Nicole M. G.
Southern California Straight – Yorba Linda
To begin, I must give a little history of my background. I grew up in a town called “Yorba Linda” in an affluent neighborhood. Ironically this is where Straight Incorporated in Southern California was located from 1989 until 1990. Prior to Straight INC operating, the “KIDS” program ran their program in the same warehouse.
My father died when I was 13 years old leaving my mother widowed. Up until my father died, I had a pretty stable childhood and at age thirteen everything turned upside down with my mother in 1986. I was attending a small private school and never even smoked marijuana. I had good grades and was a pretty good kid. However, the fighting between my mother and I escalated over the years. My mother and I had constant power struggles. Our personalities clashed. When my father was alive he was a mediator. However, when he died, our fights were out of control. I always felt like anything I did was wrong or I was never enough. We fought about chores, spending time with my friends, school and my mother felt I had a poor attitude with her. On a few occasions I left the house and she called the police. On a few occasions the police came to our house. I began to see a therapist named Dr Ed in 1989 because my mother felt I was belligerent and my behavior towards her was “combative,” as she described.
Teachers, coaches and other authority figures in my life described me as easy going and well behaved. However, these power struggle with my mother were constant.
The fights with my mother became so unbearable that Dr. Ed suggested that I “take a break from her” and suggested that I enter an adolescent program at a “Psychiatric Hospital Facility.” The name of the psychiatric hospital was CPC (Community Psychiatric Centers), Santa Ana Hospital. They officially closed in 1995 due to all the insurance cutbacks. From my understanding they were approximately $1000 per day. Big bucks in 1990. My insurance company covered that cost. Initially, I was very reluctant, however, I decided to go and to my surprise I liked it. The staff was very supportive and I quickly moved up on the hospital phases and my mother attended therapy and family groups. Mind you, this Hospital was a real treatment facility and licensed unlike Straight Inc. They basically told my mother I was a good kid and that she had parenting issues and also needed help. My mother felt this hospital “fed into my negative attitude” and was not happy with their treatment approach.
At the time I was discharged from this Hospital I was on 5th phase and considered a Junior staff member. The day I was discharged, my attending Psychiatrist, Dr. Ed, my mother, and I had an intense discharge family session. The intense discharge session was two hours which included myself, my mother, Dr. Ed and my psychiatrist. We went through a detailed contract on the rules and agreement that they would be implemented once I returned home. We discussed chores, friends and curfew etc. I was going to take government and economics in summer school in order to lighten my work load for the following 12th grade senior year. I was also going to take a SAT review. My mother gave detailed rules like I would have to earn back my stereo but I could use my clock alarm to listen to music. We conducted a thorough contract to go home and I was going on to the 12th grade. I planned to attend summer school to take college prep class and took the SAT. I had been looking at 4 year universities and was college bound.
After this intense two hour family session my mother picked me up and packed my bags/ suitcase in the car. She drove me to industrial part of Yorba Linda with a big sign called STRAIGHT INC. My mother did not say one word while driving to Straight. Looking back she was trying to get there before Friday Night Group (with all the parents.) Mind you, we had just had a meeting where the master plan was to go home and I was to attend my college prep summer school starting that next week. I think we got there at 3pm. My mother told me to walk in the building. I saw our old housekeeper (who my mother had fired) standing in the hallway. My mother fired our old housekeeper because her boyfriend at the time did not approve of her and she did not do a very good job. My mother learned About Straight from an ex housekeeper who had her son in Straight. After my father died my mother could not handle domestic stuff and hired this live in housekeeper who took us to school and sports etc. My mother ended up firing this housekeeper but strangely still kept in touch with her. Her son just so happened to stop by one day and tell her what a change man he was. HE was a real creep. He was 26 had a cocaine problem – real womanizer.
