Straight?” I wasn’t even 2 miles from the building.
It finally came rushing to me. He was in the host home I was at on my first night. A sibling that had graduated already. I had also seen him in the back of group a couple of times a long time ago, but not recently, not for many months. He asked if I wanted a ride and I got in. What are the chances of running directly into a 7th stepper? That`s exactly what happened.
What was I thinking getting in?? I still didn’t have a plan or anywhere to go. We drove around and I told him I didn’t have anywhere to go. He asked if I wanted to go to an NA meeting, maybe someone there would take me in for the night. Great idea right? Well, we never made it to the meeting. He took me back to his house which was an active host home for the girls side. A bunch of straightlings peered out the window. He had to stop at home, I don’t remember why. He assured me he wouldn’t make me go in and he didn’t. His sister was my current fellow inmate at Straight Inc. and she was on 2nd or 3rd phase. They called the executive staffers but couldn’t do much. I was outside and they were inside. They tried to talk me into coming back by lying to me by claiming they cared about me and they promised they wouldn’t confront me. I wasn’t having it. I wasn`t buying it. My hero for the day gave them a bunch of crap and told them we were leaving.
He ended up taking me to a pay phone and I called my parents collect to beg them to pull me. I thought if they knew about all the torment and everything else that was happening to me they would bring me home. All I wanted was to go home. I do not know how, but through their tears and my guilt, I ended up going back to my host home that night. My parents cried and begged me to go back to Straight. They said they would NEVER let me come home unless I did.
My host Dad gave me a lecture but was nice about it because he still had to get me back to the building. He was trying to gain my trust. My parents were convinced not to pull me. I doubt I was able to convey the seriousness of what was going on in that warehouse. They had been confronted themselves on a regular basis in the parent raps and they were hardened and could not hear my plea.
I did go through the entire intake and strip search each time I was returned. I was stood up in group and berated. After each cop-out I misbehaved for a while and just refused to participate.I was back in Straight right away AGAIN. I promised myself that #3 would be much different.
Into the Woods
“Though it’s fearful,
Though it’s deep, though it’s dark
And though you may lose the path,
Though you may encounter wolves,
You can’t just act,
You have to listen.
you can’t just act,
You have to think.
Though it’s dark,
There are always wolves,
There are always spells,
There are always beans,
Or a giant dwells there.
So into the woods you go again,
You have to every now and then.
Into the woods, no telling when,
Be ready for the journey.
Into the woods, but not too fast
or what you wish, you lose at last.
Into the woods, but mind the past.
Into the woods, but mind the future.
Into the woods, but not to stray,
Or tempt the wolf, or steal from the giant–The way is dark,
The light is dim,
But now there’s you, me, her, and him.
The chances look small,
The choices look grim,
But everything you learn there
Will help when you return there.
The light is getting dimmer..
I think I see a glimmer–
Into the woods–you have to grope,
But that’s the way you learn to cope.
Into the woods to find there’s hope
Of getting through the journey.
Into the woods, each time you go,
There’s more to learn of what you know.
Into the woods, but not too slow–
Into the woods, it’s nearing midnight–
Into the woods to mind the wolf,
To heed the witch, to honor the giant,
To mind, to heed, to find, to think, to teach, to join, to go to the Festival!
Into the woods,
Into the woods,
Into the woods,
Then out of the woods–
And happy ever after!”
― Stephen Sondheim, Into the Woods