Friday, July 15, 2011
Kelly Cousins at Cross Creek programs - Volume 2
I'm not going to misrepresent the truth here and tell you that I was a perfect teenager. I was involved in a lot of the typical "troubled teen" behavior - i.e., drinking and drugs, smoking, lying to my parents and hanging out with "the wrong crowd."
This is the kind of nebulous statement that most of us at CCM (and other WWASP programs as well, I'm sure) would give to someone "on the outs" (outside the locked gates, that is) when asked about our past. However, I think that if you're going to take the time to read my story, you need to know the truth about what was really happening with me during those two or three tumultuous years.
Unlike most of my peers at Cross Creek, I was not a high school drop out, I wasn't failing classes left and right, and I never skipped school. I had always made good grades, and was taking a pretty challenging course load all throughout high school that included mostly AP level classes. I was one of the Editors of the school's newspaper and Literary Magazine and was an active member of the debate team.
My dream was to be a writer - a journalist, specifically - and I was on track to attend an out of state, well-respected University like Syracuse or NYU. I was constantly being told how bright I was, that I was capable of anything, and my parents were always very proud of my accomplishments.
During my high school years I did begin using drugs. It escalated slowly from smoking pot at 14, to dropping acid and doing ecstasy at 16, and finally trying (I use the word "trying," because I only used it once) crystal meth at 17. I probably smoked pot more than anything else, it was obviously the most available drug there was, and it was pretty common and accepted among teenagers from all different ends of the social spectrum. As for the acid and ecstasy, it was never something that I did on a regular basis - I couldn't have used acid any more than ten times, and ecstasy no more than five. I'm not specifying this to excuse my drug use, but I need people who read this to understand that I was not a hopeless junkie - I never missed school or work because of drugs, I never went to school high, I never skipped school to do drugs, and my grades never slipped because of my drug use. Most importantly, I never lost sight of my where and who I wanted to be in life.
I was having a lot of problems at home, however. It's no secret that I grew up in a difficult family; my father had some issues with alcohol and anger, and my mother could be pretty unapproachable when it came to real-life "teenager" stuff. My parents fought a lot, so consequently, I didn't want to be home a lot. I also was certain that I could never ever talk to them reasonably about my drug use. I was somewhat rebellious then - I listened to (gasp!) anti-establishment punk rock, wore fishnets and knee-high black boots, became a vegetarian and read Karl Marx.
I laugh about that now, because really, I was just going through phase with all that, but to my conservative parents, the clothes and the music were highly disturbing. Everything came to head when my mother found a baggie with ecstasy residue in the pocket of my jeans one day. She took the bag to a lab, and she and my father confronted me with the help of my therapist during one of my weekly sessions.
So then they knew, and my life - which I had to struggle to keep together sometimes as it was - completely fell apart. Of course, my parents lost it, and our household went from being tolerable to absolutely unbearable. The screaming, yelling and crying never ended - my mother let me know that I was a huge disappointment and even told me that she hated me for what I had done to the family. Needless to say, I couldn't handle it, so I decided to move out a few months into my senior year. My plan was to move into an apartment with some guy that I knew from a couple of parties I'd been to and finish high school by correspondence. Obviously, this was a ridiculously stupid plan, but all I could think about back then was getting out of my parents' house. Unfortunately for me, there was a girl that lived on our street that had just graduated from Cross Creek. My parents talked to her parents, and the rest is history.
Shortly after my moving announcement (I can't remember exactly how long), I was woken up in the middle of the night by two men and one woman that I had never seen before in my life. I was told to get out of bed and get dressed right away. Some clothes had been laid out for me on the sink, and the strange woman followed me into the bathroom and watched me while I changed. I was extremely disoriented - I'm not even sure if I realized I was awake at that point - so I didn't fight my "kidnappers." I was instructed to follow them and get into a strange car in our driveway. I got in the car without "incident," and I heard the doors lock me in.
A few miles away from my house I began to get very scared and I started asking my kidnappers, frantically, where they were taking me. No one would tell me. I guess I was beginning to raise my voice (I was feeling a bit hysterical by that time), and that's when I was informed without a shred of sympathy that if I gave them "any trouble" I would be put in handcuffs or otherwise physically restrained. I couldn't fathom what I was hearing - never in my life had I EVER had any type of experience that remotely resembled what was happening to me then. Then they proceeded to tell me that I was going to a nice school for girls like me, someplace where I could "take some time off," and work through my problems. The woman kidnapper even went so far as to tell me it would be like taking a vacation. This calmed me down a bit, and I even started to be okay with the idea. I knew that that I needed some help with the way things were going in my life, and I was open accepting that help. I believed that I was going to some type of 90 day rehab, I would go back home, be back on track, and my parents would love me again. I NEVER could have imagined how grievously wrong I was.
After driving from Houston to El Paso, then flying to Las Vegas, we made the two hour car trip to LaVerkin, Utah. When we pulled up to the Manor, I didn't think it looked so bad - I was a really big, nice looking house with white columns in the front. My kidnappers escorted me through the doors where I was greeted by 100 or so pairs of eyes all staring at me as if I was some sort of carnival freak show.
It was around 7:30 in the evening, and all the girls were gathered out in the central foyer area for the nightly "Manor meeting." Needless to say, I was a little wary of all those girls in sweat pants and slippers who looked like a bunch of robots - but I was there to stay. I was taken into a room with a couple of high-phase girls who did my intake. I remember pleading with them and insisting that I didn't belong in this place, and they just looked at eachother and started laughing, then one of the girls told me, patronizingly, "Yeah, none of us belong here either." Shortly afterwards I was strip searched and "nix-ed" (de-loused) by a very scary looking, and very large woman - I was unbelievably mortified.