Her son who was in his late twenties at the time was in Straight for a cocaine problem. Her son was on his last step I believe. I think he was on the 6 or 7 th phase where he went back to his plumbing job. He just so happened to come to my mother’s home and endorse the program and share what a “changed man he was.” I started to put the pieces together and was scared shitless. There also was a big sign of George Bush Sr shaking adolescent’s hands. I knew something was up and it was not good. This intake counselor said, “Hello Nicole come in my office.” My mother said, “Let’s go…come on.” The door closed and I was sitting between our former housekeeper and my mother. My mother stated to talk about how I was “out of control for the past few years” and that I just been released from a psychiatric facility that cost our insurance company thousands of dollars. She also stated the hospital fed into my negativity and basically “did not reach me.” I remember my mother saying things that really crushed my sprit stating, “that I had a learning disability and a college that I wanted to apply for would never accept me.” She also told the counselor about how she found a few wine coolers under my bed and how I missed curfew etc. I am not exactly sure of name of the wine coolers but they may have been “Seagram`s.” I did like them in my younger days. Also a friend of mine left their roll up pot papers in my room. Sadly, I never even smoked the pot, but accused because paraphernalia was found. I cried and cried and verbalized how unfair this was. Mind you, I just sat in a 2 hour session promising my treatment team I was going home. She lied to them and lied to me. I disclosed how unfair this and my mother quickly reminded me how I dragged her through a custody battle with my older sister when I was 14 years old. After my father died I went to live with a family friend in Fullerton, California.” My mother planned to send me to a boarding school for high school. My older half sister offered for me to live with her instead. She ended up taking my mother to court asking for custody. This happened when I was 14 years old. My Mother still is enraged by this. I was now 17 and I pointed out, “so this is your get back.” The intake guy asked his standard question “do you wish to hug your mother.” I said “Hell No.”
Next two girls came in and conducted the “Oldcomer/ Newcomer intake.” I requested that I call my therapist Dr. Ed from the hospital and of course the answer was no. So the girl oldcomers came in and asked me the standard intake questions. Since I had never smoked pot and never had sex, my list was very boring. I was there for a “compulsive behavior problem as my mother put it.” I remember the question of “have you ever had sex with an animal.” When I reported that I was a virgin, I felt like I was on another plant. I kept thinking “If I could only get to a phone and call Dr. Ed and let the hospital know where I was I could get out of here.” Slowly the reality of the Straight Cult began to unfold. I thought things would get better but reality became more and more grim.
Then the strip search came. Four girls came in the bathroom I was told I would be strip searched. I had just come from a psychiatric facility and never even went home. I felt like this was a surreal nightmare and I would wake up. I was crying and crying in disbelief my mother could lie and actually do this. I knew I was outnumbered and was forced to take off my cloths. The oldcomer then informed me to hold my arms above my head and spread.
The oldcomer then informed me to hold my arms above my head and spread my legs and bend down three times. After that, she had the audacity to ask how I felt. I yelled “humiliated.” After putting my cloths back on, I was beltlooped and led into “Family night big group.” The Friday Family Night Group was around 6 pm and lasted until midnight. I had a grand entrance with all the kids and parents. Was this the norm? Parents were talking in the microphone across the warehouse. This kept getting worse and worse. I remember the big warehouse all the parents on the left and all these kids on the right. The oldcomer group facilitators yelled into the microphone “This is Nicole and she is here for behavior problems and alcohol.” “Love ya Nicole.” I was quickly led via belt lopping to the big blue chair. The family night topic was “How did your kid hurt you?” When it was my mother’s turn she spoke to the microphone about a fight we had after my father died. It was not violent but I did tell her that I wished God took her instead of my Dad. That fight occurred when I was 13, 4 years prior to then.
I remember thinking if I could only get to Dr Ed (my Therapist) and call, I could get out of this nightmare. This was Friday night (family night) so after 12 AM we were finally released to the host home. I saw the motivating, experienced being watched while defecating and urinating. At the host home 4 girls were crammed in a small bedroom with two girls sleeping on the floor.
The next day I experienced my first entire day of the cult of Straight. As the reality was unfolding Straightlings who spoke were disclosing how they were incarcerated 1, 2 and 3 years. I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. I had plans I was going to college I had to take the SAT – I had a life to live. The only option was to escape. I remember lining up and thinking “it’s got to be tonight.” I needed a phone and needed to call for help. In the pit of my stomach I knew the creepy motivating, kids being slammed on the floor (yes there were at least 3 restraints that I witnessed) for minor infractions including not “motivating hard enough” and brutal confrontations were illegal. The prior hospital was ethical – there were rules and regulations that protected us. Not at Straight Inc. I had decided that I would run and tell the world.
We were taken to a host home in Riverside. My decision to escape was confirmed when my oldcomer demanded that I had to ask permission to wipe myself after using the toilet. Later that night, my oldcomer just so happened to stuff my shorts under the bed. Most clothes were locked in the closet but this was my sign. I fell asleep with the intention of eventually making a run for it. Since my bed was in the middle of the room I tiptoed to the window seal & climbed on my oldcomers edge of the bed frame. Everyone was fast asleep. The time was 4:00am. I quietly opened the window and the blaring alarm rang. My oldcomer sat up screaming. I freaked and pushed my entire body through the window. Basically, I jumped through the 1 story landing on my face in the bushes. It was pitch black when I jumped. I dragged a blanket with me hopped the fence and hid in the bushes. Suddenly, I watched the host home father come after me on a motor cycle. Unable to find me, he returned to the house. I looked at my left arm and noticed it was slashed open. I felt my face all bloody and glass was all over my body. My legs were a torn up bloody mess. I was not thinking clearly but was desperate. Barefoot, bloody and confused I ran to a gas station. I begged the attendant to use the phone in the station. He gave me 3 dollars worth of quarters. I attempted to use the pay phone and call Dr Ed and just before I left a message a car pulled up. I immediately surrendered. They took me to the Riverside ER. The host father plus the entire entourage of Straight parent’s surrounded me letting me know what a horrible things I had done. In the care they kept telling me – “This just proves you need to be here. We do not take copouts lightly.”
The host father called my mother & she came to the Riverside ER in the middle of the night. I had to have 9 stiches in my left arm. I still have a scar today. It took about 2 months to completely heal. I also had glass in my eye which left a scar tissue. I had to have an eye doctor cut it out several months later. I looked like I was in a severe accident People could not recognize me. Black eye and badly cut up legs. One host father later said, “On Friday I saw a pretty girl and now I see a girl.” While I was being stitched up begged the ER doctor to speak with a social worker. A social woker came; however, I was surrounded by the Straight parents & oldcomers and it was made clear that I was “in a facility for drug treatment.” She walked away! I begged my mother to take me home. She was adamant that I had behavior issues and needed intense help. So I was discharged and sent back to the host home. The sun was rising when I returned to the host home. It was 7:00am or 8:00am.
Back at the house there was an entire room full of Straight parents “giving feedback & intervention services to my mother and myself.” Parents said things like, “I prayed they would find you.” I was a battered mess – unrecognizable. That day we stayed at the host home and a bunch of oldcomers came to confront me. I remember a blond 5th phaser tell me I was a “druggie whore and this just proved I needed the program.” A few times I passed out. Eventually, this 5th phaser’s mother picked up to transfer us yet to another host home. In the car she continued to scream at me and forbid me to look at the window. She proceeded to drill the 12 steps and made me repeat them verbatim what the steps were. She was screaming at me that my behavior was unmanageable and I was powerless. I have no idea where we went and I walked in battered and could barely walk. The living room was full of newcomers and the 5th phaser told them “I was a druggie cop out and had all newcomers give me feedback.” I was defeated and my hope of ever getting to a phone was an unreachable dream. I was not allowed to look in the mirror and the other girls were forced to wash my bloody clothes in the bathtub. Also I was not allowed to touch my face.