For the next two weeks or so, I kept insisting that I wasn't supposed to be there. I was petrified by the other girls - when they spoke, it sounded to me like someone was playing a tape recorder, and they had absolutely no sympathy for the shock that I was feeling. My first day in "Group" with Ron (he was the director of Cross Creek at the time), he asked me why I was there. All the girls were sitting around in a circle staring at me like I was a murderer or something, so I said "because my parents sent me here," COMPLETELY without a hint of attitude (I wasn't yet accustomed to the program double-speak). This of course, sent Ron into a tirade - he yelled and screamed at me that I was a drug addict and ruining my family's lives, etc., etc. After a lengthy barrage of aggressive, mean-spirited "feedback" from the other girls in the group, I sat down, shaken and unable to process what had just happened.
After I had spent about two weeks in Orientation (OR) Group with Ron, I had the pleasure of joining my "home" group, the infamous (at Cross Creek, anyway) B Group. B Group was notorious for being the "hardest" group at CCM, with its most intimidating therapist at the helm, Garth. Garth was a very large man physically, which he used to his advantage to create a very aggressive and imposing persona. Even before Cross Creek, I was easily intimidated by men, but being under Garth's "tutelage" merely reinforced that fear and worsened it, instead of combating it. Here is where things began to get really messy. In my 18 months at Cross Creek, there were so many harmful and traumatizing incidences that occurred - it would be impossible for me to recount every one. With that in mind, I will try instead to paint a general picture that will illustrate the kind of experience that I had.
Unlike many of the girls at CCM, I was never "restrained," but I witnessed this incredibly disturbing spectacle too many times to count. To be honest, I was too paralyzed with fear to ever consider doing anything that I thought might cause me to be "taken down" by staff. I remember watching girls being taken down that were simply arguing with a staff - not physically endangering themselves or others - and they would be dragged, literally, kicking and screaming downstairs and into ISO (the 12 ft., locked "isolation" rooms). I also remember seeing a girl sitting in ISO who had cut herself and smeared blood all over her face and arms. There were other girls who I saw with broken noses and injured arms/shoulders that were put into make-shift "slings" that consisted only of an Ace bandage. I knew several girls who had sustained physical injuries as a result of being taken down - i.e., broken noses, dislocated shoulders, torn ligaments, etc. There were plenty of girls who I saw sitting in ISO for days, weeks, and even months at a time. Fortunately, I was not one of them.
The trauma that I did sustain was purely mental/emotional. From my first day at CCM, I was told (and screamed at) that I was a worthless person, a disappointment to my family, a hopeless drug addict, a bitch and a slut, a waste of space, a horrible human being and whatever other disparaging remarks the staff and other girls could muster. When I first arrived at CCM, I wasn't sure that I even was addicted to drugs - I knew that I had some problems in my life that I wanted to work out, but I wasn't convinced that I was a junkie - however, I, like many other girls, was coerced into proclaiming/believing that I was hopelessly addicted to drugs. It was made very obvious to me that if I did not affirm the program's assessment of me, that I would never advance past level one, so I played along (at first), and eventually began to internalize and believe everything that they said.
The infamous T.A.S.K.S. seminars & group "processes" were especially hurtful to me. One of my "issues" that I had to deal with at Cross Creek was childhood sexual abuse. It happened when I was 11 years old, and I had never really dealt with the trauma at that point. During one of the Focus "processes," (which I have been sworn to secrecy never to tell about) I was physically held down by four other Cross Creek girls (high phase girls who were seminar staff) while a fifth girl screamed into my face that "HE'S ON TOP OF YOU AGAIN!!! AREN'T YOU GOING TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT?? ARE YOU JUST GOING TO LET HIM DO IT TO YOU AGAIN?? WHAT KIND OF SLUT ARE YOU??" I was crying and screaming so hard that I could barely see - I kicked and thrashed as hard as I could, but the four other girls just kept pinning me down to the floor, and I was unable to get out from under them. There was another "process" that Garth facilitated, during which we had to write our own tombstones (the idea was for us to experience that we had died due to our "behavior"). After we had all written them, Garth and a few high phase girls from our group went around the room and screamed into our faces anything hurtful that they could manage to make us feel like worthless and horrible human beings.
When it was my turn, Garth approached me calmly and told me, coldly & without emotion, that my grandfather (my mother's father, whom I loved very much) was dead. My grandfather had emphysema and was repeatedly in and out of the Emergency Room, so this was hardly a stretch. Garth and the other girls shouted inches away from my face that my grandfather died knowing that I was a worthless bitch, a drug addict, and that I had ruined my family. They told me that he died knowing what a horrible person I was. By this point I was sobbing uncontrollably and finding it difficult to remain standing, so one of the high phase girls was holding me up for the continued barrage of abuse.
After they finished with me, Garth and the other girls moved on to their next victim - and the scene continued on, as it had with me. The next day, Garth called me into his office and told me that he was "mistaken" about my grandfather, and that he hadn't really died. I sobbed from relief that he was still living, but to this day, I still do not believe that Garth made an innocent "mistake." I believe that he purposefully used my grandfather's illness to traumatize and hurt me during a process.
Well, it worked. Congratulations.