That night at bedtime another newcomer verbalized how she wanted to “kill herself.” So 2 oldcomers stayed up all night and watched myself & 3 other girls sleep in this very crammed room. I was notified I was going to be reintroduced to the big group. I had only been there 3 days and knew this would be walking back to the fiery pit of hell. The very next day we were taken back to the Straight compound and I was held in an intake room. I was kept inside the intake room for was several hours. I could not look at a clock. It was a long, long time. They kept on saying “You`re in for it.” They sarcastically asked me “What is the 12 steps?” They yelled at me at a lot in there. An Executive staff member came and reassured me “I was loved.” This made my stomach turn. Finally, a group of oldcomers came to get me, belt looped me and walked to the big group. I felt I was walking to my execution. I was pushed in the middle of the big group warehouse and the leader said, “This is Nicole and she jumped through a window….She’s a copout.” I could barely stand and glass was coming out of my eye. The big group was motivating passionately, screaming at me “You`re nothing but an addict.” You`re a whore!! How dare you do this. Going back to your druggie friends. You`re nothing without us.” You`re a piece of shit etc etc.” Yes they were calling me a “druggie whore.” Since I was a virgin and never did any hard drugs only alcohol I am not sure how this statement was relevant. I was forced to tell the group my motives and explain how I intended to call Dr Ed. I also discovered my Oldcomer in Riverside was “set back to 1st phase” for not locking my shorts in the closet and escaping under her watch. After this public lynching I was treated like every other newcomer despite the fact I was battered and bruised and “really messed up.” I felt light headed and had difficulty motivating. The next thing I remember was being on the floor losing consciousness. I was having trouble breathing and had a full blow panic attack. I remember oldcomers standing over me then finally waking up in a car.
The next thing I remember was being in an ER. A nurse placed smelling salt under my nose. I woke up and noticed Straight peeps were not in sight. This was my chance – I turned to the nurse and begged that she call Dr. Ed. I told her I was being held against my will and felt unsafe. She told me she could call someone from the PET (psychiatric Eval Team.) She was my earth angel. At the ER they did a battery of tests and I received breathing treatment. Luckily, the Straight clan and my mother were in the lobby of the Placentia – Linda Hospital. I felt this was a long shot and felt doomed since my luck was in the toilet. All of a sudden a man from the county PET team came to evaluate me. I explained I was just in CPC hospital and under the care of Dr Ed. I gave him the number and address of his private practice office. A few minutes later he returned to my bedside letting me know,” Dr Ed was going to see me.” I was convinced Straight clan would barge in and carry me away back to the Devil’s warehouse.
Approximately, an hour later Doctor Ed walked in and hugged me. I broke down while lying on the gurney, crying and telling him that my mother “put me in Straight and never even took me home as planned.” He said “You’re safe let’s get you back to CPC Hospital.” He came through the back door due to the advisement of the RN. So he avoided my mother and the Straight clan. Again, the universe was finally on my side and she was my angel. The next few hours, a woman from county mental health came to interview me. I told her “I would not know what to do if I had to return to Straight.” She placed me on a 5150 (72 hour psychiatric hold.) She spoke with my mother in the lobby telling them 5150’s override all parental decisions. I was going back to CPC via ambulance. Towards the end of the night my mother asked to speak to me. I told the RN I did not feel comfortable. I remember in the ambulance feeling free and that the nightmare may just have a light at the end of the tunnel. At CPC the staff knew me and took the best care of me. I was well fed and I started to take Summer school to get ahead of my 12t grade year. This was the original plan. I told the head LCSW from CPC that I would run away if my mom tried to send me back to St8. She was amazing and said, “I dont know what will happened but I am going to give you several teen homeless shelter numbers and they will hide and protect you. She told me I could alwys call you and she would call their staff so they knew I was “the real deal.” This is was before they were ordered to shut down. Investigations were pending.They called Social Services. I saw an Internist a few times a week. We had art therapy and they took pictures of my cuts. The head therapist who was an LCSW said “Let`s take the pictures of you in case you ever go to Court and you need evidence. My Insurance stopped paying and they let me stay for a few extra few days. It was a good place- That`s why I went to work for them 2 years later. I feel they were advocates for me. They inspired me along wit Dr Ed to become a therapist. At CPC I had good medical care and saw several doctors. Immediately, social services were called and child abuse reports filed. Two days later a panel of social workers from Sacramento came to interview me. I wrote my testimony and spoke in a recorder. Rumor has it the FBI was called. CPC also had to battle my insurance company for payment since they shelled out big bucks for my prior stay. At the hospital I was well fed and had real therapy. I began to have flashbacks, nightmares and panic attacks the first week I was there. I was terrified to open my eyes in fear that I was still in Straight. I was going through an emotional roller coaster confused and in disbelief that this trauma “really happened to me.” I was diagnosed with PTSD and depression. Dr Ed called my mother and we had intense family sessions. Social workers and state officials were a daily visit. At CPC, I discovered Straight Yorba Linda was under investigation and did not have a state license. They filed for a foster care license and due to my case, abuse charges were substantiated. One month later the Los Angeles Times Wrote an article entitled, “State alleges drug program abused clients: Social Services: Officials site complaints of physical and mental anguish to deny license to nationally known Straight Inc. Organization, which treat youth will appeal. ( LA TIMES Carla Rivera July 29, 1990 ) My 72 hour hold was extended to a 14 day hold again, relinquishing all parental rights. My mother initially took the side of Straight as “she put me there to save my life.” She did not believe they were abusive and unlicensed. It was not until my third year of college when my mother broke down and apologized.
What happened was when I was in college during my third year I came home for the summer. I attended the University of California in Irvine for a field study psychology program. My mother realized I was a serious student and planning on graduating. She had a few glasses of wine and I asked her, “So do you still believe I should have been in Straight?” She put her head down and cried and said, “I’m sorry that was wrong.” Currently, my mother and I have a good relationship. Our relationship improved greatly after the birth of my oldest son. She did help my financially in Graduate School. Ironically, my younger brother went through substance abuse issues and due to my profession she was always seeking advisement from me. Thankfully, he is now sober and a family man. Before, I became a mother we had a very volatile relationship. It just so happened that she forked over $3000 for my entire four day stay. When she wrote to Dallas Straight requested her money back they denied her a refund stating, “Since I had an intake they could not return and funds.” $3000 was a big chunk of money in 1990 even to someone who is wealthy.
I stayed the next month at CPC while social services was trying to place me. When the hold expired my mother had custody of me and since I was 17 just a few months of the legal age of 18 we decided I was going to live with a friend and return to the same high school for my senior year. I returned to the same small private high school I was at my freshman, sophomore and junior in Orange Ca.
In the summer of 1990 California state social services ordered Straight Inc Yorba Linda to close however, like a typical cult they ignored the law and operated out of the parent’s homes. Over the summer the Orange County Register wrote “Families protest state closure of drug-treatment program.” (Janie Anderson August 2, 1990.)
Three months later another article in the LA TIMES wrote, “Clinic transfer worry officials: Drugs: Since the Straight Inc facility in Yorba Linda lost its operating license clients have been going out of state for treatment.” (LA TIMES Carla Rivera Oct 1, 1990.) Apparently, all the Yorba Linda kids were transferred to Dallas and Florida. For the majority of my senior year, I worked part time and went to school. I applied to several universities and got into Arizona. I was estranged from my mother. I was working in the Orange mall and coincidently, a vivid familiar face was employed at the competitor shoe store across the mall way. She was the girl who was suicidal the night after my cop out. It was during this time when the shit was hitting the fan with Straight Inc in Yorba Linda and it closed in July /August of 1990. I saw her in October-November of 1990. By the time I saw her all the newcomers were transferred to either Dallas or Florida so I assume she was pulled from the program. Funny, after I proudly told I was shutting down Straight, she said, “I could never do such a thing” after that she avoided me like the plague. I am sure she was told to stay clear of me…. “The Cop Out.” Years later I found her on Facebook however, she avoided my friend request. It looks like she is happily married with children. As I was saying, I proudly told her “I was shutting down Straight and that I was suing them.” She replied, “I could never do such a thing.” Brainwashing is a powerful thing. For years I thought all Straight oldcommers were enraged that I “blew the whistle.” It was not until 2003 I was surfing the web and decided to type in Straight, Inc. and suddenly realized the exorbitant amount of abuse allegations, lawsuits, psychiatric disorders and survivor groups associated with Straight Inc.
After I copped out and was in the hospital, Straight knew I was working with Social Services so they avoided me like the plague. My mom called them once I was in the hospital and they “blew her off.” Straight knew I “blew the whistle” and were trying to cover up their child abuse secrets. My mother told me years later she went to the compound and attempted to get her money back and they “made her wait a long time.” However, my mother’s former housekeeper made it clear that I was causing a lot of problems. In addition, the housekeeper’s son told my mother he was very angry that “I caused so many problems and made all the kids leave the state.” I was an enemy of Straight Inc a proud badge of honor I will always take full credit for.
To make a long story short, I graduated from high school and went off to Northern Arizona University and lived in the dorms. Dr. Ed always told me “the ticket away from my mother was my education.” Thankfully, my father left me a trust so I spent it on school. The summer after my freshman year I returned to Southern California and was hired at CPC hospital as a mental health assistant. This was the hospital that sheltered me from Straight. Now I was an employee on a per diem basis and worked at this hospital during summers and winter breaks for the next 4 years. At Arizona I majored in psychology and social work. In 1995 I graduated with my bachelors just 4.5 years after I AWOL’D from Straight. I returned to So Cal and applied to several graduate programs and took the GRE and chose to go to the University of Southern California. I completed my thesis on brainwashing, the Stockholm Syndrome, control groups and thought reform. In 1998 I received my masters. Straight INC told me I would die if I did not complete the program. The first job I took after graduate school was a residential treatment facility with adolescents on probation hard core gang kids from the inner city. Ironically, this was all monitored by the probation department and state. It was an open placement and real treatment facility. The majority of the kids left their gang and got off drugs. In a way, lower income inner city gang kids are more protected that affluent suburban kids due to the fact their facilities are regulated.
Today, I am a therapist and I practice for Kaiser Permanente. I have a state license and have seen and experienced the very worst and very best “Therapies.” Unregulated unprofessional therapy can indeed “GO MAD.” The bottom line is, “No one deserves to be abused in the name of treatment.” In 2003 I became involved with survivor communities. The atrocities committed under the “Great Drug War” on predominately white middle, upper middle and affluent adolescents is shameless. Straight Inc was nothing but right wing republican “War on Drugs” propaganda. Although my imprisonment was only 4 days from beginning to end it shaped my entire life in terms of career and politics. I am a staunch liberal and have always been an advocate for the underdog. I have made many good choices in my life: I married a wonderful man, bought my house at the right time, I am the mother of 2 beautiful boys, and I have a meaningful and prosperous career. However, hands down the best decision I ever made was to jump out of a window in June of 1990 from Straight Inc.
I am still in touch with Dr Ed. He has been my therapist, rescuer, mentor and now colleague. He was my Oscar Shindler saving me from the concentration camp of Straight Inc. Dr. Ed gave a detailed testimony to state social services. He even spoke with the head psychiatrist from Straight Inc Yorba Linda giving him the riot act and reprimanded him for his malpractice behaviors. This doctor from Straight accepted me in this intense program without ever even meeting me!
If you know me from Straight, I would love to hear from you. Although my stay was very short lived, I left a lasting impression. I have been involved with the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union – a voice against Straight since the 80ies.) CAFETY (Community Alliance for the Ethical Treatment of Youth and most recently SIA (Survivors of Intuitional Abuse.) In addition, I am trying hard to pass – HR 3126: Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teen Act of 2011. In addition, there is a new California legislation titled SB 524: Protecting youth from Institutional abuse (LARA). I am also on Facebook under the closed group Yorba Linda Straight Survivors. You can also email me firstname.lastname@example.org Please join me with the fight against Institutional Child Abuse.